Using Rubrics to Enhance Your Child’s Learning
Karen is a busy mom and Learning Coach for her son Johnny, a virtual school student. She is helping with a portfolio assignment: a persuasive letter. They read the pages in the textbook, Johnny chooses an appropriate topic, and he starts writing. Then he asks, “Okay, what’s next?”
Karen: Let’s look at the rubric.
Johnny: The what-“ric”?
Karen: The rubric. It’s a scoring guide for the assignment. Here’s the rubric you need for the rough draft of the persuasive letter.
Johnny: But I just finished the rough draft!
Karen: You just finished your first draft. Let’s compare your draft to what’s described on the rubric, then see if you need to make any changes to improve it.
Johnny: There’s that word again. The rubric: it’s important, isn’t it?
Karen: It sure is! Here’s the first item on the rubric. “All of the sentences and paragraphs relate to the letter’s stated purpose.” Johnny, read the letter and make sure all of the details relate to the main idea.
Johnny: Mom, maybe you should become a teacher.
Karen: (Laughs.) Let’s leave the teaching to your teacher—I’m happier being your Learning Coach!
Karen and her son are using a term that parents and Learning Coaches may recognize but not fully comprehend: rubric. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a rubric as “a guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects, or tests.” Although it’s true that teachers use these handy tools for grading, it is perhaps more important that Learning Coaches understand that rubrics can be an outstanding “map” for steering a child’s academic growth.
A rubric describes an assignment or project clearly and concisely. This clarity is vital for a Learning Coach guiding the education of a virtual school student at home. Typically, a rubric provides an outline of a project in checklist style, and it may include:
- goals or objectives for learning
- steps involved in the project
- resources to use
information or content required in the finished product
- format guidelines
- criteria for grading
For example, if the project is a letter, the rubric will require “all the parts of a letter” and then list those parts as taught in the lesson. A story, fable, or folk tale rubric might require the student to describe events in chronological order and use transition words to show the sequence of those events.
While rubrics are quite often used for writing assignments, they also work for any subject matter. For a science project, the rubric might require the student to list the materials used in an experiment and describe how he or she completed each step of the scientific method. A rubric for a history essay might name a historical event to research, list the resources to use, suggest topics to include, and provide the required length.
Most teachers recommend that their students look over the rubric before writing a first draft. In the scene at the beginning of this post, Johnny, the virtual school student, and his Learning Coach are using the rubric’s guidelines to improve his work. Following a rubric means more than just “doing it right”; it means meeting and exceeding rigorous expectations. Naturally, as students progress through higher grade levels, rubrics represent a corresponding higher standard of quality.
When grading assignments, virtual school teachers often type explanations on the rubric and return it to the student and Learning Coach. Teacher comments may point out potential areas for improvement or provide positive feedback about traits that are already strong. A highly gifted writer might see a comment such as, “You used hyperbole very effectively. Do you know what hyperbole is? Let’s talk.”
In my virtual classroom at Wisconsin Connections Academy, I use rubrics to show the high expectations I have for my students. I encourage students and Learning Coaches to make the most of a rubric by following its guidelines while writing a piece, checking it against the draft, and reviewing it to better understand the grade assigned. Got the rubric? Ready, set, write!
How have you used rubrics to help enhance your child’s education? Share your ideas in the comments below.