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Are you a middle or high school teacher bogged down in scoring student assignments? It can seem like there's never an end to work that needs to be graded. Not only do you have regular papers to mark, but there are also special projects, homework assignments and tests that demand your attention. No wonder it can be overwhelming! Fortunately, you could find relief for your grading overload with a simple assessment tool--the rubric.
Rubrics can make life easier for stressed out middle and high school teachers. With a rubric, you know exactly what to look for in every paper you grade, so there's no need to spend too much precious time reading each essay for correctness. A rubric allows you to identify what is important in an assignment, judge how well the student met this standard, and assign points accordingly. After you've done this for each element on your rubric, all that's left to do is to add the points together. Then, you've got the student's grade figured out for you.
One of the best things about rubrics is you can use the same basic formula for grading a variety of assignments. There are many different ways to layout a rubric--lists and tables are just two forms--but any method you choose will work if you make it specific. Once you've decided on a basic format for your rubric, you can fill it in with the requirements of each project. For example, if you like the way a tabular rubric works, you could change the elements along the left side to correspond to the project at hand. You would leave the levels listed along the top--no effort, developing work, basic work, intermediate and excellent, for example--and fill in the descriptions of each element as it intersects each skill level. This makes creating new rubrics easy.
Although rubrics are excellent tools for grading writing assignments, they aren't just for essays. You can use a rubric to grade anything, from homework to oral presentations. Of course, rubrics work best when you target them for each project, so make sure you change your rubric according to the work at hand. For example, in a rubric grading public speaking skills, you may not want to use a letter-grading system. Instead, you might want to compare the student to public speaking icons; a job well done could get a grade of "like Franklin D. Roosevelt," while a poor job could be "like a celebrity reading from a teleprompter." Your students might be able to connect with this kind of scale better than with traditional letter grades, so this would be an effective choice. Get creative with your rubric for the best results.
Rubrics can help students learn to anticipate what you expect in an assignment. If you hand out a rubric when you assign a project, the student will know exactly what he or she needs to do to perform well. This will make your class set higher standards for themselves, which will, in the long run, make life easier for you. A student working from a rubric is more likely to do a good job, and good work is much easier to grade than poor work.
So next time you're drowning in a sea of papers, think about how easy your life could be if you used rubrics to grade. Try a sample rubric on your next project and find out if they work for you. If you like the way a rubric works make the switch and start enjoying your free time once more!