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Common report writing mistakes

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Brenden, Dec 28, 2008.

  1. Brenden

    Brenden New commenter

    Next year, I am going to be hired by my school to administrate and orchestrate the report writing process. This is all done using a professional report writing system - to the extent that "professional" is another way of saying "very expensive".

    This system all runs off one big database file, and anyone remotely familiar with my websites will know that I'm quite comfortable in the presence of databases. Looking over the printed and sent reports from this semester (July-December 2008), there were two common mistakes made by teachers. These were not picked up during the multi-stage human editing process and a lot of them were reported by parents.

    Common, small errors like this result in a substantial waste of paper, as there are a lot of reports to be reprinted once mistakes have been spotted, and a loss of professionalism in the eyes of the parents. These common errors are:
    • Teachers copy-paste comments between reports without properly using the comment bank, so students' names are wrong.
    • The same copy-paste trend leaves a lot of male pronouns (he, his) on female reports, and female pronouns (she, her) on male reports.
    • Template errors in the reporting system leaves comments and marks replaced with the message '[AUTOTEXT NOT DEFINED]'
    What I have come up with is a process, involving several scripts that I am writing, for automatically scanning through the report database and producing lists of the mistakes it finds. This is not going to replace any of the human-editing stages, but it will significantly reduce the number of errors that do slip through the nets.

    Which leads me to my question - what common teacher mistakes do you find occur every year in your reports?
  2. Brenden

    Brenden New commenter

  3. asnac

    asnac Established commenter

    I agree, the pronoun genders and the pupils' names are the main ones.

    Here is an example (not real) showing a number of frequently seen reporting errors in reports that I have had the pleasure of proofing. How many types of mistake can you spot?

    Josh has worked hard in maths this term. Josh knows his 6 times table now, and I know that Josh has practiced hard at home. Josh appreciates that results come with practise & application. Keep it up Josh.



    to see the errors

    in that report:

    1) Overuse of the name. This makes it sound like you are using a template, and gives an impersonal air. Use the child's name no more than (about) two or three times for each subject. Use he or she instead.

    2) Josh is probably short for Joshua. Avoid nicknames on formal documents like reports - though this is a matter for school policy.

    3) Capitalise Maths (and all names of subjects).

    4) For the verb it should be practised, not practiced, and the noun is practice, not practise.

    5) Six times table, not 6 times table. Small numbers should be written in full, or it looks casual.

    6) For the same reason, don't use the ampersand (&), write 'and'.

    7) Comma needed - 'Keep it up, Josh' - before the child's name when addressing him directly.
  4. Brenden

    Brenden New commenter

    Thanks asnac, that's just the kind of answer I was hoping for.

    I can write scripts to find these
    • Overuse of first name (but only when the whole first name is used)
    • When the proper first name isn't used at all (this should find a lot of the nickname usage)
    • Subject capitalisation (although I'll have to experiment with that one)
    • Small numbers (I can easily look for single-digit numbers)
    • Ampersands
    There's not much I can do about spelling and grammar, that's just something the teachers and editors will have to look for. The report writing program has spellcheck in it, but some of the older teachers might just have to get used to the idea.Thanks for your help!
  5. oldsomeman

    oldsomeman Star commenter

    i would have thought a decent spell checker and grammer checker(UK english) would sort a lot of mistakes...even if used at the teacher stage)
    personal prounoun capitalisation
    subject/verb agreement and tense i have noted in my own reports

    maybe a list of obvious words which can be click dropped, ones which are often mispelt when writing repots.
    if i was writing level or subject descriptors im sure i would be concerned at the lack of variety of ways of saying things.........which is why teachers often try to write thier own and end up with problems.

  6. T34

    T34 Lead commenter

    How expensive is "very expensive", I wonder?
    In spite of being "expensive" your report system obviously does not have a "wrong name" function.
    In spite of being expensive, your report system obviously does not have a "smart paste" function,
    In spite of being expensive, your report system obviously has coding weaknesses.
    Your report system is now getting exceedingly expensive.
    "Overuse of forename" - any report system that allows the forename to be repeated in subsequent statements does not have coding in place to prevent this.
    A good system with all of the necessary functions to correct the above faults and more, and which is very reliable, well tested and not expensive is "Inform 6"

  7. WolfPaul

    WolfPaul New commenter

    The very best "system" of all is simply a teacher who knows that the child about whom they are writing, and can produce a good standard of written English. IMHO, a person who does not have said knowledge or said skills really shouldn't be teaching.
    BTW, this "system" doesn't cost anything (apart from teacher time)!
  8. Brenden

    Brenden New commenter

    Thanks Peter Lawton, that program looks terrible. When it has an update server, Word-based templates, a system where a student who gets a single teacher's password can't edit all of the reports, monthly updates, a help file that is bigger than three and a half pages, and conforms to any actual state-wide reporting regulations or standards, come back to me with that advertisement.
  9. Brenden

    Brenden New commenter

    Ok you're probably not Peter, I jumped the gun there, but the rest of my comment I stand by
  10. T34

    T34 Lead commenter

    Yes, my post contained an advertisement, but it does rather irk me that people such as yourself are having to spend time writing their own code to "correct" software when they should not have to do that.
    All the problems your scripts will correct have been met and solved before and you will be having to reinvent the wheel. You did mention specific problems which are addressed in the systems I pointed to. It is in teachers' interests to have information about what is available and what it can do.

    re. you criticisms -
    1) "update server"? I'm not clear what you mean here. Updates, if there are any are put on the web site for download and schools are informed of their presence. Update is quick and painless.

    2) "Word based templates" - in actual fact, the programs I pointed people to are <u>developments</u><u></u> from a previous "Word based template" system. Whilst MS Word allows a great variety of templates, it is very heavy to manipulate programmatically and this makes it slow. To get over this problem the programs I pointed to include a drawing program for producing their own templates, stored in simple text form. This makes printing, viewing etc effectively instantaneous. There is not so much choice in the template patterns as there would be if MS Word were used as the basis, but the limitations are not significant for school reporting purposes and are much outweighed by the speed, reliability and simplification advantages of getting rid of MS Word altogether.

    3) "a system where a student who gets a single teacher's password can't edit all of the reports"
    If a student got hold of a single teachers password and got acces to the teachers area then he/she could edit that teachers reports. But that student could not edit reports for other teachers, not unless the student gained access to the administrators password.
    This is the same for any software, SIMS, CMIS etc. If students have passwords and user names they can edit even your MIS.

    4) "monthly updates" - only MS Windows needs <u>monthly</u> updates!
    5) "a help file that is bigger than three and a half pages" - The help files and manuals are reasonably comprehensive. Certainly, people seem to be able to learn to use the programs by reference to them plus sometimes the occasional phone call. Simplicity is a great virtue.
    6) "conforms to any actual state-wide reporting regulations or standard" - Brenden, most of us are in England. Please let me know what standards or regulations the programs do not conform to,

  11. lol. I just found this post whilst browsing the forum - sorry I'm late to post.
    From memory, T34's program does look slightly dated with a strange user interface - a little like a custom Win3.11 app?
    Brenden, If you would like to try my program (it's at http://ElementaryReports.com ). I'd appreciate your opinion - good or bad. :)
    My system has regular updates, possibly more often than a month, possibly less often than a month - it really depends if anything has been added or fixed. It has a modern standard user interface - no real need for a help file (but it has one all the same). It just doesn't have pronoun conversion, it actually tracks them as they move around documents - this way it can do a much more accurate conversion. There is a video on the website that demos the feature.
    Anyhow, please get back to me either via this forum or by the contact info on my site.
    - Anthony
  12. Brenden

    Brenden New commenter

    Thanks Anthony, but I'm running a government-recommended reporting system using a government-mandated grading structure producing government-mandated report styles which integrates with the government-mandated administration software.

    Not to mention that with your pricing structure it would theoretically cost my school almost £2000 a year
  13. Brenden

    Brenden New commenter

    That said I have actually tried your software, it looks nice enough but I wasn't really impressed. From the website it seems to have improved somewhat since then. It hasn't got that "student's hobby project" vibe to it that INFORM5 has.
  14. Can I ask where you are from? I teach in a Scottish school and have never heard of the systems that you are talking about. I'm in the middle of writing my reports at the moment. I have a paper bank of comments and type my comments on to the template. I am responsible for the proof reading and editing and to be honest I find it a little difficult. I worry whether I have used their name too much or if I have used the correct grammer - many of the mistakes you are talking about! It would be great to have some sort of computer program that would help!

  15. *grammar*

  16. Hi, I too am writing my reports and it's very easy and stress free. I use the Report King from happymongoose.co.uk. Last year for my year 2 class I wrote half my reports and and used the Report King for the other half and no-one from management noticed any differences. I worked out it took me 20 minutes per child from start to printing off the final version. Best &pound;25 I ever spent!
  17. Brenden

    Brenden New commenter

    I'm from Australia, mon. Also we have a buddy system where teachers pair up and proofread each other's reports.
  18. Gawd I think it would take me longer to do reports clicking through comment banks for each kid. I do copy-paste generic stuff like "In history this year Johnnie has studied blah blah and blah" then add a line underneath about what they've achieved, but if you type quickly like I do I find it easier just to bang them out in Word from what I know from the child! As for the Josh/Joshua thing - I switch - use the formal name near the start and when it gets to the comments at the end I'll generally do a statement like "keep it up Josh" unless they've got a formal name they're never ever known by.
    As a kid once with the slightly less common spelling of a first name and a very long and complicated surname I had a secondary school report with TEN different spelling variations on my name alone (and how you can muck up a first name of three letters long is beyond me) - that one drove me nuts!
  19. Brenden

    Brenden New commenter

    This thread is a Hot Topic entry for the newest TES newsletter! Yeah! The page I linked to on the second post has received a burst of traffic that one would expect from being mentioned in such a prestigious publication

    (35 visits)
  20. I'll alter the page this week to make it more obvious. Thanks. :)
    Yes, the licence can be passed from one teacher to another.
    If you have 60 teachers then I am prepared to negotiate. ;)


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