Using a Writing Rubric

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1 What is a Rubric? A rubric is an organized scoring guide which indicates levels of performance and the criteria or measures for each level. While we don't typically take the time to create a rubric each time we have to make a decision or evaluate something, we could. Ultimately, understanding how scoring rubrics work will help you improve your writing skills. To illustrate, review this informal rubric for judging chocolate chip cookies. It is a four-point rubric, with four being the highest score. Traits Chips At least 10 chips per cookie. 6-9 chips per cookie. 2-5 chips per cookie. 0 chips per cookie. Nuts 5-6 halves or big pieces. 3-4 halves and some small pieces. A number of small pieces. Only scraps and nut dust. Dough Moist, soft, and chewy. Soft and chewy. Not so soft; somewhat dry. Hard and dry. Your personal rubric for chocolate chip cookies might look different. For example, you might use a more robust scale and score cookies from one to ten. If you value other traits, you might score cookies based on their texture, taste, or color. That is a matter of personal taste. When scoring writing, however, it is important to use a rubric that works the same for and is understood by everybody. While many different writing rubrics exist, the same five traits of effective writing are identified in nearly every one. Using the MY Access! Rubric Look at the MY Access! six-point informative rubric that you printed. It categorizes writing into five essential traits and rates each trait along a six-point scale. Read across each row and down each column for descriptions that serve as the markers for each score level of each trait. As you study the MY Access! rubric, you will begin to understand the key criteria that separate one score from another for each writing trait. Consequently, you will begin to appreciate what makes one writing sample better than another. As a writer masters each of the traits focus, content development, organization, language use, and mechanics subsequent drafts of each essay will improve. This is how writers improve their writing: they learn to identify the components of effective writing and practice using them. Imagine you wrote an essay and earned scores of five for every trait except organization, which earned a score of three. You should know what to revise immediately. The three in organization alerts you to the fact that your essay showed a basic structure but lacked transitions and was not unified and consistent throughout. If you want to earn a five for organization, your essay will have to show a logical structure or pattern with some transitional devices. So, you need to review the organizing pattern in your essay and add some transitional devices between ideas.

2 Exercise One: How do I recognize a six? Imagine a student has just completed an essay which My Access! has rated a six. Such an essay is described as very effective or highly proficient. Read the essay below and use references to the rubric and evidence from the essay to prove that it deserves a rating of six. Writing Assignment: There is certainly no shortage of problems that confront our world today, including poverty, violence, and ignorance to name a few. At times, the list of problems can seem overwhelming. Thankfully, there are many people and organizations that dedicate their lives and work to help make the world a better place. Select a person or organization that you are aware of that works to improve the lives of others. What does this person or organization do? How will this activity make the world a better place for all its inhabitants? Then, write an essay in which you describe this person or organization and discuss what it is doing to make the world a better place to live. Sample Essay: Nowadays, education stresses more than just reading, writing and arithmetic; it also shows the importance of service. When I was a freshman in high school I was introduced to a yearly community service plan. It seemed at first a total inconvenience that we all had to complete a certain amount of hours dedicated to our community. But at a Catholic school, those were the requirements if one wanted to pass the year, so I had absolutely no choice. We were handed a list of activities and organizations that were more than willing to accept help from anyone, truly they needed the help. It was a hard choice because most students wanted to be with their close friends. The slots were filling up, and as always I was procrastinating. Yet, there was still one organization with unlimited slots. It was called Habitat for Humanity or Habijax. I almost waited half the year until I finally attended one of the activities. I knew little about the organization so I wasn't prepared for the hard work that lay before me. They day was hot and the work was hard but I learned a lot though, especially that the work was so rewarding to me because it was so important to someone else. It was an early Saturday morning when I pulled up to the site with my dad. Since I was only fourteen he was just dropping me off for the day with a bag lunch and a grouchy frown on my face. He knew I didn't want to participate, but he also knew I had to. It seemed that he didn't mind driving thirty miles to this meeting place. It was so strange to see the site because we were in a housing development. I thought it was going to be a soup kitchen or something of that nature, but I was wrong. Once I arrived I was baffled to see how many people were already there. Not only were their students from my school, but also others from neighboring Christian schools, and plethora of adults. Luckily, I knew a few of the girls there, so I jumped out of the car and ran over to talk with them. The meeting place was a construction site, or so it seemed from a quick eye view. There were several men with hard hats and tool belts standing around a pre-poured foundation. Curious, I joined the crowd bringing out my full attention to a man in a white hard had, who seemed to be in charge. He began to explain what Habijax was and why we were gathered there. The site was to be a home that we were going to build. The home was not like any other because if it were, I don't think that a bunch of adolescent students would be constructing it. They were low income houses that were funded by an organization that helped families who couldn't afford to buy their own place. In fact, most of the houses already on the block were built by Habijax. The construction was funded by the city and other citizens who cared about theses low income families. The agency felt that if they started a home for someone in need it would help them get their lives on track, not only helping the parents, but to improve the children s futures by putting them in a more secure environment.

3 It was fun to be part of the foundation to saving this less fortunate family. I found myself not caring that it was a Saturday and I could have been at the beach or the mall with friends. I actually found myself wanting to work harder than everyone else. I discovered a sledge hammer and started to whack at a left over, decaying wall. I can't remember a day when the last time my arms hurt so badly. Yet, I kept on working because right before my eyes this house was really forming. I could see it in my mind how happy the faces were going to be when they arrived at their new home. My heart almost leaped for joy when we were finished. To this day I still can't figure out why it takes so long for construction workers to build a house, because on that day several inexperienced teenagers finished a three bedroom home. Habitat for Humanity or Habijax is an organization that many feel would make the world a better place. You have to think about it in a sense that you are giving to the less fortunate some thing that they could only dream of achieving. These families are just like anybody else, except they don't have the proper finances to buy a new home, usually due to poverty. Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Habitat builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses with the help of the families. Habitat houses are sold to these families at no profit, and funded with affordable, no-interest loans. The homeowners' monthly mortgage payments are used to even build more Habitat houses. Habitat is not a giveaway program. In addition to a down payment and the monthly mortgage payments, families invest hundreds of hours of their own labor into building their home and the homes of others. After that day I found myself volunteering every year for Habitat. The people in charge were caring and an absolute joy to work for. Habijax is not only found in my city, but world-wide. They are always building homes as well as looking for volunteers so, join today. Focus: Content Development:

4 Organization: Language Use: Mechanics:

5 Official Assessment: This essay earned a six because Focus: In this thoughtful essay, the writer successfully maintains an insightful controlling idea and argument about the relevance of the work. ( I knew little about the organization so I wasn't prepared for the hard work that lay before me I learned a lot though, especially that the work was so rewarding to me because it was so important to someone else. ) By remaining focused on the controlling idea, which is expanded and further developed as the essay progresses, the writer displays a thorough understanding of the purpose and the audience. The essay very effectively completes all parts of the writing task. Content Development: This writer clearly describes how Habitat for Humanity is making a difference in his/her community. He/she develops ideas fully and artfully, allows the reader to understand how helpful this organization is, and suggests why others should get involved as well. By using appropriate details to support ideas ( The home was not like any home because if it was I don't think that a bunch of adolescent students would be constructing it. They were low income houses that were funded by an organization that helped families who couldn't afford a home. In fact most of the houses already on the block were built by Habijax. They were funded partially by the city and other citizens who cared about theses poor families. They felt that if they started a home for them it would help them get their lives on track, not only for the parents but to save the children by putting them in a more balanced environment. ), the writer proves that this organization is truly making a difference in the lives of others. Organization: This response demonstrates an entirely unified organizational structure. The introduction grabs the reader s attention by relating a personal story. ( When I was a freshman in high school I was introduced to a yearly community service plan. It seemed at first a complete drag that we all had to complete a certain amount of hours dedicated to our community. At a Catholic school those were the requirements if one wanted to pass the grade, so I had absolutely no choice. We were handed a list of activities and organizations that were more than willing to accept help from anyone, truly they needed the help. It was a hard choice because most students wanted to be with their close friends. The slots were filling up, and of course as always I was procrastinating. Yet, there was still one organization with an unlimited slot. It was called Habitat for Humanities or Habijax. ) The body paragraphs describe this writer s firsthand experience with Habijax and why this service is so helpful to the community. In the conclusion, the author makes a final attempt to inform and persuade the reader to volunteer as well. Language Use: This essay demonstrates effective language use. The writer uses precise language, artful word choice, and a defined voice. ( They day was hot and the work was hard. I learned a lot though, that I wouldn't find myself trading that for anything. I can't explain what it felt like to just be helping someone less fortunate. In fact it was almost fun being a part of the first foundation to saving this less fortunate family. I found myself not caring that it was a Saturday and I could be at the beach or the mall with a few friends. I actually found myself wanting to work harder than everyone else. ) This response is constructed of well-structured and varied sentences, and it demonstrates a clear awareness of audience. ( Habitat builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses with the help of the families. Habitat houses are sold to these families at no profit, and funded with affordable, no-interest loans. The homeowners' monthly mortgage payments are used to even build more Habitat houses. Habitat is not a giveaway program. In addition to a down payment and the monthly mortgage payments, families invest hundreds of hours of their own labor into building their home and the homes of others. After that day I found myself volunteering every year for that organization. ) Mechanics: This writer has mastered the conventions of standard, written English. This essay contains few or no errors in grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and spelling.

6 Exercise Two: Improving on a perfect score. Simply earning the highest rating on a writing rubric does not mean the writer s job is finished. Every essay can be improved. Identify five ways that the writer could continue to improve the overall quality of the essay Here are a few suggestions 1. The writer could generate new supporting ideas and redraft the essay around these new ideas. 2. The writer could incorporate opposing viewpoints from critics who do not believe this organization is making the world a better place. 3. The writer could revise the essay to improve the words that are used. 4. The writer could write from a different point of view, such as from the perspective of a recipient of the organization s services. 5. The writer could try to write to a different or more specific audience, such as a group of potential volunteers or donors. Exercise Three: Evaluating one trait. For the next essay, concentrate on only one trait: content development. Evaluate the content, rate the essay, and justify your rating using references to the rubric and evidence from the essay. Writing Assignment: There is certainly no shortage of problems that confront our world today, including poverty, violence, and ignorance to name a few. At times, the list of problems can seem overwhelming. Thankfully, there are many people and organizations that dedicate their lives and work to help make the world a better place. Select a person or organization that you are aware of that works to improve the lives of others. What does this person or organization do? How will this activity make the world a better place for all its inhabitants? Then, write an essay in which you describe this person or organization and discuss what it is doing to make the world a better place to live. Sample Essay: The world would be a better place with a little help from a friend." I don't know who started this saying but is nice to keep in the back of everyone's mind. In this fast pace world it is nice to know your can slow it down and spend time with a friend. A friend is a person that is making the world a better place to live. The world is a vast place and if I'm just focus on our neighborhood or the shrouding area then it would spread to the world. To call that special friend it does not matter if it is the same gender or the same age. A friend can live next door or across the ocean. A friend can be one or many. A friend is there when there is something

7 happy or special. Like the day someone finds out their s pregnant or when someone just comes home with a good grade on a test. It does not matter how big or little the challenge or the excitement. Just getting to a phone is the only thought on that persons mind and calls that special friend. A friend also knows when something is not right by the sound over of a voice over the phone line or by the lack of calls. Just even by the look on a face that is normally not there. A Friend even understand when a special animal dies knowing the animal was not a human being, but just the same the animal was special to you. A friend would not make fun of that someone for the nerves brake down over a dog or cat, even a snake. A friend is there when he or she is needed. Helping out in the community; building a neighborhood playground, painting a church youth center, even taking blood pressure at a health fair at the neighborhood school just because he/she was asked. A friend does this because he or she wants to help and not because of awards or monitory value. The joy of helping out a friend is why this person helps out. Content Development Score: Official Assessment: This trait is scored three because Content Development: The essay develops ideas briefly and inconsistently. It uses mostly general textual evidence ( A friend can live next door or across the ocean. A friend can be one or many. ) and provides some relevant details ( A Friend even understand when a special animal dies knowing the animal was not a human being, but just the same the animal was special to you. A friend would not make fun of that someone for the nerves brake down over a dog or cat, even a snake. ) It connects the thesis statement and supporting ideas with some textual evidence ( not because of awards or monitory value. ), but it is not clearly developed and is not specific or relevant.

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