Writing report card comments for learners who are doing well isn’t so bad, but report card comments for weak or struggling students…

Those are a bit more challenging and mind-consuming.

How do you say what you need to say without seeming insensitive or negative?

And how do you communicate the facts and your observations clearly?

Well, I can help you with that.

This post provides you with meaningful, clear, and specific report card comments for weak and/or struggling students.

I’ve used these comments repeatedly over the years and with great success.

Tweak to make them your own or use verbatim.

My hope is that these report card comments for weak and struggling students (or those performing below grade level) will make your writing session a bit more tolerable and less time-consuming.

Here’s a quick rundown AKA…

Table of Contents:

  • Quick Tips (These things are ESSENTIAL!)
  • Reading report card comments
  • Writing report card comments
  • Math report card comments
  • Science/Social Studies comments
  • General/Behavior report card comments
  • Next Steps for Improvement comments

Quick Tips for Writing Report Card Comments for Weak or Struggling Students

First, a few tips to keep in mind when writing report card comments for weak and struggling students…

Start on a Positive Note.

Your report card comments for struggling students should begin on a positive note.

Writing report card comments for students with significant weaknesses is a bit challenging because you’re dealing with a sensitive situation, and you don’t want to offend parents.

Nor do you want to come across as if you’re belittling the efforts, progress, and talents of the student.

On the other hand, you have to be honest.

Here’s what you do…

Soften the blow by ALWAYS starting on a positive note.

First focus on something that the child has done very well during the school year.

What are the child’s strengths?

What significant progressions did he/she make?

Not all kids are naturally wired for traditional paper and pencil tasks.

Maybe the targeted student excels in art, kinesthetic activities, music, working well with others, technology, etc.

It’s essential to focus on those key, positive areas first.

Mention one or two positive attributes, and then flow into your core report card comment.

Talk with Other Teachers.

Before I sit down and write my report card comments for a struggling student, if possible (and applicable), I speak to other teachers who currently teach or who have previously taught the child.

Ideally, this should be done waaayyyy before you even begin to write the report card comment.

The first time or two that I observe a weakness in a child, I do my best to contact other educators as soon as possible.

I want to know if the concerns that I observe have been noted by others who work with the child.

I don’t mention in my comments that teacher so and so told me such and such about Little Billy.  


If the other teachers document (or previously documented) similar concerns when writing their report card comments for the struggling student, the parents will see a pattern.  

There is power in numbers.

If two or three separate teachers are documenting similar results, it helps the parents see a consistent problem, and one teacher isn’t the culprit. (Because unfortunately, some parents unfairly play the teacher blame game).

And you never know…

Some parents might even mention that they’ve observed a similar situation at home.

So it’s good to make these types of connections with teachers and parents.  

What if other teachers haven’t experienced the same behaviors as you or have found a solution for the issues?

Ask them what they did, and take note of their tips and strategies.

Follow their suggestions, and see how they work for you.

You’ve hit a potential goldmine.

On the other hand, if another teacher observed a weakness but one other did not, document your experiences anyway and work on solutions with the parents.

If you speak with two or more teachers and none of them experienced what you have, still document what you’ve observed, but here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • 1) Is the current grade level work much harder and/or the student less motivated?
  • 2) Is my classroom management style more strict/lenient?
  • 3) Do I just not gel with this kid?  

These questions make you reflect as a teacher: “Is there something I’m doing in my teaching that’s affecting this child negatively?”


Is there something with me personally that’s affecting this child?”

As an educator, honestly answering these questions can be hard.

At the end of the day, do know that students react differently to different teachers.

That doesn’t mean you’ll have to change your style or teaching structure, but it’s definitely something to be aware of.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute.  

Give yourself enough time to write your report card comments, especially those for struggling students.

I think some teachers freak out over doing report card comments because they wait until the last minute.

We continuously procrastinate because writing those darn comments is one of the least exciting parts of the job.

Here’s how to manage it all…

Let’s say you have 30 students for which you must write report card comments.

And let’s say those comments are due in about three weeks.

Commit to writing 10 comments per week. That’s about 1 or 2 report card comments per day.

You could even tackle the “easy” students first (those meeting or exceeding grade level expectations), and then devote the last week or two to the report card comments for struggling students.  

Spreading out a big task like report card comments over a period of weeks makes things a little easier for you.

Breaking report card comment writing into manageable chunks really helps with mental stress.

Additionally, you’ll focus better on each individual child. You’ll be able to write about each student more in depth without all the overwhelm.

You want parents to see that you really understand their child and only want to do what’s best for his/her learning.

So do yourself (and the child) a big favor: don’t wait until close to due time to get those report card comments done.

Be Honest.

I think this goes without saying…

Be honest.

We’ve all known those educators who don’t want to be the “bad person”.

Or they simply don’t want to deal with the consequences of being honest about a child’s weaknesses.

They believe that it means more work for them.

Some also have an intense desire to be liked by the parents at all costs. Even if that means playing down significant red flags.

Consequently, they dance around the real issues.

This does nothing but make light of the situation. This is very disheartening.

I’ve always been that teacher that’s going to be honest and frank with parents, even if that means an upset parent.

Your delivery could be perfect; some parents are just not going to accept the facts, and that’s part of a teacher’s professional life.

But never give parents a reason to sincerely say that you didn’t have the best intentions for the child.

At the end of the day, it’s about the child, not the parent.

As educators, we are all for children first.

In saying all of this, there is a way to communicate everything because it’s not what you say but how you say it.

Have you ever been in the unfortunate situation where a parent tells you that you’re the first teacher to mention their child’s issue with such and such?

No teacher has ever mentioned that to me.” is a response I’ve heard from parents more times than I’d like to remember.

Then you speak with the previous teacher.

He or she says, “Yes, I spoke to them about such and such issue, too.”

But the proof is in the documentation.

You take a look at previous years’ records and note ambiguously written report card comments.

Or worse, no mention of what that respective teacher just explained to you!


Elementary school is a special place for many reasons. But one of the coolest benefits about it is that it’s the time when learning gaps among kids are smallest.

As a school community, we’re in an ideal position to nip learners’ bad habits and learning weaknesses in the bud or greatly improve upon them.

The further up kids go in grade level, the bigger the learning gaps become. And the bigger the gaps, the harder they become to close.

So for the child’s sake, honesty is key.

It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely the right thing to do. Remember, it’s all about the delivery.

Offer Next Steps.

After describing the area of concern, provide parents with next steps.

Don’t just mention that the child needs to focus on this or that.

Add to your comments actionable steps that parents can follow to help their child move towards improvement.

Doing so creates a tone of encouragement and positivity!

For example, if you tell the parent that her child’s reading level didn’t improve as much as predicted for 3rd quarter, give specific suggestions of what they can do at home to help the child improve his or her reading level.

Additionally, let them know what you’re doing at school to help the child reach her reading goals.

In doing this, you show that both parties work as a team to help the child.

After reading the report card comments, parents should fully understand their child’s current academic and behavioral situation.

And most importantly, they should have clear, actionable steps to take in order to move their child to the next level.

They’ll hopefully feel confident in moving forward with the agreed steps.

Be Able to Defend Whatever You Write (With Evidence).

Notations of weaknesses in a report card comment, especially for struggling students, shouldn’t be the first time parents are hearing about the issue from you.

Hopefully, you’ve been regularly…

1. Sending home progress reports as needed, or

2. Corresponding via email throughout the school year about the child’s progress, or

3. Asking for graded papers to be reviewed and signed by guardians weekly, or  

4. Using whichever ongoing two-way communication system works for you.

You’ve got to cover your bases, and to be fair, if you’re going to document it, then yes, you should be able to back it up with evidence.

That’s how we roll!

If you note that a child is struggling with her math facts, have on hand if necessary the graded assessments or anecdotal notes to prove that.

Wouldn’t you want the same done if it were your child?

Check Again (and Again) for Spelling & Punctuation Errors.

I consider myself a decent writer, but being human, I make writing errors here and there.

You’ve maybe come across a few within this post (sorry!).

But for report card comments, we’ve got to make those suckers impeccable! There’s little room for punctuation and spelling errors.

I mean…

What will parents think if we’re talking to them about their child’s limited performance in a subject area yet our work is less than ideal?


In some schools, school leaders have the “pleasure” of reviewing report card comments before distribution, and they give an even more careful eye to those comments discussing students who are struggling in class.

So do your due diligence, and proofread.

So those are my tips for writing report card comments for struggling and weak students.

If you follow these essential tips, you should be pretty good-to-go.

Now let’s get down to business.

This is what you’ve really been waiting for… actual report card comments for struggling students that are clear, specific, and meaningful.

Reading Report Card Comments for Struggling Students

Reading Comprehension

  • _____ puts forth much effort. However, (Insert any reading skill or strategy such as sequencing, finding the main idea, visualizing, etc.) is still difficult for him/her.
  • _____ is not able to retell significant details of what he/she just read.
  • _____ has significant trouble responding logically to higher-order thinking comprehension questions (see QAR reference).
  • Even with accommodations and/or modifications, _____ experiences difficulty with (insert any reading skill or strategy).
  • _____ has a hard time using context clues to figure out the meaning of new words.
  • ______ is rarely able to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction texts.
  • When summarizing, ______ regularly omits key information essential for understanding the main idea.
  • _____ limited prior knowledge and experiences with different text genres hinders reading comprehension of more challenging texts.
  • _____ progress is slow in understanding and applying the comprehension skill of (insert specific reading skill or strategy).
  • _____ isn’t able to justify responses using evidence from the text or by using prior knowledge.
  • _____ depends heavily on scaffolding (highlighters, post its, graphic organizers, etc.) to comprehend text.
  • _____ rarely uses nonfiction text features to aid in reading comprehension.
  • Lack of reading stamina causes _____ to not see or understand the big idea(s) of longer reading passages.   
  • Referencing the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA), ______ is reading at level ______ . This means….
  • According to Fountas and Pinnell, _______ reads at a “Frustrational Level”. This means that grade level books are difficult for ______ , and he/she reads them with less than 90% word accuracy.
  • According to Fountas and Pinnell, _______ reads at an “Instructional Level”. This means that grade level books are challenging but manageable for _______. He/she reads them around a 90% word accuracy.
  • _____ reading level has decreased over the past two quarters.
  • _____ shows difficulty skimming/scanning text to locate a key piece of information.
  • _____ struggles with (insert any reading comprehension skill/strategy).
  • _____ reading stamina is limited to (insert appropriate time frame) which may affect work performance.
  • _____ rarely makes an attempt to ask for help when he or she does not understand a concept.
  • _____ is working below grade level in (insert specific reading skill or strategy).  
  • _____ seldomly uses anchor charts to assist with learning.
  • _____ has a difficult time applying comprehension skills and strategies within context.
  • Though _____ is making gradual steps to improve (insert reading skill or strategy) progress is delayed due to…


  1. _____ has difficulty reading fluently within context.
  2. Fluency is very labored.
  3. _____ fluency is smooth but lacks expression.
  4. _____ reading fluency is appropriate for grade level standards but accuracy is low.
  5. _____ reads primarily word-by-word.
  6. Speech development hinders _____ fluency, accuracy, and expression.


  1. _____ limited vocabulary impedes his reading comprehension.
  2. _____ has a difficult time making connections among words with similar patterns (e.g. prefixes, suffixes, roots, etc.)
  3. _____ struggles with using context clues to figure out homophones and homographs.
  4. _____ seldomly pronounces grade-level, high frequency words with ease.
  5. _____ pronounces grade-level high frequency words and/or sight words with difficulty.

Phonemic Awareness/Phonics

  1. _____ has a hard time decoding grade-level multi-syllabic words.
  2. _____ frequently reverses words and phrases when reading.
  3. _____ has trouble recognizing blends, digraphs, and grade-appropriate word patterns.
  4. _____ requires regular assistance from teacher in order to decode multi-syllabic words.

Writing Report Card Comments for Weak Students

  • _____ puts forth much effort. However, (insert any skill, strategy, or behavior) is still difficult for him/her.
  • _____ does not ask for help when he or she does not understand a concept.
  • Though _____ is making gradual steps to improve (insert skill or strategy) progress is delayed due to…
  • _____ frequently misspells grade-level high frequency words and/or sight words.
  • _____ has a hard time editing written work using a checklist.
  • _____ often speeds to complete writing assignment without proper revising and editing.
  • _____ demonstrates difficulty revising writing pieces even using a checklist.
  • Even with accommodations and/or modifications, _____struggles with (insert any writing skill or strategy).
  • _____ seldomly uses anchor charts to assist with learning.
  • On a regular basis, _____ handwriting is illegible.
  • _____ rarely forms letters legibly.
  • Poor fine motor skills hinders writing performance for _____.
  • _____ demonstrates difficulty applying new writing skills.
  • _____ written pieces lack clear and vivid details that help the reader understand and visualize the main idea.
  • _____ writing frequently lacks a clear idea or main message.
  • _____ ideas are hardly ever fully developed.
  • _____ has a hard time using a variety of sentence structures in his/her writing.
  • _____ sentences very often lack semantics making them difficult to comprehend.
  • _____ would greatly benefit from using a thesaurus to assist in using stronger verbs and adjectives within her writing.
  • _____ writing pieces lack an interesting lead that grabs the reader’s attention.
  • _____ lacks a clear understanding of how to apply grammar and/or punctuation rules appropriately.
  • _____ hardly uses standard grammar and punctuation within context.
  • A clear conclusion is frequently missing from _____ writing pieces.  
  • _____ has difficulty writing across a variety of genres.
  • _____ exhibits minimal confidence in his writing skills.
  • _____ needs to devote more time to learning cursive writing strokes.
  • _____ performs below grade level in (insert specific writing skill or strategy).  
  • _____ is making minimal process in (insert specific writing skill/strategy).
  • _____ is unfocused in maintaining grade-level writing expectations.

Math Report Card Comments for Struggling Students

  1. _____ puts forth much effort. However, (insert any math skill or strategy) is still difficult for him/her.
  2. _____ is experiencing difficulty memorizing basic math facts.
  3. _____ does not ask for help when he or she does not understand a concept.
  4. Though _____ is making gradual steps to improve (insert skill or strategy) progress is delayed due to…
  5. _____ struggles with higher-order thinking word problems.
  6. Even though she has a hard time understanding harder concepts, _____ refuses to use manipulatives.
  7. _____ shows difficulty in applying math skills in project-based learning activities.
  8. _____ is struggling to maintain grade-level math expectations.
  9. _____ frequently forgets math processes, strategies, and/or basic facts.
  10. Even with accommodations and/or modifications, _____ struggles with (insert any math skill or strategy).
  11. _____ is working below grade level in (insert any math skill or strategy).
  12. _____ seldomly uses anchor charts to assist with learning.
  13. _____ shows difficulty with multi-step math problems.
  14. Even after repeated modeling by the teacher, _____ is unclear on how to solve multi-step word problems.
  15. _____ math progress in the area of (insert specific math skill) is moving slowly due to a weak basic math foundation.

Science/S.S. Report Card Comments for Weak Students

  1. _____ puts forth much effort. However, (insert any skill, strategy, or behavior) is still difficult for him/her.
  2. _____ does not ask for help when he or she does not understand a concept.
  3. _____ lacks understanding of the steps of the scientific method.
  4. _____ is unclear how to apply steps of the scientific method to complete an experiment.
  5. Even with accommodations and/or modifications, _____ struggles with (insert any science/s.s. skill or strategy).
  6. _____ rarely uses nonfiction text features to aid in reading comprehension of science or social studies text.
  7. _____ seldomly uses anchor charts to assist with learning.
  8. _____ is performing below grade level in (insert specific science/social studies skill or strategy).  
  9. _____ indifferent and/or unmotivated to maintain grade-level expectations in the areas of science or social studies.
  10. Though _____ is making gradual steps to improve (insert skill or strategy) progress is delayed due to…

General/Behavior Report Card Comments for Struggling Students

  1. It’s challenging for _____ to complete a task if he isn’t supervised constantly.
  2. _____ distracts others often.
  3. _____ has a difficult time working independently.
  4. _____ puts forth much effort. However, (insert any skill, strategy, or behavior) is often difficult for him/her.
  5. _____ has significant trouble sitting still long enough to complete an assignment.
  6. _____ very often interrupts and/or disrupts others.
  7. _____ is frequently unprepared for lessons.
  8. _____ often loses materials and supplies needed to complete activities.
  9. _____ exhibits poor time management and consequently has trouble completing assignments on time.
  10. _____ hardly ever participates in discussions and/or whole class activities.
  11. _____ reacts negatively and/or becomes highly discouraged when given constructive feedback.
  12. _____ constantly asks questions that have been answered repeatedly and in detail.
  13. _____ is very slow to comprehend instructions and requires multiple repetitions of detailed directions.
  14. Even with accommodations and/or modifications, _____ struggles with (insert any behavior).
  15. _____ frequently rushes to complete work as if in competition with classmates.
  16. Unnecessarily sacrificing accuracy for speed causes _____to have lots of careless errors.
  17. _____ has to be told continuously to be respectful towards others and things.
  18. _____ frequently demonstrates poor work ethic.
  19. _____ fails to complete assignments even when given extended time.
  20. _____ lacks confidence in himself and his abilities.

A Few More General/Behavioral Report Card Comments for Students with Weaknesses

  • _____ shows signs of low self-esteem which has affected work performance.
  • _____ assignments and/or homework is often or always late.
  • Excessive absences and tardies are having a less-than-positive effect on _____ work performance.
  • _____ doesn’t work to his/her full potential.
  • _____ makes careless mistakes due to not revising work carefully.
  • _____ is easily angered.
  • _____ is overly aggressive with peers who he feels has wronged him.
  • _____ consistently shows work that is disorganized, illegible, and/or not neat.
  • _____ participates fully during discussions but often talks excessively.
  • _____ has a very difficult time staying focused on the assignment or activity at hand.
  • _____ struggles with keeping hands to herself.
  • _____ requires a high level of encouragement in order to complete a task.
  • _____ significantly lacks self-discipline.
  • Instead of listening to others, _____ chooses to talk over them.
  • _____ is inconsistent with his efforts.

Next Steps for Improvement:

We can’t leave parents hangin’!

If their child is performing below grade level, those report card comments need to include effective solutions.

Providing clear next steps is essential and where the magic starts to happen. These action tasks will get students on the path to success!

  • For the next quarter, let’s try these accommodations and/or modifications for ______ : (insert any appropriate and *approved strategies).
  • I’ll continue one-on-one or small group instruction support with ______ at least twice per week in (insert subject area), focusing on (insert student targeted learning objective).
  • After-school tutoring x number of times per week might be beneficial for ______ .
  • It would be helpful to review at home with _______ …
  • _____ would benefit from…
  • I strongly encourage _____ to (insert any action that will help to improve situation + how often) in order to improve (insert issue).
  • During the summer, ______ should continue to… (insert any action that will help to improve situation + how often) in order to improve (insert issue).
  • It’s recommended for ______ to ….
  • I suggest having _____ continue studying…
  • _____ needs more opportunities to…
  • Review with ______ x number of times each week…
  • In order to increase academic skills, _____ requires assistance such as…
  • To stay abreast (or on top ) of _____ progress, let’s schedule a follow-up meeting/conference for…

NOTE: Within the appropriate context and with limitations, you may want to offer incentives depending on how well the child responds to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

*Approved– Modifications and major accommodations are usually approved or “cosigned” via a formal meeting with specialists, parents, and/or other educators who work closely with the child. Ask the counselor or learning specialist how the process works at your school.

Conclusion – Report Card Comments for Struggling Students

Writing report card comments for struggling students is sometimes difficult. This resource saves you time, mental energy, and overwhelm.

And just as a quick summary, remember to always…

Start your report card comments on a positive note, be specific, clear, and give next steps that evoke a feeling of encouragement.

Oh yeah, and proofread once or twice!

Before you know it, you’ll be done.

For more great comments, check out our comprehensive collection of report card comments, created especially with the elementary teacher in mind.

Until next time