The bane of every English teacher’s existence- essays. Even the most seasoned of teachers can get bogged down with trying to grade them and give meaningful feedback. I have seen and tried several methods. Some great and some lackluster. However, last year I fell in love with 2-point rubrics…..and so did my students! Let me tell you why.
From the Teacher POV
Using 2-point rubrics streamlined my grading. No more hemming and hawing on “Well, they KIND of did it…”. No! You either did or you didn’t master it. This made benchmarks easy and I was up to grading 10 or more essays with feedback in an hour!
To make this work, I took the standards I was working with and broke them down into the smallest possible pieces (think of them as micro learning targets).
For example, here is one standard in my state:
ELAGSE9-10RL2: Determine a theme and/or central idea of text and closely analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
That is a LOT of things being asked in ONE standard! 1) Theme statement 2) Analyzation of how it was developed 3) An objective summary. However, I could go even deeper with the objective summary and how I know it should be structured as far as length, tone, and number of details required. I could honestly make at least 5 or 6 checkpoints for just this ONE standard.
So, for this ONE standard, I could make several learning targets. Such as:
- theme statement
- specific evidence from the text
- explanation of how the evidence ties to the theme statement.
- summarizing a text
- maintaining objective tone
From this point, I could start with mini lessons to scaffold these learning targets with informal assessments and then culminate in a written piece to conduct a summative assessment using the 2-point rubric. Students can then quickly see which learning target they need to master.
From the Student Standpoint
It helps students to hone in on what they did well and specifically what they still need to work on. No more ambiguity of “Well, you KIND of got there, but….”. Kids need specifics. “Yes, you nailed the theme statement, but you lacked sufficient evidence. So, go back and find specific evidence.” Nothing ambiguous about that!
This way students also spend more time working on areas that they need to instead of constantly feeling like they’re doing busy work with skills they already understand and have mastered.
Once I moved to this style of grading, my students’ writing vastly improved. Because I was grading so quickly, it left more time to verbally conference about their skills. These conferences went far better than just giving back a paper with lots of written notes that most won’t pay attention to and learn from.
One fantastic way you can also approach this is with small group conferences. You can quickly see a specific learning target that several students still need help with and group them. This way, you can rotate through the groups with targeted mini lessons and practices. They can also work together and learn from each other while mastering the target.
Try It Out!
If this sounds like something you’d like to experience, I’d love for you to give it a try! Want a sample 2-point argumentative writing rubric for FREE? Click here!
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