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You are here: Home > Teaching Tips for Books You've Purchased > School Tips & Education Articles > Rubric - What it is and how use it to improve your grade!

What is a rubric and how this impacts your grade

How to Grade with Rubrics

Some scholastic achievements are easier to assess than others.  For example, math often has only one correct answer, so determining whether a student has grasped the concept is check whether an answer is either right or wrong.  However, especially when grading essays and other written work, the process is subjective.  Therefore, teachers need help to determine whether certain benchmarks of the assignment have been met and students and parents need to understand exactly what is expected to achieve optimal learning success.

What is a rubric?

Personally, as an English teacher, grading essays can be one of the most difficult tasks, especially for a new educator. Knowing what to look for is not the problem.  However, determining the level of achievement can be a challenge.  For instance, two English teachers can read the exact same paper and assess a different grade, because the process is largely subjective.  So, educators have collaborated together to determine a means of grading students that is equalizing for all students in the same grade, learning the same subject matter.

Example Rubric




5 Ė Focused, clear, specific. It keeps the

readerís attention.

a) I know a lot about this topic and added

interesting tidbits.

b) I showed what was happening instead of telling.

c) My topic was small enough to handle.

d) I can easily answer the question, ďWhat is the

point of this paper/story?Ē

5 Ė Extremely clear, visual, and accurate. I

picked the right words for the right places.

a) My words are colorful, snappy, vital, brisk and

fresh. You wonít find overdone, vague or flowery


b) All the words in my paper fit. Each one seems

just right.

c) Look at all my energetic verbs!

d) Some of the words and phrases are so vivid the

reader wonít soon forget them.

5 Ė Mostly correct. There are very few

errors in my paper.

a) My spelling is accurate.

b) I have used capitals correctly.

c) Every paragraph is indented to show where a

new idea begins.

d) Periods, commas, exclamation marks, and

quotation marks are in the right places.

e) My grammar/usage is consistent and shows


3 Ė Some really good parts, some not there


a) Some things are new, other things everyone else

already knows.

b) Details are general (nice, fun, some, good.)

c) Iím still thinking aloud on paper. Iím looking

for a good idea.

d) Maybe Iíll write about this or maybe Iíll write

about that.

3 Ė Correct but not striking. The words get

the message across, but donít capture the

readerís attention.

a) I used everyday words pretty well but I did not

stretch for a new and better way to say things.

b) Most of the time the reader will figure out what

I mean even if a few words are messed up.

c) My words arenít real specific. Better, juicy


d) I used tired out cliches or phrases.

3 Ė About halfway there. A number of

bothersome mistakes need cleaning up.

a) Spelling is correct on simple words. It may not

be right on harder words.

b) Most sentences and proper nouns begin with

capitals, but a few have been over looked.

c) At least one paragraph is present. Others might

not all begin in the right spots.

d) Problems in punctuation make the reader

stumble and pause now and then.

e) Several grammar problems are evident.

1 Ė Just beginning to figure out what I want to


a) I havenít shared much information. I donít seem

to know much about this topic.

b) My details are so vague itís hard to picture


c) Iím still thinking aloud on paper. Iím looking

for a good idea.

d) Maybe Iíll write about this or maybe Iíll write

about that.

1 Ė Confusing. The reader is often asking

ďWhat did they mean by this?Ē

a) A lot of words and phrases are vague. (We

were friends and stuff.)

b) My words donít make pictures yet. (It was


c) Some of my words are misused.

d) Over and over I used the same words over and

over, until my paper was over.

1 Ė Editing not under control yet. It would take

a first reading to decode and a second reading to

get the message.

a) Spelling errors are common, even simple words.

b) Capital letters are scattered all over or not at all.

c) I havenít got the hang of paragraphs yet.

d) Punctuation is very limited and makes reading

this paper difficult.

e) Frequent grammatical errors, I havenít spent

much time editing this paper.

*Discovered by John Norton while traveling in Alabama. Thanks to teachers at Maryvale Elementary in Mobile!

The example is based on an elementary school writing assessment.  Of course, as the grade level increases, the requirements may also be more specific with additional expectations.  However, the principle is no different.  All teachers of the subject and grade level will receive the same rubric as an assessment guide.

How will a rubric impact the grade?

 How a teacher assesses essays and other subjective grades is not some sort of state secret. Especially for a weighty assignment, students should receive a copy of the rubric to attach to the front or back of the finished project.

With the rubric in hand, a student should know exactly how he/she can achieve the best grade possible.

In addition, an instructor should carefully explain his/her grading as a precursor to giving the homework.  Oftentimes, a big paper may be a significant part of the semester's total grade.  If the student does not succeed, it can result in repeating the grade level subject in the following year. No one wants to set up a student for failure.   

Also, parents should have the opportunity to understand the teacher's grading system and policies in the classroom.  Unfortunately, some kids feel singled out, when grades do not meet expectations.  Then, parents are flustered and ready to take on the instructor before hearing both sides of the story.  Thus, kids are miserable, parents are distressed and teachers are flustered.  Fortunately, a rubric often helps solve communication problems and misunderstandings before they have a chance to occur.

A good teacher will leave notes on an essay, or the rubric, while grading, to help the student and his/her parents understand the strengths and weaknesses according to the rubric assessment.  The tool is not simply to underscore errors; it is also meant to help highlight accomplishments and encourage a student in the right direction scholastically.  So, do not be afraid to ask for a rubric or a copy of how the teacher will grade the completed projects.  The result will be a win-win situation for all concerned with academic success.

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