Opinion Essay Rubrics

Even though I have officially left the classroom and begun a new journey as a literacy instructional coach, I have decided to post the rubrics I was using in my final year as a language arts teacher.  Deciding which writing rubric to use seems to be one of the most arduous tasks of elementary school teachers.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit the countless hours spent creating, tweaking, and searching for the “best” rubric.  And then– don’t even get me started on how many hours were spent trying to agree on ONE rubric as a grade level team…Ick.  My toes curl just thinking about it.

*I must mention that I hesitated to post this one because I have been studying the value and effectiveness of rubrics and/or scoring guides (semantics, in my opinion) that I’m not sure if I would have augmented my rubric yet again.  However, this was one of the rubrics that I felt did a sufficient job providing specific feedback to the students.  So if other teachers can use this to enhance the quality of writing feedback they provide to their students, so be it.

As an instructional coach that is specifically working with writing at the moment, I have been comparing three rubrics: the SBAC rubric (4 pt.), Step Up to Writing 4th Edition’s rubric (4 pt.), and our writing software program’s rubric (MyAccess-4 or 6pt.).  See Below

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If you notice, all 3 rubrics have a different number of domains/writing traits.  For example, the MyAccess rubric is broken up into 5 domains i.e. focus and meaning, content and development, organization, etc.  Step Up to Writing is divided into 4 different domains i.e. organization, ideas/content, language/style, etc.  And finally, the biggie-SBAC.  This is broken up into only 3 areas: purpose/organization, evidence/elaboration, and conventions.  So the golden question asked by every teacher at every training given: Which rubric do I use?  And the answer is not a direct one, but it’s not that complicated either.

My thoughts are this-as long as a teacher intentionally selects a rubric where all the domains of quality writing are accounted for (meaning not simply a holistic score) and the students find it accessible as a learning tool to develop as a writer, it really doesn’t matter.  It becomes a matter of preference for the teacher.  Which rubric will be most easily understood by parents and students that you serve and is also efficient for you?

This is why I chose to post the rubrics created by my partner teacher and me.  If it’s something you feel will enhance your writing program, I’m a happy person.  If not, what tool do use to assess writing?  Please share as we’re all in the same boat.

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5 pt Opinion Essay Rubric
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5 pt. Opinion Essay Rubric with lines for areas of strength and areas to improve. Helpful for both tchr and st.
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Opinion Essay Rubrics – 5 pt.; some with percentages (Beg. to Exemplary) Some blank for tchr discretion

 

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Opinion Essay Rubric -5 pt. Beg. to Exemplary. Sts can highlight two areas to improve and star two areas of strength
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Donalyn Miller: The Hero that Liberated Me

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A couple of years ago, I was validated and inspired by Ms. Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer.  If you have not yet read this book, it is a must.  Immediately after turning the last page, I went straight to my computer and tried to format and create an effective and explicit way to begin a book challenge.  I cannot express enough how this program has not only liberating me, but also my students.  See you later points, benching students with a book in hand, read only at your level regardless of your interest, ugh.  I’m over all of it.  And Ms. Miller’s book allowed me to feel confident to do what I knew was right all along.

Click Here for formatted documents:  Book Whisperer: 40 Book Challenge

Weekly schedule for Reader's Notebook to hold st. accountable
Weekly schedule for Reader’s Notebook to hold st. accountable

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Let’s teach and treat our students as real life readers, so that there just might be a chance for them to unlock and cherish the joy of reading as we all do.

This post will be a number of pictures to better visualize how this might work in your class, tips and lessons learned over the years.

Doesn't have to be pretty. A blank composition book gets the job done. :) 40 Book Challenge
Doesn’t have to be pretty. A blank composition book gets the job done. 🙂
40 Book Challenge
On display for Open House! Students were so proud of all their hard work. Tchr beaming!
On display for Open House! Students were so proud of all their hard work. Tchr beaming!
We tallied up the total number of books read for each group then the entire class. Fantastic!
We tallied up the total number of books read for each group then the entire class. Fantastic!
Love to celebrate our reading accomplishments as a whole!
Love to celebrate our reading accomplishments as a whole!
At the end of the year, we tally all the books we read as a whole. It's an amazing feeling of accomplishment! Sts are so proud! We sort of make the
At the end of the year, we tally all the books we read as a whole. It’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment! Sts are so proud! We sort of make the “reveal” of the total number an event in our class. All our celebrated for their contribution.

Tips for the 40 Book Challenge:

  1.  Composition Books were assembled and explained in class during the first week of school.  (St. HW was to bring in photos, mag pics of things they loved or were interested in, already cut out in a plastic bag.  We modge podged the covers in class.)
  2. Read Alouds are a must!  Let the students experience the joy the picture book.  (Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, Dr. Seuss are some of my favs.)
  3. I made sure to have 15 minutes of silent reading time everyday!  It was sacred-never missed.  (I still feel 15 wasn’t long enough.  Would have liked 20, but we had SSR during intervention block as well.)
  4. Get rid or your “extra” stuff.  You know, the “What can I do when I’m finished?” type work.  Just let them READ if they finish tasks early.
  5. Start reading children’s books now!  You need to be able to recommend and guide students to fit their interests and needs, and you can’t do that unless you have read a great number of your grade level’s books.  This was my favorite part of this endeavor.  I now choose to read young adult or children’s novels because they are sooooo amazingly crafted.  It’s been enlightening and kept me “in-touch” with my students.
  6. Make your first order with Scholastic Books the MAX, meaning over $250.  You’ll get the most points at the BOY and that’s how you build your classroom library. (I’ll post more on that later.)
  7. Allow students to abandon a book.  It’s up to the teacher, but my “rule” was that students could only abandon 2 books a trimester.  They had to write a letter explaining why they wanted to abandon this book, only after they had given it a solid try (i.e. read 50 pgs. or a couple of chapters).
  8. Any book you read aloud to the class whether it’s a picture book or novel counts towards their challenge.
  9. Share what you are currently reading energetically and often.  Let them recommend books to you and actually read them!
  10. Start a book club.  Mine was once a week before school.  (I’ll post details later or see earlier posts.)
  11. Make a book recommendation wall or system.  Because you are requiring reads of certain genres, this will help students select ‘good’ stories.  Seeing what their friends have read is great motivation.
St. samples of Reader's Ntbks in action!
St. samples of Reader’s Ntbks in action!
Rd. Ntbks used throughout the year. I loved the 40 Bk challenge!
Rd. Ntbks used throughout the year. I loved the 40 Bk challenge!
Check out how SHE marked, on HER own, that she needed to change her schedule for the week. This is exactly the goal I wanted for my sts.--to be able to assess if they're schedules worked for them a week at a time. Self-monitoring to become real LIFE Readers!!
Check out how SHE marked, on HER own, that she needed to change her schedule for the week. This is exactly the goal I wanted for my sts.–to be able to assess if they’re schedules worked for them a week at a time. Self-monitoring to become real LIFE Readers!!
I annotate the letters to show I read them and model how that is diff for everyone. I also write a short response to kids each week. Sometimes they are a couple of words or a question, sometimes it's a longer response.
I annotate the letters to show I read them and model how that is diff for everyone. I also write a short response to kids each week. Sometimes they are a couple of words or a question, sometimes it’s a longer response.
Another example of my tch annotations or notes to sts each week. I learned more about my st than I EVER had with this 40 book challenge
Another example of my tch annotations or notes to sts each week. I learned more about my st than I EVER had with this 40 book challenge
Some sts preferred to type their letter (or were asked to due to illegible handwriting). No problem here! Note the tchr-st exchange on the left side. IT was awesome! Sts. loved communicating to me through a letter each week.
Some sts preferred to type their letter (or were asked to due to illegible handwriting). No problem here! Note the tchr-st exchange on the left side. IT was awesome! Sts. loved communicating to me through a letter each week.
Another example of a typed letter then glued into their reader's notebook. Up to tch discretion.
Another example of a typed letter then glued into their reader’s notebook. Up to tch discretion.
An example of simple annotations made by the tchr. You don't have to write a novel to each st every week! That would be impossible. Especially with more than one period.
An example of simple annotations made by the tchr. You don’t have to write a novel to each st every week! That would be impossible. Especially with more than one period.
St. sample--simple notes by me again.
St. sample–simple notes by me again. “Not sure. Let’s explore that.” Short, sweet, and to the point. Sometimes I simply wrote “See me” if my question was too long to write.

SIFTing Poems

 

 

SIFT Bookmark for Analyzing Literature--I used it for my poetry unit.  Awesome!
SIFT Bookmark for Analyzing Literature–I used it for my poetry unit. Awesome!

I hope all of you lovely teachers are taking advantage of the free and wonderful videos of The Teaching Channel. If you haven’t gone to the website already, you MUST use this incredible resource.

While searching the site one day, I came across a lesson called Using the SIFT Method to Analyze Literature.    I really liked how this method, or use of this acronym, broke down the components required to analyze literature.  It seemed to help the students keep focus and uncover the deeper, more abstract meanings of a text.  I thought this would work perfectly for my upcoming poetry unit.  (I will be sharing this unit at a later date…I loved it!)

Hopefully, you can check out this video to determine whether the SIFT method can work for you and your students.

*I copied this bookmark on to construction paper to keep it a little more sturdy.  My students continuously referred to it throughout the unit of poetry.*

Writing Rubrics…ugh

I think we can all agree that grading our students’ writing assignments is a daunting task. In the past, I’ve put it off for so long that grading it at all seems worthless because, in order to be useful, the feedback needs to be immediate–we all know that. So why is this task so difficult?

In my experience, I moved from teaching first grade to teaching fifth grade. That’s quite a jump, as far as writing expectations and standards. My team did not have an agreed upon rubric. Everyone used the tool that they saw fit, whether that be a simple checklist, different rubrics, a point system, and/or (my personal favorite) “I know this is an B paper”. Personally, I like things to be a little bit more consistent to ensure I’m being as fair as possible to my students.

I’m happy to report that after trying countless different rubrics, this one has been working well for me. I have incorporated the Six Traits of Writing along with our district adopted writing program. Both students and parents have told me they liked the break down and explanation and, to be honest, so do I. I know grading writing is subjective, but teachers should try to keep it as consistent as possible. This is the key to helping our students’ writing improve.

This is the front side of the rubric and the chart of six traits is copied on the back.  I begin the year using a full page rubric.
This is the front side of the rubric and the chart of six traits is copied on the back. I begin the year using a full page rubric.
Six traits of writing rubric tweeked to my liking and fitted to one paper.
Six traits of writing rubric tweeked to my liking and fitted to one paper.
This is the rubric I switch to mid-year once I feel my students and parents are familiar with the different traits.  It saves paper.
This is the rubric I switch to mid-year once I feel my students and parents are familiar with the different traits. It saves paper.

Happy writing everyone!!

Teaching Narrative with Crazy Pictures

Hippon on man-funny writing prompts!
Hippon on man-funny writing prompts!
Funny Writing Prompts! So easy
Funny Writing Prompts! So easy

Prior to beginning our writing unit on narrative text, I like to get the creative juices flowing!

My students use a composition book for their year long journal. Mini-writing prompts, debates of the week, and any other informal writing is done in their journal. The purpose of the journal and the activities I choose are to get the students comfortable with writing. I’m not grading for spelling and/or grammar. I have found that when the students are worried about spelling, they won’t make the attempt to spell a challenging word. They’ll opt to write “sad” instead of “depressed”.

The idea is the more they write (more meaning frequently, not the amount required for a writing task), the less they dread it. BUT, as a teacher, it is our job to make it relevant, new, and exciting for them. They cannot just respond to “google-like-journal-prompt-lists” all year long. Gotta keep it interesting.

The “Funny Pic Prompt” (that’s what I call it in my lesson plans) is an activity that the kids LOVE! When I tell them I have a picture for them to glue in their journals, I immediately hear the hushed “Yes!” from the group. I find interesting pictures on the computer by typing things like “funny animals”, “awkward family photos”, and “scary animal encounters”. The chosen image is then copied and pasted onto a word doc to be printed in color. Tip: Don’t make pictures too large. I try to fit 6-10 on a page so I’m not wasting ink.

After pictures are glued in, I set my timer for 10 minutes. Students are NOT allowed to stop writing for 10 minutes! I like to give them timed task to practice time management skills. Once the timer beeps, the students do a round robin share of their stories. During this time, students are NOT reading what they wrote verbatim. That would take forever. They must sum up their story in one summary statements (another skill we practice in class).

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Students sharing the stories they wrote with the funny picture prompts.
Students sharing the stories they wrote with the funny picture prompts.
Students listening to each other's funny pic prompt stories!
Students listening to each other’s funny pic prompt stories!

I cannot explain how this one weekly activity has greatly improved my students’ attitudes towards writing. They don’t even realize that I’m prepping their minds for the upcoming narrative unit.

It’s the perfect segue to writing a short story.

Click below for the pictures to use in class.  Have fun!

Prompt Anaconda Prompt Hippo on Man

Writing Rubrics, finally!

I don’t know about anybody else, but it took me FOREVER to create a writing rubric that worked for me.  My district uses a particular writing program called “Step Up to Writing” which is really helpful, but I was not satisfied with the rubrics.  I was more drawn to rubrics that assessed each of the six traits of writing separately.  I feel that this is a more effective way to assess writing, so that the students can become aware of their strengths and weaknesses.  In the past, when their writing was given just one letter grade, the students simply based that one grade on whether they were a “good” writer or not.  But we, as teachers, know that students can have wonderful ideas, but poor conventions.  Or a student might demonstrate perfect spelling, grammar, organization, etc., but lack substantive ideas.  You get the picture.

This rubric has helped me give better and more effective feedback to the students.  Now, they are able to choose one area to grow and feel proud of the areas in which they excel.  I am loving the results!

The rubric packet is on sale right now!  Hope you like it!

Page 1 of writing rubric I use at the beginning of the year.  More detailed than the side-by-side rubric.
Page 1 of writing rubric I use at the beginning of the year. More detailed than the side-by-side rubric.
Page 2 (back side) of page 1 rubric.  I use this so students can see how I grade each trait of writing.  I circle where the students are for each trait and then give the final grade on the other side.
Page 2 (back side) of page 1 rubric. I use this so students can see how I grade each trait of writing. I circle where the students are for each trait and then give the final grade on the other side.
Writing Criteria Chart printed side-by-side to save paper.   I only use this one at the end of the year when the students are familiar with the rubric and how their writing is scored.
Writing Criteria Chart printed side-by-side to save paper. I only use this one at the end of the year when the students are familiar with the rubric and how their writing is scored.