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Posts Tagged ‘rubrics’

Grading projects can be messy, but it doesn’t have to be. The number one rule teachers break when grading a project is that they make it too complicated. Actually, this is probably the case for most of the headaches that teachers have.  I can’t say it any plainer:

Make it simple!!!

Here is a simple rubric that can be used for most projects done in the classroom. I also like this one because it can be adapted quickly (if that is really called for) to meet the needs of a particular assignment.

Remember, and I want you to repeat this 3 times, “I don’t have to grade every single thing a student does in my class.”

Life just got a whole lot easier!

Link:  General Project Rubric

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When assigning projects for course work, there is always a barrage of questions from students. They want to know what needs to be done and exactly how to do it. I am sure you know what I am talking about. In any class, there are one or two students who want the step by step instructions because they want the best grade possible.

In assessing these projects, rubrics are the rule. Over the years, I have seen all sorts of rubrics. It seems that, more and more, rubrics are becoming the map for a student project. Each and every detail is outlined in the rubric with a scale for grading. Instead of being a road map, rubrics are becoming the vehicle that drives students to the top of the mountain.

As far as I am concerned, this takes the thinking out of the project.

When assigning a project, give vague directions for what is expected and then create a rubric that will assess the skills students are to be mastering through the course of the project. Don’t give them any more than that. When they come to you with questions, tell them, “It’s in the rubric.” Some students will inevitably moan and groan because you, the teacher, won’t help them, but don’t cave. Make them struggle on their own a little bit. This is where real learning is going to occur.

There is a reward for running a project like this. It never fails. Both the teacher and the students will be surprised by the outcome of the project.

This topic crossed my mind as I watched student video projects with a class yesterday. For the project, students had to write a poem and record a video of themselves performing the poem. I didn’t give them a length requirement for the video. I didn’t require music, special effects, or fancy editing. I didn’t even tell them how long the poem had to be (although I might have mentioned that 2 lines was not going to be sufficient). I’ll be honest. I was a little nervous at the start of class yesterday because of all the questions that were asked concerning the project during the last week. I really tried not to answer many questions directly because I wanted this to be a student project.

As we sat in class yesterday watching the students work, I was totally blown away by the work the students produced. Some of the videos were so moving, students got up and left the room because they were crying. I have never had that happen before! My students really raised the standard for their projects. They went far above and beyond what I thought they would do, or for that matter, what I thought they were even capable of.

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Yesterday, my Seniors turned int their stop motion animations, and we watched them as a class. I just have to say that I love watching student films, no matter how choppy or crazy they may be! Student work like this always amazes me because it shows what great minds these student have.

If I had my way, I wouldn’t worry about grading a project like this at all. In my eyes, just the fact that they went through the process of making the movie based on a classic story from the Decameron shows that they learned plenty. However, today’s students expect a grade for their work and so do parents, administrators, and the state. Teacher have to show that the student learned something by the means of points in a gradebook.

I am not a fan of huge rubrics. Notice that I did not say “I am not a huge fan of rubrics.” It is the other way around for a purpose! I think that the more simple a rubric is, the better off students are, especially when creating a project like a video. The reason for this is that a rubric with 15 different points of achievement may limit the creativity of the student. The whole point of this project is to stretch a student’s thinking, and in order for this to happen, the student has to have some room to think.

Here’s my rubric for this project:

3 points – Video/Story

3 points – Music/Sound Effects

3 points – Attribution

That’s it. That is what I gave to the students as a guide for creating their video. There was another grade early in the project for creating a storyboard, but for the actual video, this is what they got.

I think it worked quite well.

Now I know that there are some out there who are saying, “But what about the standards? The rubric should reflect the state standards and show that the students achieved something in the course of the project.” I am betting that if you asked my students, most of them would be able to recite the common core standard that the worked toward achieving during the project. For this project, the standard was the main goal:

RL.11-12.5: Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

Not only did students learn how an author’s choices make a piece of writing a piece of art, they examined the choices, made their own choices, and made a piece of art their own. They actually became the artist. There is no better way to learn a concept than to practice it.

If you haven’t figured it out already, the whole point of this post is not to trash on rubrics. I know that students need to first know what is expected, and secondly, we have to show that students are learning something. That is the reality of working in education. However, it doesn’t have to be painful. When I see a rubric with 15 different points on it, I feel sorry for both the student and the teacher. Both are going through a lot more headache than necessary for the sake of learning.

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