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How to Rule (Your Class) with a Rubric

Rosshalde Pak


How to Rule (Your Class) with a RubricWho says students don’t like, want, or need structure? Pasha! 

Your students, no matter their age, need and want structure and organization.  They want to know what the limits are and how to push them.  Furthermore, your students want to know what the expectations are – just like adults – they want to please you (their teacher) and do well and be successful.  This last point is especially true. 

By utilizing and implementing rubrics into projects and assignments, you are actually setting yours students up for success!

As a teacher, I consider my students to be just shorter versions of adults.  Obviously maturity is a huge difference, but I feel that if we can take the time to explain concerns, situations, and curriculum to our students – that they will catch on to what we are saying and what we mean.

What Is a Rubric?

First, let’s discuss what a rubric is.  It’s set up like a spreadsheet/grid. Usually with 3-5 columns and rows.  Each column would represent a possible grade (ABCDF or Exceeds, Meets, Doesn’t Meet) and each row represents an aspect of the assignment. 

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I normally provide my students with a 4x3 grid.  It has a grading scale of 1-4 on three different curriculum point; however, it be could easily adapted depending on your need and the age/grade of your students.

1 – means that a student did not complete any points as directed.  Normally this is when a student did not try or put in the time to complete the assignment.  This could also be considered an F or a ‘Doesn’t Meet’.

2 – a student put in minimal effort, did the bare necessities to complete project.   The basic requirements are all here. This would be a C (to D) average of a ‘Meets Minimum’.  This student would be just passing.

3 – this student would be meeting all of the curriculum requirements with this grade.  They may have given attention to a few extra details; all of the grammar is properly utilized.  This constitutes a B or a ‘Meets’ grade.

4 – Now we are seeing work that really excels.  Lots of extra attention and flourish has been put into this assignment.  The work has been rechecked for accuracy.  More drawings or images were attached.  This student went beyond the basics and should be recognized for that.

Choosing the Standards for Your Rubric

The row components can vary greatly depending on the age of the students and what type of graded work your class is doing.  For example, fourth graders who are doing a five-paragraph theme paper would be graded on: neatness, proper grammar, spelling, proper sentence structure, content, organization, punctuation, and following directions.  Whereas tenth graders who are also working on a paper would be graded on: proper sentence structure, content, organization, use of figurative language, resources/references. 

It’s important to note that although you may be tempted to integrate several standards into your rubric – remember to limit our focus areas to five at the most; otherwise, it just becomes overwhelming for the students.  Plus, one of the main reasons to utilize a rubric is to set your students up for success, while at the same time finding key areas of focus.  If you have too many areas, you can miss out on those.

Sample Rubric Grid


1.  Doesn’t Meet/ F


2. Meets Minimum/ C


3. Meets/ B


4. Exceeds/ A



Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling, Capitalization, Sentence Structure



Choppy rambling sentences, repetitive, spelling errors,

Spelling is mainly correct, too many sentences begin the same way, language is functional, minimal attempt at variety in word choice

Sentences more mechanical than fluid, can be read aloud easily, not chopping, spelling, punctuation, and grammar are generally correct

Easy flow and rhythm, overall sentence structure enhances meaning, spelling correct even on difficult words, no punctuation or capitalization errors,





Repetitive ideas, vocabulary is limited, purpose is not present, still searching for a topic, disconnected thoughts

Lacks specific information, vague ideas, attempt at figurative language,

Reader/writer connection present – not strong, “safe” purpose is credible, moments of sparkle here and there, words enhance meaning

Powerful and engaging words, language creates 5 senses imagery, purpose is powerful and engaging, goes beyond the obvious or predictable





Lack of organization, paragraphs out of order/structure, sequencing and pacing are not present

Connections are awkward, generally correct words, language is functional, formulaic structure detracts from content

Routine lead and conclusion, paragraphing correct, predictable connections,

Paragraphing enhances style, inviting introduction and satisfying conclusion, thoughtful transitions, smoothly organized

Even though this sample rubric may seem vague, that is simply because it should be more tailored for a specific assignment; as well as understanding the capabilities and age of your students.  However, by utilizing these guidelines and the sample rubric, you should be able to see what you are looking for and make a creation that benefits your students best.  This rubric is yet another way to implement the standards that are needed for your students. 

Aligning & Explaining Your Rubric

As you can see, the aspects of ‘HOW’ to be graded vary.  It can be extremely useful to reference your state, and subject, standards when creating the rubric.  Your standards will allow you to see what aspects should be covered.  In a separate article called How to Make Standards Work for You, I discuss the value of your state standards and why, really, we don’t need to be afraid to use them; creating a strong rubric is a perfect example of that. 

Now that you’ve picked your focal points, it’s time to explain, and provide examples to your students of how each of those points can be achieved with whichever grading scale you want to implement.  After you have created a rubric, you need to take the time to explain it to your students. 

Don’t assume that they are going to understand each point.  You need to go over it, and provide examples.  If the rubric is based on a paper-writing project, then give examples that show that; the same goes if the rubric is for a presentation or group project.

Once the students understand how to use a rubric, they really are on the road to success.  And for you, your grading is already taken care of – you can use photocopies of the rubric as well as your grading system!  Everyone learns and wins!!

What rubric tips do you have to share? Post in the comments section!

This article is written by Rosshalde Pak.  She is an Education Entrepreneur in Portland, Oregon.  You can find more of her writings at

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