Setting Up Shop: Writing Progress Reports

According to the Quality Rating & Improvement System, documenting and reflecting on a child's development is an important component to high quality child care. A common method for communicating those findings with parents and other professionals is with a progress report.

  Writing a report can be intimidating and time consuming. A teacher wants to highlight all of the successes a child had, but also present concerns in a thoughtful, forward thinking way. I have found that following a structured template helps speed up the process (especially if you have many students!) and helps ensure I am addressing all necessary issues. Basically, I follow the old saying: "Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them."

  Below I have recreated my template. Feel free to copy & paste if wanted! 

 Always use letterhead on your documents that are being distributed to parents. It is especially important for a progress report, because they may be sharing your observations with their doctor, therapist, specialist, or social worker. 

  Next, you will want to clearly state the child's name, the child's date of birth, the name and title of who is writing the report, and the date the report was written.

"Tell them what you are going to tell them."
  An introduction helps the reader to get a broader understanding of what is going on in the child's life. Including a bit about the child's personality helps the reader connect to the child. Before learning the details of a child's abilities, it is good to know if there were any significant events that occurred, recent changes in their household, or medical issues. I also include my concerns, if there are any, and some of the student's strengths.  

Introduction Sample
X is a loving 2.5 year old that has been in my care 2 days a week since September 2014. At school, he plays with a variety of toys and participates in group activities. X particularly enjoys playing ball, cars & trucks, and sensory activities. He moved to Chelmsford with his family a few weeks before starting school at GFC. He lives at home with his mother, father, and older brother.
X was born 4 weeks premature and he spent 5 days in the NICU. Parents report a typical developmental history. He has shown development across all domains over the last few months. I am concerned about the clarity of his speech and am monitoring gross motor coordination. Overall, X had a successful transition into the program, often hugging his teacher and friends at drop off & pick up.

"Tell them."
This is the largest part of the report. Prior to writing, I suggest reviewing your documented observations and doing a developmental checklist. There are many available for free online or you can purchase one. I use this: Developmental Checklist and Observation Log. If there is a recurring issue, I use an ABC data sheet to look for patterns. It serves as formative assessment and as your documentation should a parent want more information.
When you have collected enough information to write an informed report, use a "sandwich" to present your findings. Using a "sandwich" means you tell the child's abilities, followed by concerns, and end with positive strengths. Essentially, you are sandwiching the what could be viewed as negative between two positives. Additionally, write any accommodations or modifications that help the child be successful.
The style of writing should be as positive as possible. This does not mean statements are bubbly, fake, or misleading. Writing positive, family friendly sentences present what the child is able to do. Compare these two sentences:

"X cannot write his name or spell it."
"X imitates name writing by making paper and saying letters out loud."

Both sentences describe a child, but the first statement is negative and hinders the readers understanding of what the child can do. Imagine reading sentence after sentence of things your child cannot do. I would not want to be on the receiving end of that phone call!
The second sentence states what the child is able to do. Knowing what a child can do is the first step to knowing what they can work on next. Additionally, there is A LOT more information in the second sentence. We know, from just that one statement, that the child has the fine motor skills to write on paper, has a speech to text connection, knows that letters work together to make up words, and is able to imitate modeled behavior.

Sandwich Sample - Social/Emotional Development:

X is an independent, confident participant in class activities. His learning is most impressive when he is allowed to take on a leadership role. He likes to sing, dance, and play pretend. He is able to integrate prior knowledge into complex pretend play. He is agreeable with classroom rules and enjoys making up games with rules. 
X wants to please others and prefers to be with friends, but is still learning that others are not always enthusiastic to follow his direction. He can get upset (yelling, hitting, grabbing objects) when his demands are not met. He can have a difficult time with transitions, typically if there are multiple events happening simultaneously within the environment or he is going to a new place. X is typically shy when meeting new people.
X benefits from having breaks throughout the day. He typically leaves the classroom 2-3 times a day for solitary, quiet play. He uses noise reducing headphones to wear in the classroom during loud play. X is beginning to ask for breaks independently.

"Tell them what you told them."
The summary should restate some of the strengths. I like to include one or two specific favorite activities that the child enjoys while at school that relate to those strengths. 
If there are areas of concern, state the area of development or behavior that you feel should be addressed. Suggest how it should be addressed. This could include having a parent-teacher conference, sharing the report with the child's doctor, or requesting an evaluation through Early Intervention or the public school system.

In conclusion, I like to include an action plan. This is where I show how the observations directly influence what the children work on while in school. It is a list of skills, activities, accommodations, and modifications that will be part of the child's day to further their development. Providing this list helps the educator to prepare lessons that are developmentally appropriate and gives parents ideas of things they can do at home.
Action Plan Sample
  • Verbally warn X prior to transitions to new activities, particularly those that will require her to perform a self-help skill or enter a chaotic environment
  • Provide calm, reassuring wait time for X to complete self-help tasks with light support and specific direction
  • Use clear & consistent phrases for directions and expectations
  • Allow extra time for processing information
  • Allow and plan for extra time to complete a task or demand
  • Use “first, then” statements during a transition or multi-step task
  • Develop a consistent plan of action for caregiver response, across varied environments, when X screams, hits, scratches, or throws items
  • Provide strength, balance, and coordination activities daily
  • Provide oral motor planning support at meal times
  • Provide appropriate sensory play throughout the day (sand box, water play, bubbles, paint, etc) in order to reduce sensory play at inappropriate or unexpected times (meals, something spills, public bathroom, etc)

Progress Report Template - The formatting here is not working well. You should be able to edit in your word processing program.
Company Name Progress Report
Address phone number

Child’s Name ________ DOB X/X/2013
Completed By __ Date of Report X/X/15

(Introduction & Summary)

Cognitive Skills
(Child's abilities) (Skills that the child is working on) (A strength with a specific example)

Social/Emotional Skills

(Child's abilities) (Skills that the child is working on) (A strength with a specific example)


(Child's abilities) (Skills that the child is working on) (A strength with a specific example)

Fine Motor Skills

(Child's abilities) (Skills that the child is working on) (A strength with a specific example)

Gross Motor Skills
(Child's abilities) (Skills that the child is working on) (A strength with a specific example)

Self Help Skills
(Child's abilities) (Skills that the child is working on) (A strength with a specific example)

(Child's strengths & a favorite activity) (State areas of concern) (Recommendations)

Action Plan
(list of skills, activities, accommodations, and modifications that will be part of the child's day to further their development)


If you are interested in doing practice progress reports or to have a report you wrote proof read, send an email to and I would be glad to help you out.