Sunday, September 22, 2013

Understanding the Language of the Rubric

Have you ever noticed that most state writing rubrics are somewhat hard to fully understand? Particularly for kids and maybe not so much for teachers, the language of the rubric can be confusing, subjective and vague. I'm not saying that the following activities will fully shed light on meaning, but it can at least provide a start for students to begin to understand what each component means and how to get there.

The first step I take is to have students look at each level of the rubric. The KY Writing Rubric goes from a zero to a four- with four being distinguished. KY has set the goal for all students to be at a three- proficient. I begin by having students highlight the language changes from apprentice (two) to proficient (three). What are the changes in language from a two to a three? Highlight those. We hold a class discussion about those changes and what that looks like/what it means in our writing.

Highlighting changes in language of rubric
Students proceed to also note the changes in language from a three- proficient to a four- distinguished. Again we hold a class discussion on those wording changes and what they mean for our writing.

Pictures Speak Louder Than Words

The next project I undertake to help students understand specific language in the rubric is a great activity for visual/spatial students in particular, but great for all students since "pictures speak louder than words". Students are put into small groups and assigned one element of the rubric- Sentence structure, Organization, Idea development,  Correctness,  Language, or Purpose/Audience. Students were tasked to use key words and images to represent the rubric idea they were assigned. With me acting as guide on the side, my students produced some pretty impressive visuals of each rubric element.

I tape all six elements into one huge rubric (I try to make two large "student friendly" rubrics for classes to refer to.) 

Here is a close-up of a "Purpose/Audience" Depiction done by a very artistic group of students:

While the language in a writing rubric can be vague and subjective, there are ways to help students grasp major concepts needed in their writing. Closely examining changes in language from one level to another and visually representing major components needed in good writing are just two ideas that you might try to begin to explore and understand what is needed in Proficient Writing.