Micro Rubrics: Improving Writing With Specific Feedback

By Justin Lim on October 26, 2009

If you sometimes find yourself up late at night reading through a stack of essays or lab reports then you're not alone. The trend in schools today is that "every teacher is a literacy teacher." With this in mind, today it's not only English teachers who have to edit stacks of papers, but also history, economics, government, art, and even science teachers.

I hate editing papers, but I also assign a lot of them. As a result, I began creating micro rubrics that focus on the quality of specific parts of an essay, making it easier for students to make revisions.

Here is an example:

Literary Analysis Essay (Lamb to The Slaughter)_Page_2 Literary Analysis Essay (Lamb to The Slaughter)_Page_3
The benefit is that when students get their essays back, instead of getting general details about the the whole essay's content, they are able to see how many points they were awarded for specific pieces. This is much more meaningful for when it comes time for revision and there is never a question as to why an essay received a particular grade.

To be sure, I'm not saying that a micro rubric replaces the meaningful comments from an edited paper, but what I am saying is that it gives me an extra grading option. Of course, a mere score is not as instructive as a detailed comment, but often I simply do not have time to address every single content issue. Sometimes I'll combine a micro rubric with detailed editing for a first draft, but will simply use the micro rubric on a final draft. It really depends on balancing the time I have to edit and the number of writing assignments. Also, I still use a general rubric for writing conventions, because the nature of providing feedback for mechanics requires actual editing.

I know that I say this all the time, but if anybody has any good ideas of how to efficiently provide meaningful feedback when grading essays please comment. Teachers around the world will be eternally grateful!

Warm Regards,

Justin Lim

Rosemead High School

El Monte Union High School District


Thank you both for sharing these great ideas! I'm really excited to try them out!

Nancy, can you post an example of the writing reflections you have our students complete?


I agree that providing feedback on writing is one of the most time consuming parts of teaching. In fact, I sometimes feel as if I put more effort into my comments than students do on writing the paper! One idea I implemented last year and felt it effective to continue doing is including a written reflection piece. After students receive the final graded draft back, they respond to a few questions I pose about their writing process and also to agree or disagree with the grade I assessed. This allows for great communication between me and individual students. I find students are often harder on themselves than I am, but if they are truly upset with a grade or my feedback it is easier for them to voice that in writing than speaking with me. This is an ungraded piece (though still required) of writing (so I can quickly scan them), but I think it gives the student more ownership in his or her writing process.

[Edit: Response]

Hi Nancy!

I really like that idea! I especially like it because it's easy to implement and something that I can start doing immediately. I think that I'll spend some time thinking of good reflections questions later today!



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