Erin is currently teaching English at a university in South Korea and has a Master's degree in Education.
What is a Writing Rubric?
Imagine that you're a student in an ESL class. Your teacher informs you that your homework for the next week is to write an opinion paragraph about school uniforms. No other information is given.
Now imagine, you write said paragraph and hand it in, proud of your work. A few days later, your assignment is returned to you full of red marks, and the final score is 70%. Imagine the frustration you would feel. You might even feel resentment towards your teacher for not having clearly laid out the grading expectations.
It is in instances like these that a writing rubric would be very helpful and necessary. A writing rubric is a type of scoring guide that assesses a student's writing performance based on a set of established criteria. These criteria are clearly laid out, usually in the form of a chart.
Why Use a Writing Rubric?
There are many advantages to providing students with rubrics for writing assignments. First of all, a rubric clearly states the teacher's expectations of the assignment and gives very specific information about what needs to be included. This allows students to use the rubric as a guideline and to build upon their already existing knowledge to increase their writing skills.
Secondly, rubrics can be tailored to meet students' different levels of writing competence. A rubric for a more advanced student will have more complicated expectations and be vastly different than a rubric intended for a beginner.
Thirdly, rubrics allow the teacher to score assignments more objectively and with greater consistency. Additionally, a rubric can provide feedback regarding the effectiveness of the teacher's instruction and the students' level of understanding.
Helpful Writing Rubrics
The following rubrics can be used for reference for any ESL teacher. They can also be modified to meet the various needs and different levels of your students.
Basic Paragraph Format Rubric
This is a simple rubric designed to grade students based on their knowledge of basic paragraph formatting. This can be easily adapted based on the format you, as the teacher, are following.
The basic paragraph format rubric is generally used for beginners. It sets basic expectations for paragraph formatting, such as indenting the first sentence of the paragraph, following punctuation rules, using correct capitalization and following the correct style of sentence formatting in a paragraph. A basic paragraph rubric might look like:
|Indent: 2 points|
|Correct punctuation: 3 points|
|Correct use of capitalization: 3 points|
|Sentences are in paragraph format: 2 points|
Paragraph with Supporting Examples
This rubric is a little more detailed and can be used once students are familiar with basic paragraph structure. It focuses more on the content of the paragraph and grammar rules. Generally, there are three columns: one with the expectation to be met, one with the point value and one for teacher comments.
This type of rubric can be easily printed out and attached to each assignment. Again, this rubric can be adapted to include exactly the type of writing assignment the teacher assigns. Let's look at an example:
|Write a paragraph with supporting details||2 points for each section||Teacher's Comment|
|Clear topic sentence|
|There are at least two examples to support the main idea|
|Paragraph format is followed (indent, margin, double spaced)|
|Punctuation and capitalization is used correctly|
|There are simple and compound sentences|
|Subject-verb agreement is correct|
Opinion Paragraph Rubric
This rubric focuses on opinion writing and should be used for students who are familiar with paragraph formatting and structure. It is more complicated than the basic rubrics and should be thoroughly reviewed with students so they understand exactly what is expected. This rubric is based on a 4-3-2-1 grading scale. Let's take a look:
|Topic sentence includes a well-developed main idea||4||3||2||1|
|Topic sentence states the opinion of the writer in a clear and concise manner||4||3||2||1|
|The supporting sentences clearly support the topic sentence||4||3||2||1|
|Each supporting sentence includes at least one detail sentence||4||3||2||1|
|The conclusion sentence clearly re-states the main idea||4||3||2||1|
|Transition words are used and are used correctly||4||3||2||1|
|Paragraph format is followed correctly||4||3||2||1|
|Punctuation and capitalization is used correctly||4||3||2||1|
|There are simple and compound sentences||4||3||2||1|
|Subject-verb agreement is correct||4||3||2||1|
This rubric is more complicated and should be used with advanced-level students. It's very detailed and may work best for students if the teacher goes through each of the expectations in explicit detail and explanation. Here's an example of an essay rubric:
|Category||4-Exceeds Expectations||3-Meets Expectations||2-Needs Improvement||1-Inadequate|
|Understanding of Audience||Demonstrates a keen understanding of the target audience and uses appropriate vocabulary and language.||Demonstrates a general understand of the target audience and uses mostly appropriate vocabulary and language.||Shows a limited understanding of the target audience and uses simple but appropriate vocabulary and language.||The audience for which the writing is intended is not clear.|
|Introduction/Hook||The introductory paragraph begins with a sentence that grabs the reader's attention and is appropriate to the topic.||The introductory paragraph begins with a sentence that makes an attempt to grab the attention of the reader but is not entirely appropriate to the topic.||The introductory paragraph begins with a sentence that could be an attention grabber, but it is not clear.||The introductory paragraph does not have an introductory sentence or hook.|
|Main Idea Structure||The introductory paragraph clearly states the main idea of the essay and provides concise statements that will provide support to the main idea.||The introductory paragraph contains a clear main idea but the supporting sentences are only vaguely connected and not clear.||The introductory paragraph contains a statement that could be understood to be the main idea, but there is little support from the supporting sentences.||The introductory paragraph contains no main idea statement and lacks any supporting sentences.|
|Body of the Essay||The body of the essay provides clear evidence and ample examples that directly support the main idea of the essay.||The body of the essay provides some connections to the main idea but more examples or evidence is needed.||The body of the essay is somewhat on topic but lacks any clear connection to or examples of the main idea.||The body of the essay is unrelated and not connected to the main idea.|
|Conclusion||The closing paragraph provides a well-stated and clear conclusion that firmly states the author's position, as well as clarifying the main idea.||The closing paragraph is satisfactory but may lack some clarity as to what the author's position is or the restatement of the main idea may be missing.||The closing paragraph is confusing and may not support the authors position in an effective manner.||The closing paragraph is nonexistent.|
|Grammar and Sentence Structure||The writer demonstrated an excellent knowledge of the writing conventions, had few or no grammar mistakes and used various styles of sentences in a consistent manner.||The writer showed a general knowledge of the writing conventions, had a relatively small number of grammar mistakes and used well-constructed sentences with a few mistakes.||The writer showed a scant knowledge of the writing conventions, had many grammar mistakes and used very few sentence styles.||The writer displayed little knowledge of the conventions of writing, had numerous grammar mistakes and very few sentences were well-constructed.|
There are many benefits to providing your students with a writing rubric, a type of scoring guide that outlines a set of criteria for a writing assignment. You can greatly increase the quality of your teaching by using rubrics to assess student performance, progress and competence level. It can also benefit students greatly by explaining explicitly what is expected of them and the assignment. Common writing rubrics for ESL students focus on basic paragraph format, paragraphs with supporting examples, opinion paragraphs and essays. You can find more examples of subject and activity specific rubrics on our hub page, rubric examples.
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