How do you write negative remarks to students?

How do you write negative remarks to students?

It’s most teachers’ dilemma. Whether you are a school teacher or a university professor, you know your comments can make or break your students. It’s always easy to compliment anyone, but how can you write negative remarks to your students without discouraging them? 

The simple key is implementing constructive criticism. As a teacher, you need to ensure that your students learn and improve from their mistakes! This article will share what you need to keep in mind when writing negative feedback to your students.

Tips on writing negative remarks

There are so many stories on social media platforms of people sharing their “I proved my teachers wrong” moments. How they were criticized, judged, and felt so hurt about what their teachers told them. Some were able to use that negativity to fuel their road to success, proving their teachers wrong. But there are also plenty of stories where some eventually lost their confidence and were mentally affected. You don’t want to be that kind of teacher who destroys your students’ hope and confidence, don’t you? 

Be honest

If you are one of those soft-hearted teachers, this is for you. As much as you may not want to break your students’ hearts, don’t sugarcoat their weaknesses and lie. For the sake of your student’s performance in their future academic or work careers, you need to tell them what’s wrong and why it’s wrong. Most students want constructive feedback!

Be understanding and don’t take it personal

Remind yourself that there are reasons why they’re students. Sometimes it can be frustrating as a teacher when you’ve spent a lot of time teaching and preparing materials but still see underperforming students. But you have to understand that It’s completely normal to make mistakes; it is a part of the learning process and life in general. 

Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Be objective, and don’t be overly negative when writing your comments like “you’ll never pass this course at this rate” or “your writing is horrible!.” It’s surprising how so many students receive negative feedback like this! Remember that your job is not to judge but to teach, show them what’s wrong, and correct them. 

Focus on what can be improved

For students to learn, teachers need to explain what is wrong or lacking and what can be done to improve it. That’s constructive criticism. Showing your students what they did wrong and how they can improve will help them prevent making the same mistake in the future. If you only tell them that they’re doing poorly, they not only will feel discouraged or even hate you, but they won’t understand what they did wrong nor how to fix it.

Mention something positive too

This relates to point three. Some may think it’s unnecessary to include positive elements in negative remarks, but this can help students not feel like a complete failure by acknowledging their efforts and what they did well. This is a technique that many companies do. 

Quoting The New York Times, Pixar, which produces famous animation movies like “Finding Nemo” and “Coco,” does this thing called “plussing.” The rule of plussing is rather than solely criticizing and using judgemental language, constructive feedback is given to build and improve on ideas. For example, an animator of “Toy Story 3” shared her rough sketches and ideas with the director. Instead of criticizing the sketch or saying “no,” the director said, “I like Woody’s eyes, and what if his eyes rolled left?” it is said that this technique has improved work-life for animators at Pixar.

Proofread your remarks

Ever heard of the saying “words are sharper than swords?” Especially as a teacher, your words matter and can influence your students’ performance. Proofread your remarks before giving them to your students. Imagine that you are the student. By reading your remarks, will they understand what they did wrong? Why it’s wrong? What should be improved?


When writing negative feedback, keep it professional and constructive. Keep a mental note when writing or conveying feedback; you are a teacher, not a hater! Your main goal is to teach your students what’s right and wrong, not to bring them down. 

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Should students receive negative remarks?

Yes! They deserve to know if they need improvements. Just remember to educate rather than criticize. 

  1. Will my students hate me if I give them negative remarks?

If you are overly negative, they can not only hate you but may not even do better. Keep it professional, not personal.

  1. Can negative remarks drive students to do better?

Most of the time, yes! Young people have a thing for proving people wrong.

  1. Are positive remarks better?

Not always. It may make your students feel good but may not always help them improve and do better.