In my book, grading student writing is one of the most daunting tasks faced by any teacher. Considering the time it takes to read each heartfelt word your students have penned, analyze their technique, comment on strengths and offer advice on how to improve it — at a minimum we area talking about two hours per class per paper. Expediting that process would give us back some of our lost personal lives, and it would also give students more timely feedback. Toward that end, I never attend an NCTE conference without hitting at least one session dedicated to this worthy goal. Over the years, I have discovered and tested many innovative methods, including: post-it scoring (where students choose which trait they want you to assess for each piece), audio feedback (where teachers record comments about highlighted text, usually in digital format), and peer-review (which involves students using checklists to offer constructive criticism to one another). Each method has its pros and cons, but in the end they did not really shave much time off the task.
Eventually, I always returned to the trusty rubric… where the complicated writing process is broken down into its most basic components and a quick stroke of the pen rates student performance on each of these elements. After grading (literally) thousands of student essays, I was able to identify common areas of strength and weakness, reflecting that in the progression toward mastery that each column of the rubric defines. I created one for each targeted skill, and I am happy to share some of mine with you here.
Typically, I use the rubrics to either grade student writing overnight (I usually break up essay-writing paragraph-by-paragraph), meeting with students the next day for a one-to-one (and one minute long) mini-conference about their writing. If I am pressed for time, I sometimes even score the work during the conference as I meet with each young author. Each rubric offers a quick assessment of the targeted skill, and makes it easy to identify the area where students most need to improve. At the same time, the next steps are already spelled out. Below, I am including links to three writing rubrics I developed and have honed over the years. I’m including both PDF and MS Word formats, and information about the fonts I used, so you can edit them to meet your own needs.
After meeting with students, I often “prescribe” a video tutorial for them to review before they make revisions. In a previous post, I shared tips on using and creating lesson videos. You will also find links to several of my free writing tutorials in the menu to your right. Enjoy, and don’t forget to subscribe to get more ideas and freebies from All-Star ELA.