* Rubrics #1

If you are not routinely using rubrics across subject areas, you are missing an invaluable teaching tool.  If you have never created your own rubric, you are missing even more!  Rubrics are an effective tool for understanding what you want students to learn as well as how you will know if they have learned it.  Rubrics can serve as a graphic overview for students during the learning process and support increased student analysis of their own learning.  I will provide an outline of rubrics in this post, then detail their use in social skills development in another post.

Let’s assume you have used commercially prepared rubrics so you understand that a rubric is a matrix of features (categories), measured by a sequential rating scale of performance.  I enjoy using Rubistar for rubric creation (check here for their definition of rubrics) but rubrics can easily be made offline as well.  If you are a novice, Rubistar will guide you through the creation process through both “tours” and prompts.

A rubric for assessing students’ written assignments is a good place to start if you have not ever created your own.  The age and developmental level of your students will guide the wording of the features or categories you are assessing as well as the measure of their success.   For younger students, you could even pair simple pictures with the wording.   Here’s a sample I just created to illustrate some key points:

beginning writing rubric 2

This rubric focuses on four features or categories of the student’s writing: number of sentences, clarity of sentences, and two areas of writing conventions.  A sample picture has been added for non-readers.  The rating scale is indicated by stars at the top.  For the category “I wrote 3 sentences,” you could indicate that “I wrote 1 sentence” is equivalent to one star,” “I wrote 2 sentences” equals two stars, and so on.  Stars are a simple performance indicator for younger kids.  Older students could use a numbered performance evaluation, with more performance indicators (such as 1 through 4) or words (Beginning/Proficient. etc.)  as well as more (and increasingly complex) categories.

You can see the link to what you want students to learn right there in the rubric.  If your goal is three understandable sentences using basic writing conventions, this is your rubric.  If your goal is three sentences with transition words, your rubric would look quite different.

You will need to teach students how to use a rubric effectively.  If the rubric is used solely for assessment, demonstrate its use with various writing samples.  If you are using the rubric to guide student instruction, you could model its function as a measure of ongoing progress.  Students could check or highlight boxes to track their progress and as they edit their work.  During a writer’s conference with the teacher, even young students can share their personal evaluation of their writing to date.

Once students become proficient in using rubrics, they can become involved in the creation of rubrics individually or as a class.  You could elicit more personalized and student-driven writing analysis by adding an empty category box at the bottom of a rubric;  each writer could indicate what other category they want to include and evaluate (such as illustrations or questions).

Stay tuned for the invaluable use of rubrics to support the development of social skills.