Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Lovin Using a Writing Rubric

I used to detest writing rubrics!  When an administrator or some department in the department above my ranking would tell me that a certain activity or assessment needed a writing rubric I would get very annoyed.  To me a writing rubric meant many things.  First, it meant I had to grade a lot of papers, looking at various standards and categories on my own time, time that I should've been spending with my young son at home.  Writing rubrics also meant that I had to teach my students how to read them and what they meant since it wasn't an everyday occurrence in my classroom since I didn't buy into them.  They were sent top down to me with little or no explanation by in my opinion, someone who knew very little about my individual students.  My last complaint about them was that they were hard to read.  There was so much information on them in tiny print, that it took a whole class lesson just to explain to my students the format and what each column meant.  I just didn't value them and didn't want to waste valuable class time on something that wouldn't be useful to their future.

Well, that was a long time ago.  Today I absolutely love rubrics.  I see them as useful to both me, the teacher and the student.  You are probably wondering what caused this huge change in philosophy and teaching method.  Well, I attended a conference put on by my school district.  It was a workshop to help develop teaching strategies for English Language Learners.  The presenter explained rubrics like this.  She said, "Everybody think of your favorite restaurant.  Now think of your waitress and tell me what she needs to do to get an average 20% tip."   So the conference participants yelled out answers while she wrote them on a list in the middle of butcher paper.

                                                                   Bring the food hot.
                                                       Refill my Coke without me asking.
                                             Takes my plates away when I'm finished eating.
                                                                Takes my order quickly.

So after we had told the presenter our ideas of what needed to be done to get a 20% tip, she asks up to tell her what the waitress would need to do to get a 25% tip.  I list these responses in red in the left column.

  Talk with us a lot.                                  Brings the food hot.
  Give us a free beer.                               Refills my Coke without me asking.
  Clean up after a messy child.               Takes my plates away.
                                                                Takes my order quickly.

After creating this list with with our input, the input of restaurateurs who are experts in food service, she explains what this activity is all about.  She said, "You just made a rubric.  The column in the middle is the passing section, the "3"  or proficient on the CAASPP, the B/C grade.  This column has what you expect and what any waitress should know and do if she wants to keep her job.  The red column on the left is a "4" or advanced on the CAASPP, the A grade in traditional grading."  Then she explained the last section, written in blue below, which is a traditional D or 2, Below Basic, which would earn the waitress a tip of 15% or less.

Talk with us a lot.                              Brings the food hot.                               Waitress only does 3
Give us a free beer.                            Refills my Coke without me asking.       or less of the section
Clean up after a messy child.            Takes my plates away.                              in black. 
                                                           Takes my order quickly.

At that moment everything clicked!   First of all, I could make up this rubric!  It shouldn't be prescribed from the top down, but I should design it according to what Common Core Standard I am teaching in class and expect that the students know.  The waitress couldn't get a 20% tip if someone hadn't trained her correctly, taught her how to bring the hot food timely and refill the drinks without being asked.  This is a skill she needs to be taught, just like my students.  I need to teach everything on this 20% or "3" column to give my students a fair chance at the grade on the rubric.   The 25% column made so much sense to me also.  Those students that give a little more, they are the ones getting the "4", and the ones who are lacking something from the "3" section, well, they need to be retaught a bit more.  It all made so much sense!  Rubrics had become so useful!

Now I use them all the time.  I just make sure to make them mine.  I don't let anyone tell me what to put on them.  It's all me and my class.   The rubrics are fluid and adaptable.  Whatever Common Core State Standard that I teach within a week or maybe a month, goes in the middle of this rubric, the section "3".  There is no confusion anymore with me or my students when we use the rubric because they are as familiar with the vocabulary as I am.  They know what it means to have a topic sentence because I have just talked about it and we have practiced it many, many times in a variety of different ways.  The students who don't get a three, are easy to identify and thus easy to call for small group instruction, targeting that one section that they didn't pass.

Lastly the time issue.  Before I had abhorred using writing rubrics because I had to reread writing assignments using rubrics during my off work time.  Now that doesn't happen.  Because the students know what the rubric is, and buy into it just like me, they correct themselves.  This cuts down of the time spent in conference with them about their writing because now I don't take writing assignments home, but rather discuss assignments with my students in class.   By using the rubric we quickly assess because we are both using the same vocabulary and there is no need to explain expectations because it is all right there on the rubric.  They can even cut time even more by collaborating with a peer using the rubric.  You see why I'm loving the writing rubric?  There is so much good coming out of it!

Now, math rubrics.... that is another story.... I'm in need of a conference to convince me of the need for them.  Anyone know of a good one?

No comments:

Post a Comment