I’ve organized a group of teachers at my school, Skyline High School in Oakland, California, into a book club.  This year, we’re reading about assessment. I want to share a concept from our reading group that has become a real asset (and a lot of fun) in my classroom: student-created grading rubrics.

I love co-creating the grading rubric with my class.  I find that the students are just as good as I am at defining what quality work is.  I find that for every time they seem to set the bar for themselves a little bit lower than I would, there are three other times they set the bar higher than I would have thought.

My class is currently beginning a new project where we are going to take the short stories that they wrote for their English class and turn them into children’s books.

Yesterday, my students thought about what made a good story good.  They talked with a partner about their thoughts.  Then they spent some time writing about all the elements that went into a good story.  Finally, as their exit ticket, they had to write down the one element of a good story they thought was the most important.  After eliminating redundancies, my students came up with this list:

  • Plot
  • Grammar
  • Theme
  • Setting
  • Rising Action
  • Central Conflict
  • Character
  • Details
  • Climax
  • Message
  • Resolution

I ran this by my English teacher, and she pointed out that this isn’t a complete list.  We’re missing tone and structure, to name a couple.  There are more elements than those on our list, but our list is good enough to form the basis of a rubric.

Then we did the same process for children’s books: thinking, talking, and writing about the additional elements that children’s books have that are unique to those kinds of stories.  We added to our list:

  • Age Appropriate
  • Cover and Construction
  • Illustrations
  • Lessons

Next step, we grouped our ideas like so:

  1.  Setting / Character / Details
  2. Plot / Central Conflict / Raising action / Climax / Resolution
  3. Lesson / Message / Theme
  4. Spelling / Grammar
  5. Illustrations
  6. Age Appropriateness
  7. Cover / Construction

The class divided into seven table-teams, each one charged with creating a column of our rubric for one of the criteria groups.  In general, we agreed that each criterion would be judged like this:

  • 4:  Awesome!  We could seriously publish this!
  • 3:  Great!  We can’t expect any more from a mere 10th grader!
  • 2:  Meh…It’s okay.
  • 1:  Seriously?  You’re turning this in??? With your name on it?
  • 0:  SMH (texting talk for “Shaking My Head”)

So each group has their charge.  For example, one group is going to describe what a cover might look like if it is so good, “we could seriously publish this” or so poor it make us shake our collective heads.

In the next post, I’ll show you a picture of some of the posters my kids designed to show one another how these criteria will be judged.  In a later post, I’ll share how I use the rubric they have created to evaluate their final product and how my students responded to their rubric-driven grades.


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