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

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

Open House ’12-’13

My favorite time of year is Open House!

I know, I know, it sounds crazy because it’s so much work and stress at the end of the year, but I can’t help myself. I just love it. This is the time where the students get to showcase ALL of the hard work they have done all year long. Parents are wowed. I am wowed. And best of all, the students are blown away….at themselves! The pride I see as they walk their guests around the class is just amazing.

Below are some pictures I took of my class last year. I’ll be posting pictures of my new classroom to begin the school year soon.

This is a picture of the writing wall.  Students wrote a persuasive essay after researching the long lived “School Uniform” debate.  Each student then received a blank template to either create the ideal uniform or ideal outfit for themselves, depending on which side of the debate they were on.  Surprisingly, a handful a students preferred the uniform.

On the counter are my biography jar book reports.  This year I assigned famous African-Americans during February, but in the past it’s been a famous American in the Revolution time period.  You can see this product in my teacherspayteachers store under Two Biography Jar Book Reports. 

School Uniform Debate & Biography Jars
School Uniform Debate & Biography Jars

For the new year 2013, my students had to create some goals for themselves.  After these goals were created, they wrote a letter to their future self.  I told them they would open it with their parents during Open House to see if they held true to their goals…… It was interesting and the students got very excited to open this letter most of them forgot about.

Students wrote this letter months ago describing the goals they wanted accomplished by Open House.
Students wrote this letter months ago describing the goals they wanted accomplished by Open House.

This was an awesome game that was introduced by a fellow colleague Ms. Derus.  We played a water cycle game in which each student represented one water droplet.  First, I read the book A Drop Around the World.  Then, the students were assigned a station and played the game which you can find here.   When I do the activity this year, I will post with pictures.  It’s pretty awesome.

Finally, I made a water droplet with lines and students wrote a summary and reaction piece of their individual journey.  Attached to each droplet is the bracelet they made from the different beads they collected along the way.  (See game to understand.)

Students wrote a summary of their water droplet's journey and attached their bracelet.
Students wrote a summary of their water droplet’s journey and attached their bracelet.

I read aloud to my students everyday after lunch.  I took pictures of each student reading a book then they attached a speech bubble to their bodies.  The bubble stated which book was their favorite and why.  Last, the students folded an index card and glued their body to it to stand upright.  The display always looks so cute and it takes no time at all.  (Okay, maybe 20 minutes–students write their sentence on a post-it first.  I proofread.  Then, they write their speech bubble.)

Students chose which read aloud they enjoyed the most.
Students chose which read aloud they enjoyed the most.

Found this idea on pinterest so not sure who to credit exactly as I’ve seen it a bunch.  Students create a portrait of themselves using 1 inch colored construction paper.  I take pictures of their faces because I think photos make everything better. They then calculate the area, perimeter, and percentage of each color used—this takes longer then I thought.  Math!Area & Perimeter People

Here the students were given different quotes of figures from the Revolution. Students had to decide whether it was spoken by a Tory or a Whig. I divide the classroom in half and read each quote one at a time. Students then move to the side of the room they feel said the statement. They must then choose a spokesperson to explain their reasoning. I give the students a chance to switch sides if they change their mind before I tell them the correct answer. This activity makes for some great discussions.
Who Said It? Tory or Whig?

These are pictures of my science and social studies boards. These activities I will be uploading to my tpt store as soon as I get a chance. I’m working on the state projects and activities we do all year. Shown below are their state flip books, an alternative to a written report.
Science Board

State Flip Books

Social Studies Board
These last two are just some more views from the classroom. Hope you enjoyed and got some ideas for your class! If you do something similar or just want to share how you make your open house amazing, please do!

Entering the classroom for Open House 2013
Entering the classroom for Open House 2013

Open House 2013Coming soon…. pictures of my classroom to start this year. Yaaay!!!