Laura lives in the Boise, Idaho area with her husband and children. She holds a B.A. in secondary education (English and social studies) from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, a M.Ed. and Ed.S. in school counseling (K-12) from the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of South Alabama, respectively, and a Ph.D. in instructional design for online learning from Capella University. She teaches online at several colleges and universities across the country and has over 20 years of experience in education.
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.
Once you have completed your rubric, be sure to go over it with your class, as some students may not be familiar with this style of grading.
When you start to grade, read each essay carefully and then assign point values based on what is contained in the essay according to the list of critical elements and performance descriptors. Assign points accordingly.
A rubric really is a great tool because it keeps you objective about a relatively subjective topic, so it is a very fair way of marking students' papers.
Rubrics are a wonderful and simple tool for grading those essay and discussion elements that should be an integral part of any social studies curriculum. Students should know how to write across the curriculum rather than only in English class, and rubrics are a great tool for ensuring that not only do students know what is expected of them but also that the teacher will be fair and objective with his or her grading. Try it sometime! It really works well!
You can find more examples of rubric templates on our rubrics hub.
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