Grading rubrics can be of great benefit to both you and your students. For you, a rubric saves time and decreases subjectivity. Specific criteria are explicitly stated, facilitating the grading process and increasing your objectivity. For students, the use of grading rubrics helps them to meet or exceed expectations, to view the grading process as being fair, and to set goals for future learning.
In order to help your students meet or exceed expectations of the assignment, be sure to discuss the rubric with your students when you assign an essay. It is helpful to show them examples of written pieces that meet and do not meet the expectations. As an added benefit, because the criteria are explicitly stated, the use of the rubric decreases the likelihood that students will argue about the grade they receive. The explicitness of the expectations helps students know exactly why they lost points on the assignment and aids them in setting goals for future improvement.
- Routinely have students score peers essays using the rubric as the assessment tool. This increases their level of awareness of the traits that distinguish successful essays from those that fail to meet the criteria. Have peer editors use the Reviewers Comments section to add any praise, constructive criticism, or questions.
- Alter some expectations or add additional traits on the rubric as needed. Students needs may necessitate making more rigorous criteria for advanced learners or less stringent guidelines for younger or special needs students. Furthermore, the content area for which the essay is written may require some alterations to the rubric. In social studies, for example, an essay about geographical landforms and their effect on the culture of a region might necessitate additional criteria about the use of specific terminology.
- After you and your students have used the rubric, have them work in groups to make suggested alterations to the rubric to more precisely match their needs or the parameters of a particular writing assignment.
The students have already formed some strong opinions about the use of whipping boys while reading "The Whipping Boy" by Sid Fleischman. I have found that often when the students have strong opinions, they enjoy writing about their opinions and proving why they feel the way they do. We will be writing an opinion on whether or not whipping boys should have been used to punish young royalty.
To begin our lesson, we will read the "Note" at the back of "The Whipping Boy." This note explains that the novel is fictitious, but that whipping boys were actually used to punish some royalty. We will then review the Wikipedia article found HERE that explains what whipping boys were. We used this same article earlier in this unit to build background knowledge. The article touches on some positive aspects of whipping boys that I will be sure to point out, knowing that most of the students feel strongly that it is cruel that the royal families would use whipping boys.
Fleischman, S. (2003). The Whipping Boy. New York, NY : Greenwillow Books