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Use a Six-Traits rubric for efficient assessment

April 15, 2019

There are several ways to streamline the assessment process, and they all revolve around utilizing rubrics. Although most teachers are familiar with rubrics, they may not be maximizing their efficiency.

Six-Traits writing rubric - Tip#1#1 Don’t score for everything

The first aha is that there is no requirement to score for everything every time. Just because there are six traits, doesn’t mean all six need to be evaluated in each writing assignment. Consider what traits or facets were the focus of instruction.

  • Which traits did the mini-lesson instruction target?
  • Which traits are most appropriate for this type/mode of writing? In poetry, emphasize ideas and fluency over conventions.
  • Which traits are appropriate for the amount of time students spent writing? For first drafts, prioritize ideas and organization.

Be flexible in what the focus of the grading is, but always communicate these expectations to students before they start writing.

Six-Traits writing rubric - Tip#2#2 Describe only three levels

Improve scoring efficiency by minimizing the criteria written on the rubric.

All rubrics include levels (e.g., columns) and traits (e.g., rows). And rubrics must describe what each trait looks like in its high, middle, and low levels. However, a 3-point rubric is often too simplistic. Most teachers would prefer 4-6 levels in order to honor students’ attempts.

Achieve this by spreading out the three described options to represent level 1 (i.e., low), level 3 (i.e., middle), and level 5 (i.e., high). Then add levels 2 and 4 in between without written descriptions. Download an editable rubric template as a Word or Google Doc.

Think of it as black, white, and gray. The differences don’t actually need to be described to know that shades of gray exist. This will make evaluating writing more efficient.

Six-Traits writing rubric - Tip#3#3 Connect levels to benchmark samples

Provide anchor papers. Demonstrate what each level looks and sounds like with a visual example.

A few quick tips when choosing examples:

  1. Make sure the examples are all on the same topic.
  2. Make sure the selected topic is NOT the same topic the students are writing about.
  3. When choosing these anchor papers, be sure they are not from current students. No one wants to be the “low” example!
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