What teachers REALLY mean when they say your child ‘shows potential’ or is ‘very social’ on school report cards
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Teachers have lifted the lid on what they really mean when they use terms like ‘talkative’, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘has potential’ in pupils’ end of term report cards.
Now two teachers have exclusively explained all for MailOnline, detailing the subtle meanings behind choice phrases sent home to parents.
One of the teachers says such terms give an even greater insight into performance, because traditional A to E marks can have ‘no meaning’ when every teacher views the grading system differently.
What teachers REALLY mean when they use terms like ‘has potential’ and ‘creative’
Nowadays, it may also be harder for parents to truly understand what is meant by the reporting cards as these days feedback such as ‘could try harder’, ‘must try harder’, or ‘talks too much’ is rated by a number or a little mark.
These indications may prove to be too vague for parents and their children to understand what they need to do in order to improve their work, performance or behaviour at school.
A teacher, who became a become a TikTok star, posted a video on the social media platform explaining what teachers mean when they scribble down letters such as KCSIE, WWW and EBI on your child’s homework or schoolbook.
Miss Frankie explained that LO means learning objectives, as she then moved on to the words PP/FSM, saying this means ‘pupil premium’ and ‘free school meals’.
She continued: ‘If I honour a child’s work when I’m marking it, I will put an EBI and a WWW.’
The teacher explained that EBI stands for “even better if” and WWW stands for “what went well”. She then explains what WT, WA, and GD mean.
She continued to debunk the words, saying: ‘So WT means “working towards”. WA means “working at an expected level” and GD means “greater depth”.’
The last code is KCSIE, which she explains means ‘keeping children safe in education’.
Teacher debunks what the phrases on report cards REALLY mean
Teachers at Estia Tuition tutor team have revealed to MailOnline exactly what the terminology on the end of year reports means.
Has potential: Would be a good student if they showed more effort
Very social: Talkative, but they’re often genuinely great students for discussion tasks
Enthusiastic: Can rely on these students always putting their hand up and giving the lesson a good effort. It can sometimes mean they are likely to shout out rather than wait to be asked.
Independent: Doesn’t work well with their partner and doesn’t ask for help when they are stuck – learning to ask for help is a super important skill for students and not a sign of weakness.
Pupil tries hard: This is usually sincere – while the topic may not come naturally to them they are still working hard and focused. In my experience, these are the students that achieve well in exams because they show consist effort.
Talkative: This is usually a restrained way of saying “really irritating and disrupting learning for others / wasting my time”. They have likely been moved places in class a few times because they’d rather talk about anything other than the lesson.
Must try harder: The teacher can see they’re not without hope, but they’re usually staring out the window or doing the absolute minimum – not a lost cause but support / an attitude change is needed.
Emerging skills: These students are normally in the process of turning it around after a spell of struggling – this is a good thing as long as they continue pushing to improve.
Creative: For students that really think outside the box – though this can sometimes come at the price of doing what they were asked to do.
Helpful: This depends on the context – it can refer to students arriving to lessons early and wanting to help hand out books or get involved with demonstrations. Other times this can be them helping another student who is struggling. The latter is actually a very powerful tool for learning for the helpful student and the one struggling, but if this is combined with “talkative”, they may be being “helpful” at the wrong time.
Not everything should be ‘perceived as being negative’
Wendy Watts (pictured above), Group Education and Teacher Manager for Estia Tuition, explained why specific terminology is seen throughout report cards
Speaking to MailOnline, Wendy Watts, Group Education and Teacher Manager for Estia Tuition, says that most schools use report writing software – and this may come as a shock to many parents.
But it may also explain why all their children come back with similar phrases in the reports, or have similar feedback each year.
While all schools ‘will have their own framework in which they report back to students,’ most of them will use report writing software’, she said.
Ms Watts explained why specific terminology is seen throughout report cards – such as ‘needs to proof read work,’ ‘needs to ensure they are trying hard,’ ‘pupil tries hard,’ ‘pupil finds XYZ difficult’ .
She says that many schools use assessment trackers or online report boxes to automatically fill out the report; that can be slightly interchanged amongst each individual pupil.
Shedding more light on the terms, Ms Watts says that the ‘language is used to help develop students’ performance.’
She said: ‘A school will provide ongoing feedback to parents and students to give them a sense of how they are performing.
‘All feedback is constructive, designed to support a students’ development and is to be used as reference point to consider how they can adjust or make further progress.
‘In addition to this, students will be encouraged to develop a growth mindset, therefore this is not a stand-alone comment, and its feedback is used to promote growth and development.
‘It is recognised that students will grow and develop over time and so comments are not static and can be used to support the development of a child.’
But the teacher said that while parents may view the wording unfavourable, not everything should be ‘perceived as being negative.’
She said: ‘If a parent is not happy then I would say, make an appointment to see the teacher or headteacher to clarify anything perceived as being negative.
‘Everything should be worded in a positive or constructive way. Reports are always checked before they go out, so they do not lead to any misunderstanding. Generally, reports are individualised and usually very carefully thought out so as not to cause any issues and they are usually followed up by a parents evening, giving the family a chance to discuss any pertinent issues.’
You should use such wording in ‘order to nurture students’
Award-winning teacher Adam Speight qualified as a teacher in 2011. He has worked in both Wales and England in the state and independent sectors in a middle leadership role. He is always keen to share his ideas and is a frequent educational writer and speaker.
Speaking to MailOnline, Adam Speight a teacher based in Wales and a content writer for Access Education GCSEPod, says that he doesn’t ‘understand why negative terms’ are used by some schoolteachers in reports.
In breaking down why teachers use specific terminology that may sometimes be viewed negatively by the parent, Mr Speight said that this is done ‘in order to nurture pupils.’
But he said that the main thing teachers need to consider when writing a report is the ‘audience it is being written for and the language for learning.’
He continued to say that in order to be a constructive teacher, you must not focus on the negatives and identify the strengths in the weaknesses of a child, adding : ‘A good report is a summary of what you have been learning, identifying the child’s strength and what they need to improve.
‘You need to use words like ‘talkative’ and ‘energetic’ in order to nurture pupils.
‘If you have a child that is talkative, that is not a criticism. If that is something that is an issue, then it needs to be addressed before a report comes out. You can’t inform a parent that this is a problem at the end of year report.
‘If they are talkative, that means they should also be lead learners in the classroom because thy are enthusiastic.’
The teacher continued to say that the ‘wrong language used is a barrier to learning.
‘School attendance is already on its knees in getting pupils back in, and so you need to think about phrasing to encourage pupils to come in.’
He said that the way reports are done could sometimes be a training issue, but Mr Speight admitted that he doesn’t ‘understand why negative terms will be used in reports.’
Teachers, he says, need to think ‘about language for learning and what you are writing and saying.
‘If you have a talkative pupil, it is all about wording and emphasising on when they are focused and improvement comments to follow up, for example they are talkative but they are also a shining pupil in other ways.’
Therefore, it order to be constructive, teachers need to ‘make the point and explain the point in order to show the pupil what they need to do to overcome the barrier.
‘And if the report uses all negative terminology, the parent will become upset and no one is a winner here. So, serious issues need to be addressed.’
He continued to say that some schools who use numbers or the alphabet to grade children on their report cards is wrong, as ‘there is no meaning.
‘Written comments are more personable and you can say more things, whereas numbers are too generic.
‘You can’t get consistency with teachers as all teachers have different standards and expectations, and so by writing it out you can clarify on those expectation.’
The Welsh-based teacher continued to say that all schoolteachers should be looking at the strengths of pupils and honing in on that as opposed to highlighting the negativity of something.
Mr Speight explained: ‘If there is an issue with the behaviour of a pupil and they should listen instructions or need to follow class routines for example, you need to thoroughly explain why you have written that and what they need to do implement his action.’
He continued to say that in terms of end of year school report cards as a whole, the faculty and senor teachers need to check it ‘and negative comments don’t need to be going out like that,’ adding: ‘Reporting shouldn’t be calling out children, it needs to be a summary and then how to get to next steps in their learning journey.’
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