Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

My Rubric Descriptor Quandary….Questions And Maybe An Answer



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With 2 weeks to go before I return to the classroom I am starting to think about what needs to be worked on before the year begins – what do I need to have in place for Day 1. This is one of them!

Rubrics- they are the cornerstone of how I evaluate and I have developed many – for all of the grades I teach and the modes that I am accessing. To me they are how I both lay out expectations for what students ‘can’ do and also encourage them to push themselves when they do it. It’s the reason my Yr2 writing rubrics contain an emphasis, for example, on ‘transition words’ – because I really want them to begin to thoughtfully use them. I started my rubric journey with 3 basic rubrics. However, unlike many teachers perhaps, I am someone who is constantly ‘tweaking’  and they have expanded, and morphed, beyond just these first attempts.

My latest issue is ‘descriptors’  When the rubrics first came on the scene I used numbers for each category – but the ‘5-4-3-2-1’ I did not like. Then I moved on to ‘words’ to describe the categories – as I did not like the focus on the numbers. For my interpersonal self evaluations this means things like ‘comfortable’, ‘not so comfortable’ etc. But in the rubrics that I am using to provide direct feedback this has meant – traditionally the following:

  • Not Yet Meeting – you are not yet meeting expectations in this area
  • Minimally Meeting – you are ‘just there’ in what is expected
  • Meeting – you are doing what is needed to do – beyond the minimum
  • Fully Meeting – rich and varied and showing depth — you have pushed to go beyond what you were asked to do
  • Exceeding –you are way beyond what is expected

However as the year went along I began to dislike these descriptors.  There were too many categories I realized and, as a result, I saw too many students who were in the minimally meeting/meeting and too few who ever reached exceeding. A rubric should clearly show a student where they are – and mine weren’t.

So for next year I have pulled back from ‘exceeding’ and will concentrate on the NYM to FM range.  They will still be able to be ‘between’ descriptors and this will generate the “+/-” ratings such as “MM+” on their way to “Meeting”.  And what of the student who is exceeding.?Well they are going beyond what I would describe as ‘fully meeting’ and for me that will by “FM+” – because they are ‘exceeding’ what I consider to be fully meeting. I am still working out the ‘how’ this will translate to percentages/lettered grades. I hope that this will allow students to more clearly understand the difference between categories – and allow me to feel more comfortable with where they are. Of course if I didn’t need to translate this to percentage ‘grades’ my descriptor quandary would be lessened.

This is definitely a work in progress….and may change by the time I start. A rough look at my rubric is here…and comments are welcome!


PS Why not check out the most amazing proficiency rubric ever (!) from Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell on her Musicuentos site!

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