Week 29 – Writing Rubric Dissection


So, I’m going to dissect one of the easiest rubrics I use to guide beginning students through the writing process.  Imagine that everything in the bordered cells is on one sheet of paper (more or less as shown in “Week 29 – Why a Rubric?“). All the rest is comment.

Rubric for Humanities 1 Paper
Notice that there is no real prompt yet.  Learning how to read a prompt will be another lesson.
Part 1 – Independent Grades
Students can see the parts of the writing process which they will be responsible for.  Many students sit down and write a paper the night before it is due; they brag about it.  Of course they can, but nine times out of ten the paper they will write would have been improved by having put their ideas through the writing process, even if it means just an editing.  They also get a sense of the kind of work that makes a strong paper.
Brainstorm and Plot Map 10 Due:
10 points total for this work. This is not about quality. Either they did it or they didn’t. This always means when they need to have it in class.
Brainstorms and Plot Maps are really two separate things.  The brainstorming happens as a series of questions that students answer as a way to think more deeply about the elements of literature.  The plot map is a series of steps that ask the student to put the events of the novel in order.  This may look like outlining, but it isn’t.
Outline 5 Due:
Students are taught a basic outlining format.  They pick up information straight off of their brainstorm and plot map and put it into an outline form.  They are required to skip lines between ideas and not to write in complete sentences.
Rough Draft 10 Due:
The due date is super important here.  Our next task simply cannot be done if students do not come to class prepared.  Students who do not have it finished write their papers while everyone else is doing the Clang Session.
Students start drafting.  They are asked to write paragraphs based on their outlines.  I ask them not to worry about grammar or spelling or anything (at all) that keeps their hands from moving. They are exhorted to shut down anything that keeps them from turning the phrases on their outlines into sentences and paragraphs on their papers.  If they are working on a computer, I ask them to shut off the grammar and spell check totally.  I want to see their eyes moving from the outline to the paper, from the outline to the paper until it is written.  Damn the torpedos!  Full speed ahead!
Clang Session 5 Due:
Students get credit for reading another writer’s paper back to them.  They are not allowed to make any comments whatsoever unless they are specifically asked for help by the writer.
The clang session is the place where students learn that their first draft is not good enough.  What we write and what we think we write are often two separate things.  The process is simple: a student trades papers with another writer and has their own paper read back to them.  As they listen, they stop the reader to make changes on their own paper.  They will learn to change out words, fix sentences, and move ideas around to make their writing clearer by ear.
Second Draft 10 Due:
Students make the corrections and changes based on what they learned in the clang session.  We’ve now hit “crafting”.  They also know that this 2nd draft will be given a score for quality for one of the 6+1 Writing Traits.  They have anchored the trait by the time they get to this step, but until they have to give a classmate’s paper a score, they really don’t “get it”.
Peer Edit 5 Due:
This is the point where they score a classmate’s paper.
Third Draft 10 Due:
Students make changes (I won’t call them corrections) based on the recommendations of their peer(s).  They also know that they will be turning this paper into me for a final grammar and mechanics edit.  As such, they want to make any corrections to ensure that their paper is as grammatically watertight as possible.  Officially, this is the first time I’ve seen their work, although I’ve been coaching them from the sidelines since the beginning.
Personal Skills Record 10 Due:
This gets picked up with the final draft.
Upon getting their paper back, students learn the grammar rules they broke so that they can not make them again.
Total: __ / 65 pts.
Students turn all of the above in when they turn in the final draft.  None of the grades go in the book until I see all of the above.   I am looking evidence of how the thinking of the student changed throughout the process of writing the paper.  Did they hear problems in their paper when they heard it read back to them?  Did they take into account the score they were given and make appropriate changes?  Did they correct all of the grammar and mechanics mistakes?  Is their final paper the result of a writing process?
Part 2 – Final Draft Due:
This will be the result of all of the above labor.  It also tells the student what they will be writing about.  Students will refer back to it as they write.
Paragraph One – Introductory Paragraph
Introduce the paper  (Touch on setting, characters, and plot) 1   2   3   4   5
Here we see points given for the quality of the work.  If the student receives a 1, 2, or 3 which is underlined, then they will have a writing conference with me.  Students get a choice to either fix the paragraph right then or wait and put it in effect in the next paper.
Author 5
Title 5
Remember I’m working with young writers.  They honestly do not know that they need to name the author and the title of the book they read in the introduction.  In later papers, I add these points to the overall grade for the introductory paragraph.  They get five points just for remembering to say the author and the title.
Paragraph Two
Setting 1   2   3   4   5
Atmosphere (tone) 1   2   3   4   5
Paragraph Three
Main Character 1   2   3   4   5
For each of these above, I’m looking for the amount and quality of information in the paragraph. But I’m also looking to see what transferred from the brainstorm to the final draft.
Paragraph Four
Plot Development 1   2   3   4   5
Similar to the character and setting paragraphs, I’m looking at their plot development chart to see how they rearrange the information to make it read as a summary through to the final draft.
Climactic Moment 5
Similarly to the author and title bit, students have a hard time not giving away the resolution even when they identify the climactic moment.  They are really getting five points for not giving a plot spoiler.
Paragraph Five
Conclusion Paragraph 1   2   3   4   5
(Remind readers about what was important in tone, character and plot)
For very new writers, I sometimes dump the conclusion paragraph entirely.  I don’t count it against them.  If they are expected to write one, I’m looking to see how effectively they wrap up their ideas.
Over-all paper
Idea and Content Trait 1   2   3   4   5
As we move through the year, we will add Organization, Word Choice, and Voice.  This is the only time when their grade might be compromised by having a lower score on a trait.  Overall, it helps me to see if they have taken on board the suggestions from the second draft.  I’m looking to see if the score their peer gave them is reasonable and if their score improved by the changes they made.  I have been known to give extra credit if the students made changes which seriously improved their papers.
Grammar and Mechanics 1   2   3   4   5
I never take off points for the first grammar mistake.  No matter how many times you edit, you will always find a mistake.  Students find this reassuring.
Rubric 5
Students receive five points just for turning in this piece of paper with their work.  I rarely, if ever, write on a final draft.  I use the rubric to give feedback.  I know they are reading the rubric; they will never go back and read the notes on the paper because they are not writing another draft.  My time is frankly too precious to waste in writing things that students are not going to read.
Total for Final Draft: __ / 55 pts.
Students are always asked to add up the points to make sure I’ve done it correctly.
Total Paper: __ / 120 pts.
Et, voila!
Students are required to keep the work in their portfolio at school.  The rubric, however, can be taken home for “bragging rights”.  Although I always ask that they bring back the rubric, they never do.  It’s okay.  It’s all in my grading program in the end.

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