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Rubrics to the Rescue
by Joan Gillis, Fifth grade teacher, Pennsylvania

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Rubrics are no relation to Ru’Paul, but they will fashionably dress up your grade book! The purpose of a rubric is to streamline the grading process. Making it clear, exact, and fair; no more of the, "Why did I get a B when Annie got an A."

Rubrics are based on a point system. It can range anywhere from 5 points to 200 or more points. For teachers, the best part of a rubric is that it gives students input into the grading system while teachers still maintain the control.

Where to begin!?!

The perfect time to use a rubric is when introducing a project, especially a long-term project. The assignment must be explained in clear detail. Stress the importance of a job well done – juggling carefully so that you issue a challenge without introducing stress entering the picture.

I have found that Rubric Grading Scales have helped eliminate confusion and help to define goals more clearly for the student. A new teacher may need some guidance when issuing his/her first writing project, or Social Studies /Math /Science fair project. Another case of rubric to the rescue! Experienced teachers running home to busy personal lives may dread grading wordy class assignments. Rubrics to the rescue!

Rubrics are designed with the class contributing the elements that they feel are important to their paper and to their grade.

Here’s an example:

Your Language Arts class has just completed reading, "Maniac Magee". They are required to write a characterization of Maniac and support it with examples from the story. Before the actual work begins, teacher and class discuss the important parts of the paper and how much value should be given to each part.

Points you might discuss:

“Maniac Magee Rubric”
On time 10 points __________
Neatness / name 5 points __________
Three characterizations 15 pts (5 pts. Each) __________
Three supporting facts 15 pts (5 pts. Each) __________
Five Adjectives 10 pts (2 pts. Each) __________
Webbing sheet 15 pts. __________
Caps/ pads 15 pts __________
Total points   ________/85 points

The beauty of this grading method is that it provides both the specifics that you are looking for and the criteria for the students to follow. It is clear from the start what you are looking for and what the student should provide. Another plus is that, when you are team teaching a lesson, all teachers can have input into the grading system without feeling they are just going along for the ride.

Remember, a rubric can be used in writing, math projects, science and social studies presentations, art, music and physical education.

The last plus is that an easy folder system can be set up to store rubrics from all subject areas into one folder making an excellent presentation of a students’ work during a parent conference or for year round accessibility. So remember, if you are looking for an easy fair grading system – it’s Rubrics to the Rescue!!!

For additional information on Rubrics, you might want to take a look at the web site Rubrics for Web Lessons. While written with the web in mind, this site also has lots of other resources and links dealing with developing and using rubrics in a variety of instructional settings.

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