Sunday, September 23, 2012

An introduction to writing a rubric for English Language Learners

Education has all sorts of jargon.  For new teachers (especially those teaching English without any previous training), the word 'rubric' might fly right over their heads, leaving them to wonder about this strange-sounding word that so many teachers use.

So, you ask, what's a rubric?  In short, a rubric is a tool teachers use to accurately and objectively measure how much students have learned about a specific topic or skill.  To give you a framework, here are a few samples of  rubrics:  ESL Reading Rubric, ESL Speaking Rubric.

How do I create a rubric?

  1. Determine what you want to measure.  Are you grading for specific, detailed accuracy, or overall understanding?  Are you trying to assess listening/speaking skills or reading/writing skills?  If you are primarily checking to see that students understand the vocabulary, you don't want to design a rubric that measures grammar or syntax.  However, if you want to assess a bigger picture of language skills, you might incorporate all of these aspects.  
  2. Determine the standards for excellence - inadequacy.  (I know, I know, that's a lot of power in your hands, right!?!?)  Typically, you don't want to measure for more than 4 levels.  I usually use something like this:  (4) exceeds expectations; (3) meets expectations; (2) approaches expectations; (1) does not meet expectations.  These standards are typically listed across the top of the table.  
  3. Determine the skills you want to measure.  Choose 3-5 skills you want to assess based on what you are measuring.  For example, if you want to measure speaking ability, you might assess vocabulary use, accuracy, pronunciation, and comprehensibly.  
  4. Write measurable descriptions for each skill/standard.  For example, describe what each expectation looks like for each skill.  When you write descriptions, be as specific as measureable as possible.  Instead of writing, "The student uses lots of advanced vocabularly," you might write, "The student uses over 10 advanced vocabularly words accurately in context.  

I like to give the rubric to the student before the assignment so they know how they'll be graded.  I find students appreciate knowing teachers' expectations ahead of time.

Other helpful resources on rubrics:

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