Chances are rubrics were not around when you attended elementary school, but over the past decade, teachers have come to count on rubrics as a fair and easy-to-implement method of evaluating students' work. You may find you like them because they allow student performance to be evaluated in situations that more closely replicate the challenges of real life than isolated tests.

Basically, a rubric is a device for organizing and interpreting data gathered from observations of student performance. They break skills and concepts into smaller components that are easy to evaluate. They can be used for a specific assignment or to evaluate a student's overall performance in a content area. Take a look at these sample rubrics for different grade levels and content areas:

Rubrics differ from traditional methods of assessment in that they examine students in the actual process of learning, clearly showing them how their work is being evaluated. Rubrics communicate detailed explanations of what constitutes excellence in a project and provide a clear teaching directive. Each level of the rubric is scaled, usually on a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 being the highest and 1 being the lowest.

When they are shared with students before a project or an assignment, a rubric can be a powerful motivational tool. If students are given the chance to contribute to the content of a rubric, "then it is much easier to hold them to its standards," says Charlotte Sassman, a teacher at the Alice Carlson Applied Learning Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Rather than directing students toward past performance ("Why did I get a B instead of an A?"), rubrics can teach them to focus on current and future performance ("What steps can I take to progress to the next level?").

Want to create rubrics for individual assignments and projects? Use Scholastic's customizable Rubric Maker.


This article was excerpted from Teacher magazine, published by Scholastic.