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Build Kid-Friendly Writing Rubrics

March 1, 2019

When generating a 6-Traits writing rubric for an upcoming assignment, 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 newsletter and based on the Carnegie Corporation of New York research revealed within Informing Writing: The Benefits of Formative Assessment.

Kid-Friendly Writing Rubric: Susan Thomas, Prostman Elementary
6 Traits of Writing Icon Cutouts

Here’s the process for building an analytic 6-Traits rubric with students.

  1. Using the six-traits language previously introduced, start with the description of a well-written product. Work together to list the criteria per trait you want to assess.
  2. Move to the middle column and label it “pretty good.” Be sure to parallel the same ingredients or components between the high and middle levels.
  3. Repeat this process a third time, describing each trait at a “just starting” or low level.
  4. Since rubrics require a minimum of three described levels, stretch the ones you generated to represent Levels 1, 3, and 5.

To build a digital rubric, project this Word document that already has the Smekens 6-Traits icons placed.

Great Teacher Comments:

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).

Kid-Friendly Writing Rubric: Funny Teacher Comment

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.

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