This year, I have been busy refining the 5th and 6th grade curriculum I teach and “standardizing” elements. While last year I interpreted my school’s standards to mean I had to teach each area of science to both grades — which I found difficult to do without just skimming over the content areas — this year I divided up those standards so that 5th graders learn physical science and earth science, and the 6th graders focus solely on life science. In developing activities I plan to use again and again, I have been busy creating tons of rubrics for all of these activities. While it has been a bit of a pain this year creating them all, it will be WONDERFUL next year when I can just print and copy!
Without a doubt, rubrics are key. At a school like mine where parents are VERY active in their children’s schoolwork, providing students with the rubrics in advance and grading based on those rubrics has eliminated a lot of issues and conflicts that may otherwise develop. Additionally, grading is much more time efficient with a rubric! Instead of trying to compare student work or arbitrarily assign letters, I can very quickly evaluate a paper, presentation, or project by simply highlighting the box in which the student falls. That said, I rarely highlight just one box. Sometimes students fall somewhere in between, or their work is missing an element I would expect in top-mark work. I generally highlight where students fall and then determine grades — usually by creating a falling scale.
For example, on a 16 point rubric (four criteria at four levels), a full 16 points would score 100%, while a student who earns 12 points (the second level down) would end up with 90% in my class. I’m not simply taking 12 divided by 16, which would leave students with a 75%, as some teachers do. I design my rubrics so that Level 3 is “B quality” work — the percentage students are assigned needs to fall in that range as well. I pretty much do this with all my grading, and it has worked really well. I think it reflects student understanding better than doing a flat “points to percentage” type thing. I can hold my students to high standards (and keep those full 16 points a bit elusive!) without killing students grades for work that is still of good quality.
Anyway, here are some of the rubrics I have been working with this year. They are all available at my TpT store if you’d like to check them out!