How to Use Rubrics for Literacy Instruction

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  • 0:01 What Are Rubrics?
  • 1:33 Why Use Rubrics?
  • 4:00 Best Practices for Rubrics
  • 6:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Rubrics are tools showing standards expected for assignments. This lesson will explain rubrics and describe how teachers can use rubrics to improve literacy instruction.

What Are Rubrics?

How would you feel if you owned a bakery and had a client request a cake? Sounds good, doesn't it? You are a baker; you like to make cakes. But what if the person told you that they would pay you based on how well your cake met her needs? Hey! Wait a minute. She didn't tell you anything you need to know. How big does she need it? What type of event is it? Does she want a specific design? How many people should it serve? What flavor? Without knowing the answers to these questions, how could you possibly succeed in meeting her needs and be well reimbursed for your efforts?

A student might feel the same way when facing a literacy assignment. What style writing should I use? How should I show my understanding of the concept? Do I need to format the assignment a certain way? Should I use first person as I write? Do I need to identify definitions or just talk about concepts? How important is length? What is my grade based on?

A rubric is a tool, such as a list or chart, that clearly identifies expectations and point rewards for each aspect of an assignment. Rubrics are used to ensure consistent, fair grading for all students on any given assignment. It can be given to students ahead of an assignment as a checklist for them to work toward meeting the standards expressed by the instructor. Including rubrics in literacy instruction eliminates vagueness in assessment requirements.

Why Use Rubrics?

Rubrics are great tools to assist in reiterative learning cycles in which the learning path is a circle from student to teacher and back to student. Starting with the student, the rubric offers student goals for learning. It clearly indicates to the student what the instructor anticipates the student will learn and how the student can show this learning in the assessment.

Moving on to the teacher, the rubric allows the teacher to fairly and consistently grade each assignment. It is common for instructors to weary during the grading process. Without clearly established grading standards, instructors could easily end up grading the first assignments differently from the last in a batch. Using a rubric eliminates this issue.

Back to the student: the graded rubric gives students specific feedback as to their performance. If assignments are graded holistically, students may not understand where or why points were removed. By using a rubric, teachers are able to specifically indicate to students exactly where their performance did not meet expectations and why. This reiterative learning cycle is an excellent method to solidify literacy instruction. Literacy instruction assignments can include such assessments as:

  • Written papers
  • Oral reports
  • Discussion of literary work
  • Electronic presentations

Some instructors even have students create movie posters as assessments in literary instruction. While these assessments seem straight forward, students need quite a lot of direction and instruction to successfully complete any one of these literary assessments.

Why might a rubric be used when assigning the literacy assessment of an oral report? Well, what questions might a student have when beginning such an assignment? How long does it have to be? Do I have to use or make visual aids to explain my points? Do I have to include audience questions?

These are all legitimate questions that a student may think about when beginning to develop an oral report on a book that has been assigned to the class. It is clear that a well-written rubric will assist the student in completing this literary task, as well as assist the teacher in maintaining quality levels of feedback to the students. Let's examine what a well-written rubric for an oral presentation might look like.

Best Practices for Rubrics

Oral Presentation Rubric
Oral Presentation Rubric

The image shown is a rubric for an oral presentation. It exemplifies all of the best practices, methods of practice that have consistently shown the best results, in rubric use. Let's use the oral presentation rubric to walk through six common best practice tips for using rubrics. The rubric consists of the standard, or the behavior or concept being judged and three levels of achieving that standard.

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