Writing Summer School Reports

Written by: Larry Walder



Time to read 8 min

Typical Summer Language Schools

Many TEFL/ESOL teachers will be in the middle of Summer Language School season now. There are various types of summer school, but in this article, we are referring specifically to schools and institutions where students from across the world come to improve their English skills for a few weeks at a time, usually in Britain, Ireland or other English speaking countries. The language element of the student’s courses is usually supplemented by a programme of excursions and activities which are often the part of the experience which students remember and enjoy the most! In centres where these courses take place, the teachers provide the educational input while it is mainly Activity Leaders who supervise and arrange the other activities. Most TEFL/ESOL teachers reading this will recognise the kind of courses and institutions being described here.

Logistical Difficulties of Writing Reports

Teachers at Summer Schools are sometimes required to write reports on the students who attend their lessons. This is difficult because the teachers only have a few hours a day over a period of about 3 weeks to get to know the students. Moreover, there is often a continuous influx of new students as groups come and go from the school. An individual teacher might easily teach a couple of hundred students during a typical two-month summer school contract. Teachers are often working both morning and afternoon sessions with different groups of students which can make remembering individual students and finding time to write meaningful reports quite stressful.

Professional Difficulties of Writing Reports

A further difficulty in writing reports for summer school students which TEFL and ESOL teachers sometimes face is the degree to which they should balance giving a true and accurate account of the student’s progress and behaviour balanced against the summer school’s business imperative of wanting students to return the following year. To put it simply, how honest and detailed should you be? For example, what should you say about a disruptive student who made no real effort to participate or progress in class if the summer school business model demands that the parents of the student only get positive feedback in order to encourage future bookings? Why should such a student receive a report that sounds just as positive as students who really have made an effort to improve their English during the course? For some teachers who are serious about their profession, this doesn’t seem fair or right. Yet often summer schools insist that virtually all feedback to parents is positive. There is obviously an argument that in these cases it might be a better policy for the language school not to issue reports at all. However, a lot of them do insist, so what is the teacher to do?

The unique nature of summer school reports.

There are plenty of hints and tips online for writing better student reports. However, virtually all of these are aimed at teachers who are writing ‘end of year’ reports for students whom they have known for a long period over a range of curriculum areas. There is very little advice for those who must write reports for students in English Language summer schools whom they have only been teaching for a few weeks. In this article, we will give some quick and easy general advice for writing summer school reports. You may also spot ways to sneak criticism into overly positive reports when necessary, which may help you to feel you are giving a more honest and comprehensive appraisal of more challenging students. We will finish with some examples of reports written in a sandwich style which you could copy and adapt to your own needs.


  • Reports of this nature tend to be much shorter than normal school reports and should focus primarily on the English learned and used by the student during the course. When possible, try to reference the textbooks used during the course and the level of the group the student is assigned to. Behaviour should only be referred to if there have been significant issues to deal with, or in a positive sense, where a student has helped or motivated the rest of the class.

  • Check with your Director Of Studies or Centre Manager to see when reports should be completed for each group you are teaching and what exactly is required within the report. If in doubt, ask. You don’t want to have to re-write reports at the last minute.

  • If your summer school has standardised report forms use them. If not, create your own structure. A helpful and well used formula is the ‘sandwich style’ in which any criticism is sandwiched between a positive introduction and conclusion. For example;-
    ‘Jorge has been an enthusiastic contributor to class discussions. He needs to pay more attention to grammar in his written work but his pronunciation and speaking in English is very clear and easy to understand.’

  • If your summer school requires a more academic style of report, divide it into sections such as reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

  • Talk with colleagues who have been teaching the same students as you, and make a note of any incidents, attributes or problems they have noticed that you want to highlight in your report.

  • Be careful with spelling and grammar. This is probably the first thing the parents of your students will notice if there are any mistakes.

  • Keep sentences short and simple. Avoid using jargon, colloquial English, idioms, or phrasal verbs that the students or their parents may not understand.

  • Refer to the student by name. In virtually all summer schools this means their first name.

  • Make a generic list of adjectives that can be used to describe various aspects of the student’s work but never repeat the same adjective twice in one report and try to avoid using the same words or phrases in all your reports.

  • Avoid using too many contractions. It is better to say Maria is…, than Maria’s…

  • In summer schools the emphasis is often on more active activities and spoken English, however students nearly always follow a course book of some kind, and it is here that problematic areas of grammar are more obvious. In order not to refer generically to ‘grammar mistakes’ too often, make a note of the particular areas of grammar featured in the course book and refer to them specifically in the reports you write. In this way, parents reading your report can double check what you are referring to. Common areas of grammar and ‘Use of English’ in summer school courses include; word order, past and present tenses, the present perfect for experience, future plans and predictions, giving directions, prepositions of place, comparative adjectives, some/any and much and many.


In this section, we will look at some of the previous tips in the context of realistically short summer school style reports. 
Below is an example of a rather hurried and badly written report. Some mistakes are highlighted and commented on after the report.

(1) Sam’s a serious, polite and helpful student. (2) He seems to have (3) a good grasp of the language he’s picked up (4) and is a confident and fluent speaker. (5) His written English needs improvement. (6) He’s a bit careless. (7) He could do well in the future if he concentrates. (8)

  • It would sound more professional not to start with a contraction.

  • What is really meant by these adjectives? I would guess that serious and polite might mean Sam is rather quiet and unassuming in class (the type of student who can easily slip under the radar) and since they are positive adjectives there is nothing wrong with using them, but they don’t really say much. The adjective ‘helpful’ however seems more specific and it might be useful to state the ways in which Sam has been particularly helpful.

  • Does he or doesn’t he? The phrase ‘seems to have’ indicates that the teacher isn’t certain.

  • ‘A good grasp’ and ‘Picked up’ are colloquial phrases which neither the student nor his parents may understand.

  • A confident and fluent speaker? Really? At which level?

  • How does his written English need improvement? Something more concrete would be useful here.

  • How is he careless? This seems to contradict what has been said earlier.

  • In what sense could he do well in the future and what does he need to concentrate on?

Below is a revised version of the first example. It is not much longer but sounds more professional and conveys more concrete information.

Sam has been a hardworking member of the class and has completed all tasks and activities diligently. His determination to speak clearly and correct his own mistakes in spoken activities has been a helpful example to other members of the class. His spoken English is above average for this A2 level group. However, in written work, he often makes mistakes with tenses which he does not make when speaking. If he can bring his written English up to the same level as his spoken English, he should make good progress in English during the next year at school.

Generic Examples of Sandwich Style Reports.

This structure follows a very simple pattern. In general, it is one short paragraph which contains one potentially negative point sandwiched between two positive points. More specifically;-

  • Highlight something positive.

  • Mention an area that needs improvement.

  • Positive sounding advice and tips for further progress.

The wording used in the following examples is deliberately designed so that you can mix and match phrases according to your own needs. Unless directed otherwise by the Summer School you work for, is useful to write the level you ascribe to the student in the report header as exemplified below.

Report for NAME NAME, English Level __ Dates______

For an average student.

NAME is a lively student who enjoys speaking English in class. S/he has clear pronunciation and contributes a lot to speaking activities. However, NAME is less motivated by written work and, as you can see in her coursebook, s/he struggles with tenses and prepositions in written exercises. NAME’s overall level in English could quickly improve if s/he concentrates a little harder on the grammar.

For an above average student.

NAME has performed very well in all aspects of this course and has been a pleasure to have in the classroom. S/he demonstrated a level of vocabulary that was above average for the class and made very few written mistakes in the coursebook. Sometimes, however, NAME’s fear of making grammatical errors affects his/her confidence when speaking. S/he is an excellent student who I am sure will make great progress in English if s/he boosts her speaking confidence and focuses a little more on fluency rather than accuracy.

For a below average student

NAME  worked hard in most aspects of the course. His/Her confidence in speaking English clearly improved during the course and s/he made a positive contribution to project and drama work. However, due to gaps in his/her knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, his/her overall level was below that of the rest of the group. His/Her enjoyment of speaking English demonstrates that s/he could make significant progress if she learns more grammar, in particular, word order in English sentences.

For a disruptive student.

NAME demonstrated that s/he could produce good work when motivated to do so. S/he made some interesting contributions to class discussions. However, s/he did not complete many of the written exercises in his/her coursebook and spent too much time disrupting other members of the class. Name seems to enjoy being the centre of attention and improving his/her English could be a positive way to achieve this.

We hope that the tips we have provided, together with the examples given above, will take a little bit of the stress out of writing summer school reports and allow TEFL/ESOL teachers a bit more time to enjoy the more relaxing aspects of the holiday season!