When you hear the word rubric you think grading, right? Most times that’s exactly what rubrics are used for, grading assignments or tests. Using rubrics for grading is absolutely a solid idea, but it isn’t the only way to use these time saving tools. Rubrics can be used to make your life in the classroom easier! Here’s why I love using rubrics with my students.
First, rubrics provide clear expectations and an excellent framework for discussing goals, assignments, progress and intervention strategies. It is easier to talk about these things with students and parents when you have expectations right there in front of you. I use rubrics for reading, writing, oral presentations, discussion, behavior, homework and group work. An excellent example of clear expectations can be seen while using the ORAL PRESENTATION RUBRIC. I have had very good success with my students giving presentations because the rubric provides the tools necessary to guide them and they know exactly what to do. Of course, kids still get nervous when speaking in front of a group, but the rubric can alleviate some anxiety. Think about your own experiences speaking in front of a group. Isn’t it easier to present when you know what’s expected of you? I know it is for me!
Using a BEHAVIOR RUBRIC has been helpful for some of my struggling students. For one particular student, it helped him and his parents discuss the events of the day and it gave his parents very specific questions to ask regarding his behavior. Instead of “How was your day?” it became, “Were you able to focus today?” or “Did you monitor your noise level today?”. To be honest, I didn’t even realize at first that this student was going home and having these conversations with his parents until mom informed me at one of our meetings. I was floored and so impressed that this rubric was having a positive influence on his behavioral goals! This is one example of how this rubric became a handy tool while implementing behavior interventions.
Next, rubrics are a great way for students to self monitor. You know that dreaded line of 15 students all waiting for you to help them look over their writing? When you use rubrics, the students learn to consult those guidelines and self-check before going to the teacher. Now, it does take time and training. My students have been trained to use their writing rubrics to self-assess and to assess their peers during the WRITING PROCESS. This is invaluable! You will save so much time during your writing block if the students have tools available to guide them in the revising and editing process. My kids know what is expected and can see for themselves how they are doing before I read their draft! The students need to be taught how to use the rubric and the expectations need to be reviewed, but it is so worth it when they can monitor their own work and progress. I also use checklists during writing. I have an editing checklist and a revising checklist. This also takes a lot of modeling and practice, but once the students embrace it, your writing block becomes a lot less stressful.
*I usually use a general writing rubric to guide my students, but I do have an opinion writing rubric and a persuasive writing rubric as well. I like to use something that is simple to understand and student friendly. I don’t normally use the rubrics that come with our reading program because I feel they are too wordy for many of my students. It’s important to find or create a rubric that works for you or you’ll never use it! Since New York State has updated their ELA standards, I created a brand new writing rubric and reading rubric for my class. I’m in the process of creating a discussion rubric as well. Read more about this below!
In addition, I like to use rubrics to focus on progress, not grades! How are your students progressing? Using a rubric it becomes easier to set clear goals and focus on working toward those goals, instead of worrying only about the final grade. In other words, rubrics allow the student to focus on the process of work, not the outcome. My reading and writing rubrics are aligned with The Next Generation Learning Standards in ELA and they provide clear “I Can” statements for students. They know exactly where they are headed! It isn’t about a grade, it’s about getting closer to “I Can” in each area. For example, my READING RUBRIC has 8 clear goals for students. I am a close reader, I can analyze the text, I can summarize a text, I can identify how a text is organized, I can interpret language, I can describe characters, settings and events, I can compare and contrast, I can read and comprehend informational texts. Students work toward these goals with a focus on progress. I usually isolate one of these goals and display that poster on my focus wall. My assignments then align with that goal. The rubric acts as a measure of comfort in a way for the students. As we complete assignments we can go back to the rubric as a class and reflect on progress. I model specific phrases to help students reflect on their work. For example, “Did I usually know how to determine the theme or am I still easily confused by this?” or “I was rarely able to complete the questions without my partners help”. It’s constant modeling and constant reinforcement until it clicks. My ELA Bundle includes rubrics and posters for reading and writing.
Using rubrics to determine a grade is not the only way to use these powerful tools. Rubrics also provide clear expectations, opportunities for self-monitoring, and allow students to focus on progress. I tell my students all the time, they know their grades long before I ever hand back an assignment because they can essentially assess themselves in most areas of the curriculum. This is powerful for students, time saving for teachers, and stress relieving for all involved! I try to include a rubric whenever I assign any kind of project, especially writing projects. I want to get my students in the habit of looking for the expectations before they dive into the work. I say try because, well, a teacher’s life is a busy life! Strive for progress not perfection!
Any goal or standard you have for your student can be made into a rubric. Whether it’s making sure your students write their names on assignments or finding the theme of a passage, you can change these goals into “I can” statements or “Students will” statements and create your own rubric! For example, I can determine the theme of a passage using text evidence would be followed by Always, Usually, Sometimes, Rarely. Students can then use this to self assess, and YES, students are pretty honest when doing so. You can use this rubric to set goals for struggling students, monitor progress in a particular area, discuss interventions with students and parents, document progress for referrals, or to grade assignments. The rubric simply states the expectations and the student can monitor the frequency with which these expectations are met.
Rubrics are not for everyone, but they are definitely for me! I conference with students and we can go through the rubric one goal at a time and discuss progress (using writing samples, class work, ReadWorks, etc., as evidence) and then I can have an informed discussion with parents and/or administration regarding that particular student. I also keep a teacher list that mimics the rubric so I can jot down student names next to a goal they are struggling with, etc. Rubrics can be an invaluable tool in your classroom! They’re not just for grading assignments, but play an important role in providing clear expectations/goals, allowing for self- assessment, and providing a measure of progress.