Social Studies Essay Rubric Examples

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

This lesson defines the term 'rubric,' discusses best practices for using rubrics in the social studies classroom, and shows an example of a simple rubric that can be used in the classroom.

Components of a Rubric

Rubrics are a great tool for assessing student work that may otherwise be viewed as subjective. For example, many discussion questions and essays, which are an integral part of the social studies curriculum, can benefit from being graded with rubrics.

Not sure how to do this? Read on...

Every good rubric has three components:

  • A list of critical elements, which outline the items that the teacher deems necessary within the assignment
  • Performance descriptors, which describe the level of performance of each element or give a list of things that must be present in each critical element
  • Point values, which tell both the teacher and the student how many points will be awarded for meeting the criteria within each performance descriptor

A Social Studies Rubric Example

So... what does a good social studies rubric look like? Here we are going to present a very general rubric, one that deals with a middle school essay on the Civil War. Notice that it contains all three components and that it is easy for the student to read. (Students should always be given the rubric when the assignment is made, so that they will know the standards to which their work should aspire.)

Element 5 points 3 points 1 point
Essay is the correct length, between 200 and 300 words Essay is between 200 and 300 words Essay is somewhat shorter or much longer than necessary Essay is one or two sentences in length
Essay addresses causes leading up to the Civil War Essay discusses at least 3 causes leading up to the war Essay discusses 2 causes leading up to the war Essay discusses 1 cause leading up to the
Essay lists influential people in the war Essay lists at least 3 people who were influential in the war Essay lists 2 people who were influential in the war Essay lists 1 person who was influential in the war
Essay is free from spelling and grammar errors Essay has a maximum of 1 spelling or grammar error Essay has 2 or 3 spelling or grammar errors Essay has 4 or more spelling or grammar errors

Putting It All Together

Ideally, the rubric should be shown in grid form, with the elements going down the left side, the point values running across the top, and the performance descriptors flowing from left to right beside each element.

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