Comment Time Is Over!

This is a post of celebration.

This past weekend and this week, I’ve been consumed with writing narrative comments on all my students. In the past two years of teaching, I have been trying to be more thoughtful about what I’m writing. To put all the cards on the table, I don’t think that comments themselves really effect change in students. However, I do think there is a powerful thing that comments can do: it is a way to tell students I see you and I care about you and I am thinking about you and your learning. Not literally, but a comment can send that message implicitly.

So even though I have serious doubts about the efficacy about what I write in helping students to change their practices, I hold firm to the belief that the implicit message is worth it. So I write, and hope that for a few kids, it matters.

It’s almost 9pm. I’m at a coffeeshop now, and I just finished my last (my 49th) comment of the year. 58 pages later, I am breathing a sigh of relief that I’m done.

I’m totally drained.

I’m so tired of writing that I don’t have it in me to talk about how my comments have evolved in the past two years, or how standards based grading has made writing comments so much easier. Or list the places I know I could still improve on. And maybe I will at some later point.

For now, I just wanted to write a post now sharing the good news with everyone:

I am done!

(If  you want to see the type of comments I wrote in my first three years of teaching, I’ve archived that here.)



  1. “I do think there is a powerful thing that comments can do: it is a way to tell students I see you and I care about you and I am thinking about you and your learning.”

    I couldn’t agree more. At the beginning of every semester, I have my students do a short writing assignment to introduce themselves to me. I always love reading these, and I always try to write 2-3 comments/reactions for each student. While I’m sure some students just throw the piece of paper away once I hand it back to them, for others, it’s meant a lot more. It’s a way for me to say, “I really care about getting to know you.” And that’s worth the time.

  2. Hard to tell from the picture but is there an average length per student? Is this all your students?

    My tedious but rewarding end of the year task is an index card with their name on it and a couple of nice things about them. Much less writing, but much more practical for 150 students.

    1. I’d say each is about a page per student. (I have around 50 students this year…) And yes it’s for all my kids. It is a thing that every teacher does for each kid, at the end of the 1st quarter and at the end of the 3rd quarter. So kids/parents/adviser gets a rounded out picture of the kid each quarter.

  3. Hmm… we did “Thought Cards”, essentially a file folder with their name on it. The student writes a “thought”, which could be anything from “I’m hungry and I want a chicken sandwich” to “I’m tired because my dad kicked us out of the house last night”.

    It was a great way to stay involved in my student’s lived, but the time it took was probably close to what you spend on your letters.

    I assume that you think it’s worth the time. Is the goal to change mathematical practice or to show that you care?

    1. My school requires us to write them, so that’s why I do it. I don’t truly know — and I don’t think the school does either — if it has a specific purpose for what these comments are supposed to do. As I said, since we do them, I try to make them detailed enough to show I care. I hope it helps kids change their mathematical practice, but I don’t know.

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