Building Kid-Friendly Writing Rubrics
Assessing student work with rubrics has become commonplace for many teachers. For those who need a little encouragement or a couple suggestions as to how to improve their classroom rubrics, here are some thoughts to ponder.
When building a rubric for a writing assignment or upcoming project, consider building it with your students. Often teachers make a rubric on their own and then "go over" it with the kids. With this approach, students have very little ownership and may not even understand some of the language within the rubric. The power of a rubric built with the students is that it’s kid-friendly because it is written using their own words and language. It also tends to make peer and self-assessment much more effective.
This concept is reinforced in the February 2012 ASCD Education Update newsletterand based on the Carnegie Corporation of New York research revealed within Informing Writing: The Benefits of Formative Assessment.
After introducing the six traits of writing, help students build an analytic assessment tool—a kid-friendly writing rubric. Here's how to do it:
1. Starting with the description of a “good” piece, work together to list the criteria you want to assess and describe the qualities of this "good" one.
2. Then, move onto the description of a “pretty good” piece. Be sure to parallel the same ingredients or components from the "good" one in the "pretty good" one.
3. Continue through this process describing the qualities and characteristics of at least three levels.
If you create the rubric using chart paper, you may want to include these 6-Trait icon cutouts as you switch colors per trait.
Another option is to build a digital rubric. Project this Word document to build and update a 5-point rubric with the Smekens 6-Trait icons already in place.
Jen Caruso (literacy coach at Hatfield Elementary in Mitchell, IN) was conducting a mini-lesson model on how to build a rubric with second graders. The lesson included defining writing quality based on rubric levels.
With the lesson about over, the final step was to have the students help name each level (e.g., high, middle, low). One student suggested "Fast Writing" as the label for the weakest level. His rationale was that your writing isn't very good if you rush and hurry to be done quickly. Therefore, the students agreed to label the lowest level as "Fast Writing." Of course that quickly led to the students labeling the highest level as "Slow Writing" (writing done carefully and with lots of thought).
With only the middle level to label, one student raised his hand and with great confidence announced "Half Fast." (Editor's Note: Say those two words aloud quickly to reveal a similar sounding swear word.) Thinking she'd just heard profanity from this eight-year-old, a stunned Jen had the student clarify what he'd said. "You know, like you didn't do it fast, but kind of fast. Half fast." Needless to say all the observing teachers in the back of the room were cracking up during this mini-lesson model. Too funny, Jen! Thanks for sharing.