Grading can be a time-consuming enterprise. Yesterday and today I stayed at school until 5:30pm grading papers and essays. Especially for the English teacher, grading writing assignments can be a daunting task. For elementary and secondary teachers, the temptation is to spend plenty of time nit-picking on each grammar and spelling error, commenting on all of the transitions and rewording sentence structures for students. Unfortunately, doing the editing work for students we all know is something that we should avoid as teachers. How do we address these problem areas in a way that is conducive to the student’s learning and yet efficient with our time as teachers?
Rubric grading can provide a number of benefits to the writing instructor. Not only can rubrics help the teacher approach the “6 Traits of Good Writing,” a current trend in writing instruction, it can also help teachers provide specific feedback to students without editing their work for them. Using an online rubric generator, such as that offered by Rubistar (http://www.rubistar.4teachers.org/), teachers can choose the criteria that best fits their writing assignment. For example, if students are writing a personal narrative, the teacher can choose the criteria of 6 Traits that best applies, such as “Word Choice” and “Voice.” Or if the assignment is a persuasive essay, you can choose areas of “Organization” and “Content.” If the pre-written criteria doesn’t suit, you can certainly go in and type in your own personalized criteria for the assignment.
Best yet, rubric grading is less time-consuming. Students can easily use it for peer reviewing, and teachers discover that determining that writing project grade to be less subjective and easier to define into letter format.
However, rubrics are helpful for assignments other than writing projects. Projects of any kind can be given a rubric grade. Digital media projects, for example, are perfect for rubric grading. If students create a blog portfolio or create a Powerpoint presentation, you can grade it using a rubric. If you need criteria for a participation grade, a rubric can help you define your criteria between an A, B or C grade. I use a rubric for grading online bulletin board assignments, which requires students to post responses or comment on another student’s project. (http://www.nicenet.org) Perhaps your students are constructing a model of something; a rubric is an excellent way to give specific feedback on accuracy and appearance of the model. Certainly a rubric keeps you from looking at a student’s work and giving an offhand, cursory, “Um…I think it’s about a…B+… or maybe a B.” It isn’t fair to the students and it isn’t really helping them achieve results.
Finally, a rubric grade assists you with modifying your grading systems to accomodate all learners. Students receive feedback on the areas that need work, but you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s say that you have a student who happens to have a processing disorder or a form of dyslexia. The essay may be strong in ideas and organization, but be weak in spelling and grammar. The student can feel good about their strengths without being considered failures because of their weaknesses. With a rubric grade, a student earns an F by not doing anything to work toward their grade, either by not turning in the assignment or turning it in incomplete. Effort is always rewarded. Since rubrics are given to students before they begin the project, gifted students are able to work more strategically toward earning a higher grade. It motivates them to see exactly what they have to do to earn an A.
Because of rubrics, teachers can widen their methods of assessment and actually save more time grading them! If you, as a teacher, have never used a rubric before, I suggest you try it at various points during the year. Think of the projects, journal entries, written papers, etc. that you demand of your students and imagine the improvement that you will see in their achievement. To save even more time, google search for rubric generator websites and take advantage of the work that others have already created. Some sites, such as Rubistar, actually allow you to save your rubrics in an account where you can access them at any time. Once you print them out, you can make copies and save them for use next year. Teachers who used rubrics will be pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to make and use.