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Friday, February 14, 2014

How I Learned to Love Rubrics

Hi. My name is Keith, and I am a rubric hater.

I'll confess that's true when it comes to generic rubrics provided to assess writing on most standardized tests; in my opinion, those rubrics are way too general and in no way responsive enough to specific writing tasks.

So for some time, like many teachers, I tried grading writing without a rubric. My efforts were comically similar to those of Mr. D:

So I then gave paper rubrics a try, even generating custom versions using the free tools at Rubistar and Essay Tagger. Still a hater.

But just recently I've had a  lot of success with ForAllRubrics, a web and mobile app provided free of charge for teachers from ForAllSchools.

ForAllRubrics allows you to create, copy, or customize rubrics; upload class rosters (or add students individually); select indicators on the rubric; add narrative comments as needed; email or print results; and access multiple sources of student data via the teacher dashboard. Again, all for free.

This video provides an overview of the ease with which you can use the site..

Some features I absolutely love about ForAllRubrics:
  • I can create customized rubrics and store them in my library, where they can be accessed, tweaked, and recycled for new projects.
  • I can access a public library of rubrics created by others, which I can use as-is or, again, customize.
  • Once I "click through" the indicators on a rubric, the site generates the score. These scores are key when I later compare data by students, assessments, or indicators.
  • I can email results to individual students, or to all students at once. Additional email addresses can be attached to each student's account, keeping parents and other stakeholders in the loop.
  • Comments can be added below each scored attribute, allowing me to provide feedback for how writing can be improved in the future. For each rubric that I create, I also create a Google Doc containing frequently used comments. Cutting and pasting comments not only saves time, but gives me  a pretty good idea of skills in need of further instruction.
Many teachers may feel that the initial time investment seems overwhelming, but the dividends are well worth the effort. My sixth graders, for example, are required to read and respond to current events articles using TweenTribune. Those responses, however, must follow a prescribed format. I created a rubric to assess these responses, and it gets used three times each marking period. Immediately before attempting their next response, students are encouraged to open their emails and view their most recent rubrics to see which components need improvement. I've seen student success soar in this particular area due to my time spent assessing student writing, and student time spent reflecting upon results. Parents also love that my assessment methods, compared to Mr. D's, do seem to follow some quantifiable format.

Give it a shot, even if you try it with just a few students on a single assignment. I think you'll be sold!


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