Looking for easy ways to increase parent-teacher communication and keep parents informed about behavior and academics? This page will help you determine a workable method for updating all of your parents or just the ones whose children need extra accountability. It will also help you decide whether to update parents daily or weekly about behavior and explain ways to do each successfully. The information here is adapted from Chapter 31 of The Cornerstone book and includes the free printable forms referenced in the book so you have everything you need to get started!
Why send home social skills and work habit reports?
Sending home daily or weekly evaluations to keep parents updated on behavior and work habits is generally not a requirement for teachers but certainly worth considering. They’re a quick, easy way to:
- have a highly structured yet simple system for recording progress
- notify parents when classwork/homework isn’t being turned in
- hold children accountable for their choices
- provide positive reinforcement and/or consequences for work habits and social skills
- keep documentation that you’ve notified parents about issues
Should you send behavior reports for the whole class?
Reports may be sent home for the entire class, or only for particular students. If you have a very involved group of parents who would appreciate having regular feedback, I would suggest having a routine system for every child in the class. It may also be helpful to do reports for every child if you have a very challenging class that would benefit from extra accountability.
You don’t have to make a decision on this before school starts. It’s okay to wait and see how things go with your particular group! Once you understand your students better, you can introduce a reporting system to individuals or the whole class a few weeks into the school year. I like to call parents the first week of school to establish contact and give initial feedback and tell them I’ll be designing a special system for notifying them about progress as I get to know their child better. I then introduce the system at Open House/Back-to-School Night (which was typically 2-3 weeks after school started) and began it the following morning.
Option 1: Daily behavior evaluations
A daily evaluation of children’s social skills can be done for individual students as needed, or for the entire class. These systems are most popular in early childhood classrooms. To manage daily reports for all students, I’ve used agenda books or planners ordered by the school. Each day at dismissal, I had students pack up and bring their agendas over to where I was sitting in a rocking chair. After I signed off on a child’s agenda, he sat down on the rug to wait for his bus to be called. Here are some ways you can do daily reports:
Create codes and glue a list of them into the front of student’s agenda.
One year, I created a simple key that would allow me to communicate how the child’s day was and pasted it prominently in the front of each student’s agenda. For the first few weeks of school, I also had students glue a copy onto each week’s agenda page for easier reference until parents and students learned the code. The codes were used for both positive behaviors (for example, 1 could stand for very on-task, 2 could stand for all work turned in on time) as well as difficulties (T could stand for tardy, etc). This system allowed me to give very detailed feedback in seconds. Parents signed off in just one place each night because the daily evaluation was right next to the homework assignment.
Stamp children’s agenda books with special stamps.
Smiley face stamps are good to use (don’t give a stamp if there were problems and write a note in the child’s agenda to explain). You could also use washable markers to make a star or other symbol on children’s hands or agendas in a color that symbolizes the behavior. This method is often used by early childhood teachers because of its simplicity. For example, green=good day, yellow=okay, red=problems (with the specific issue explained in the agenda).
Have children fill in a simple form or calendar for themselves at the end of the day.
The kids color that day’s square green if they had a good day, yellow for an okay day, etc. The teacher announces that it’s time for everyone to color their square green so that students can reflect on their choices. Discussions can be held at that time with kids who didn’t earn green to discuss things individually. The teacher can then initial’s each child’s form to show parents that their children used the correct color, and can add notes as needed.
Option 2: Weekly behavioral evaluations
Weekly evaluations can be a report on both social skills (behavior) and study skills (work habits). While I don’t advocate for these types of reports in general, most school systems require teachers to grade students on social skills and work habits using either a letter grade or numerical system (i.e., 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s). Assigning an arbitrary grade at the end of the quarter can be problematic, and some teachers and parents prefer a more concrete system that tracks student progress each week.
Holistic assessment of social and study skills
I prefer to give a weekly assessment that is based on my overall perception of how the child has done, which means I don’t mark down infractions as they occur or keep track of every little issue in the classroom. Instead, I list key social and study skills that are evaluated on the district’s report card form and evaluate students’ progress toward meeting those goals.
You can download my holistic weekly evaluation form at the end of this post, which is the most recent form I’ve used (2009) and my favorite to date. I stapled it to the inside of a manila folder and sent it home each Friday with students’ work for the week inside. It took about 10-15 minutes to fill the forms out for the entire class.
Using a tracking form to record behaviors
If you feel the need to keep detailed records of behavior or your school district requires it, you might consider a very simple and effective system I used many years ago when my grade level team agreed to do it that way.
We gave weekly evaluation grades based on a tracking form we used for recording students’ behavior. When students had behavioral issues, we made a check mark. Next to each check, we wrote an abbreviation for the infraction (T for talking, F for fighting, etc.). At the end of the week, we totaled up how many checks each student had and assigned a Social Skills grade using the key shown on the weekly evaluation form.
We used the same tracking sheet to record whether students had any missing or incomplete homework and class work assignments. At the end of the week, we gave a work habits grade to each child (see the key on the bottom of the weekly evaluation form). If your school district uses a numerical scale for work habits, just convert the letter grades to whatever system your district uses. For example, if the scale is 1-3, then use this key: 1=Outstanding (0-1 checks), 2=Satisfactory (2-3 checks), and 3=Improvement Needed (4+ checks).
This system is described in detail in The Cornerstone book. You can download the printable forms and instructions at the end of this post!
Reports on academic progress
Most daily or weekly evaluations address work habits and social growth but don’t give a clear picture of how students are doing academically. We all have conscientious and well-behaved students who are working far below grade level, and conversely, kids who are always in trouble but still manage to get good grades. The typical weekly evaluation form can leave parents and children feeling very surprised when report card time rolls around if the teacher isn’t clear about the form’s limitations!
Experienced educators should definitely consider having a regular method for updating parents on children’s academic growth. If your school system has already overloaded you with paper trails, this may not be needed. But if you’d like documentation of how you routinely provide student progress information to parents, I have several methods you can try. I’ve listed them in order from the simplest to the most complex. Each one can be adapted to include social skills and work habit information, as well, so that you don’t have to do a separate behavior report.
I’ve gone into great detail about these different types of reports in “Chapter 31: Keeping Parents Informed” from The Cornerstone book. A summary of each is below:
Option A) Send home graded work in a folder for parents to sign
I prefer sending graded work home with a weekly evaluation (like my holistic weekly evaluation form which you can download below), but you could just send the papers alone. You might find it useful to staple the work together so papers don’t get lost. Some teachers request that parents send the stapled packets back each week so they can be kept at school as documentation. I also know teachers who either write the number of graded papers going home at the top of the stack or on an evaluation form so that students do not ‘accidentally forget’ or ‘lose’ assignments they didn’t do well on. A good friend of mine had so much trouble with this that one year, she actually typed the names of all the assignments going home in the holistic weekly evaluation form before photocopying it for the class. That way, parents knew exactly which papers they should be seeing inside.
Option B) Combine a newsletter with academic and behavioral reports
I used this method one year to keep parents updated about what we were studying in class and to let them know how well their children were mastering the skills being taught. You can download a blank copy, a sample completed form, and instructions at the end of this post.
Option C) Use biweekly work sample reflection forms
I’ve also sent home papers every other week with a short analysis of student progress and a lengthy student reflection form. I often held student-teacher or parent-student-teacher conferences in conjunction with these forms. This was a useful method when I taught in a school with high parent involvement and detailed communication was expected. You can download a blank copy, a sample completed form, and instructions below.