Wednesday, October 03, 2007

How Progress Reports Work in the Montessori Classroom

How Progress Reports Work in the NAMC Montessori Classroom

I know I’m not alone when I say that one of my least favorite tasks is writing progress reports. Montessori teachers take extra time to personalize each child’s progress report. If we are following the child, our progress reports must reflect the individual child’s progress. Many parents and teachers alike are unsure of how progress reports actually work in the Montessori learning environment.

Why write a progress report? How does the Montessori progress report differ from a traditional school's report card? NAMC has compiled some helpful information for the Montessori parents and teachers who want to know more about  progress reports in the classroom.

How Progress Reports Work in the Montessori Classroom

Purpose of a Progress Report

Progress reports record and assess each student’s academic and social development, as well as clarify goals.

Types of Progress Reports

There are two basic types of Montessori progress reports: the checklist format and the narrative-style report. The checklist format is a checklist of important work, skills, and lessons that the child could receive. The curriculum is broken down into specific areas, which are assessed by an evaluative key. These keys vary, but convey the sense that the material has been 1) presented, 2) practiced, and eventually 3) mastered. For the parent, a checklist seems to focus the attention on the key or “grade”, rather than on the child’s personal qualities and development. These record sheets are important for the Montessori teacher as she is able to record her observations and follow the progress of each child.

The narrative progress report is the most demanding for teachers, but as parents have shared with me time and time again, it’s the most rewarding for parents as they really gain a true feeling as to what their child is learning. The narrative progress report recognizes that each child is unique and whose development cannot fully be understood or assisted by using a checklist approach. It gives a more detailed description of the child’s work and choices of work. For both the parent and child, a narrative report assures them that “My teacher really understands and cares about me/my child.”

The narrative progress report also allows the Montessori teacher to address character development, something which is nearly impossible to do with a checklist. The development of independence, initiative, responsibility, confidence, social awareness, cooperation, concentration, helpfulness, and commitment to work is a crucial element of Dr. Montessori’s curriculum and ones that need the well-thought out use of words to convey.

The Language of Progress Reports: Keeping it Positive

Begin the report with positive comments. It is important for teachers to reflect upon and remember that each child, no matter how challenging, has good qualities. These qualities need to be brought to the forefront of the progress report. Parents are always happy to know that you think well of their child and it also helps “soften the blow” if there are some difficult situations to be addressed.

The language of progress reports should also model the language we use in our Montessori classrooms. Instead of saying “Don’t run!”, Montessori teachers say “Please use walking feet.” The same is true in progress reports. Instead of saying “Magda talks to her friends all the time”, we say “Magda is very social”. Instead of saying “Kevin consistently interrupts during lessons”, we say “Kevin is learning to focus his attention and listen during lessons”.

As a new Montessori teacher, this was the most difficult part of writing progress reports. Over time, it became second nature, but there are still times when I will ask a fellow Montessori teacher to help me re-phrase a delicate statement. I’ve put together some useful phrases to help you when it comes time to write your own progress reports.

Instead of Saying... Montessori teachers use...

Wanders from task to task/wastes time Is learning to occupy his time more constructively
Short attention span Is becoming more dependable during work periods
Not working to full potential Has great potential and is working toward achieving it
Doesn’t follow directions Is learning to listen to directions more carefully
Doesn’t maintain a clean workspace/materials Is learning to take care of her workspace and classroom materials
Clingy/needy Is continuing to grow in independence
Is easily distracted Is learning to concentrate on her work
Irresponsible Is developing his sense of responsibility
Doesn’t play fair Is learning to be more cooperative, careful, and fair

As each progress report becomes part of the student’s formal school record, and will be read by parents and future teachers, it is important for the teacher to treat progress reports as important documents. The most effective progress report is thorough and has a friendly feel to it. It discusses the student’s progress and personality in a way that only someone who truly knows and understand the student could convey.

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, October 3, 2007.


  1. This site had been useful to me -thanks ;-)

  2. As a teacher and a school director, I have swung back and forth between the checklist and the narrative progress reports. I believe they BOTH have their place. I have finally worked out a report that uses both. We have a checklist for each curriculum/skill area, using language the parents can understand without having to take the training, and a summary box at the end of each curriculum/skill area. For example, instead of putting a checklist item 'Pink Tower", we put the checklist item "Uses the Pink Tower to develop ability to arrange by size", and "Uses Comparative words 'big' and 'little'". This allows the parents to understand the skill developed by the materials. At the end of the sensorial section, there is a brief narrative.

    On the issue of positive comments, I believe we should not sacrifice the responsibility of letting our parents know exactly how their child is developing for the need to be positive. Using both a checklist and a summary makes it easier to give a clearer picture. So, for example, under the "Work Habit" section of our checklist, we would have an item that says 'chooses work independently', to which the directress may indicate 'R' for rarely, 'S' for sometimes and 'U' for usually. At the end of the section,the directress may then put a comment such as 'John is developing the ability to initiate his own work/activity'. This gives a clear picture with a positive end-note.

  3. This site has really been helpul. This is my first academic year as a school director, and this has gone a long way in helping me prepare my progress reports.

    In as much as we have to use words that build up the child, i strongly believe that in some cases it is proper to say it as it is. This will enable parents know the true character, and developmental level of their child. How ever, i have learnt a lot from this site in a few minute.

    Thank you.


  4. Virginia,

    Thank you for your comments. When composing progress or end-of-year reports for my students, I try to give honest, respectful and constructive feed back to parents. I always strive to remember that I am discussing the strengths and potential strengths of a child. I measure my words carefully so as to respect the child and the family. I have found that there are many positive ways to frame my words so parents hear what I have to say, without causing strife in the family. Above all, as I re-read my work, I ask myself, if this were my child, are these words that I would want to hear? Is this promoting a healthy relationship between me, my child, and the child’s parent? Often, “telling it like it is” serves the interest of the teacher and not that of the parent and child.

    I have found that Lakeshore Learning has a compiled a valuable list of comments to use on progress reports:

  5. Michelle Irinyi,
    The following link is not working.where can I find the progress report comments?
    Thanks in advance.

  6. If you copy and past the link into your browser, it should work. Failing that, this is the full version of the link:
    Thank you.

  7. I'm glad I found this article. I'm a parent and trying to find out that if it is normal that teacher/school do not give progress report monthly but only at the teacher parents conference.

    Is that normal? As a parent, I would love to know the progress of my child (2 yrs 9 months). Although I am seeing some speech development difference but I am not seeing improvement at some areas. Therefore, it prompts me to ask for a monthly progress report or a general plan of what the teacher would be doing to improve certain areas that are weak.

    My child's previous teacher communicated with parents monthly and had left the school and has not found suitable replacement. I asked the director to continue to provide monthly progress and she refused as she said Montessori way is not something you can track by month.

    Is that a reasonable request from your point of view as a teacher about the teacher/school provides monthly progress report and brief plan for the following month?

    Do teachers normally have a plan for each individual students or a plan for the entire class? (Example learning about season changing, gardening...)

    I am not sure where to find out answers when I am curious or have doubt about certain things that the school does was actually the Montessori (AMI) way? Please share your sources where parents can find out answers from reliable source(s).

    Thank you and looking forward to see some advice.

    ~ A concern mom

  8. Dear Concerned Mom,

    I understand your concerns about the growth and progress of your child. It is common for progress reports to be given twice a year, at parent conferences, and a final report at the end of the year. If you have concerns, I would address them directly with your child's teacher. I have found that many Montessori teachers are willing to work with parents for the benefit of the child.

    Because Montessori teachers follow the growth, development and interests of the individual child, there is usually not a whole class lesson plan for the year. Lessons and presentations are individualized according to the needs of the child. There is a Montessori curriculum, but each child progresses through it at his/her own pace. To learn more about the Montessori philosophy, I encourage you to visit the philosophy section of our blog or read one of Dr. Montessori’s books. I suggest starting with The Absorbent Mind. The Science Behind the Genius, by Angeline Stoll Lillard, is another excellent book that discusses the ins and outs of the Montessori Method.

  9. I am not a Montessori teacher but I found these tips helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I am not a Montessori teacher but I found these tips helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  11. I am trained as a montessori assistant working as a head teacher in my school.your tips have helped me more to make progress reports for our kids

  12. These are valuable tips for teachers. We have been using the same progress report the only difference is we have a Teacher's General Comment at the bottom of the report where we can describe the child's character, add "congratulations!" etc. We also have added 1 more grade/score for work or lessons that can be finished by the child satisfactorily.



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