Becoming Better Teachers: Chapter 5 – Using Scoring Rubrics to Support Learning

•March 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This chapter describes rubrics and their many uses while providing several examples. The rubric examples range from highly developed and useful to flawed. The essential question for the chapter is “How Do We Communicate What We Mean by ‘Good’?”

A rubric is a rating scale that defines and differentiates different levels of performance. They are different from checklists (where attributes are present or absent), scoring sheets (where a specific attribute gains a specific amount of points), and rating scales (which look only for degrees of completeness and emphasis). “A rubric actually identifies all the needed attributes of quality or development in process, product, or performance and defines different levels for each of these attributes.”

Most classroom rubrics fall into two category types: holistic and analytic. Holistic rubrics assign a single score to an entire process, product, or performance, capturing the whole of the product instead of emphasizing its parts. Analytic rubrics break the product, process, or performance down into its critical attributes, or dimensions. Each attribute or dimension is then described separately with descriptors.

Rubrics are best used as tools for both instruction and assessment.¬† They are useful to teachers because they help to clarify what teachers want from students and convey to their students what they are looking for in ways that students can understand and use. They can still be useful to teachers even if they’re not shared with students, because the rubrics can help the teachers be clearer in articulating what they are looking for in an assignment.

Students benefit from rubrics because they can use them to identify exemplary work, and see where they are on the path towards creating exemplary work. Rubrics also help teachers justify and validate grades to other stakeholders like parents, support staff, and administrators.

Rubrics are best used when they depict processes, products, and performances that are found in the real world. Process can include cooperative learning, discussions, or critical thinking. Products can include research papers, lab reports, investigations, stories, poems, or art products.

All rubrics should have the following components: levels, dimensions, and descriptors. Levels indicate the range of performance measured from least developed to most developed, dimensions are the attributes used to judge what is being scored, and the descriptors refer to the language used to define the dimensions in the different levels.

Content, structure or form, and layout contribute to the quality of the rubric. Guidelines are presented for each of these. One guideline for content is that the rubric shows consistency from level to level meaning skills and indicators are present at each level. One guideline for rubric structure or form is that the levels should be sequenced in a continuum that supports instruction. Finally, one guideline for layout is that the rubric should be user friendly, including sufficient white space and using bullets or a grid or table format.

Several common problems of first draft rubrics are shared such as the task or project is inappropriate for a rubric, or the lowest level is described  primarily in terms of missing elements.

There are also several examples shared of how students can play a role in developing and using rubrics such as identifying attributes of quality for a product or process, using a rubric for self assessment, or helping to refine a rubric.

Developing a rubric by a teacher is described as having two stages, drafting and refining. A rubric is never perfect and can always be refined. Steps are provided for drafting a rubric, and refining a rubric. Essentially, a rubric should be always be a working or living document, never static.


Best Practices Presentation Reflection

•February 21, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Following should be an embedded version of my presentation. Through the process of sharing and reflecting, what was most important was that the students were analyzing authentic samples of student work. This work could either be the same project from previous years, or something the current year’s students have worked on, and they look at the work with a critical eye.

Best Practices Presentation Notes: ECU 515 Feb 20, 2010

•February 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Word Keepers:

A great way to add vocabulary for the day. Connected to GLAD, Guided Language Acquisition Design.

How it’s done:

  • Select a high use or content rich word
  • Display the word prominently
  • Find a synonym for the word or a brief phrase


Vapid, say it with me, Heard the word?, Never heard the word?, Heard the words and can tell you what it means, Explain the meaning of the word: lack of liveliness or spirit, dull or tedious. (Not an example that was used with the kids)

Add some fun: Give class points whenever someone uses, hears, reads, Assign a student to be the word keeper of the word, Half sheet to create a visual remembrance: definition, synonym, picture, sentence. Hang on the wall, Quotes!

Variation: Games, maybe like two truths and a lie, students choose words from box,


3 part lessons, Minilesson then worktime then share reflect

( I really just want to review this presentation and utilize a lot of the elements )

Connections to prior knowledge

“Comprehension Tool Kit?” Harvey?

Keep things to one point (8minute rule), hammer it home, and let students process.

Campfire analogy for close grouping for the actual mini lesson

Collaborative Learning Groups

Routines established for each foursome,

Placements can be posted on Easygrade pro for students to identify their seat

Look Listen and Link

Stress and anxiety lesson. Learning objective is differentiated instruction. Using clickers for instant feedback to begin, for prior knowledge.

Sentio: Clickers

Life change index: Work collaboratively to complete their own and then their partners.

Direct Instruction,

Stress Relievers, Get out of your seat activities, cooperative piece: students lead in stretches in successive days.

As reading the text, read with a pause (stop and wait for the next word) students have text in front of them, they read that word aloud.

Graphic organizer (reading strategy: target circle Inside 2 topic sentences, middle 5 phrases of import, outside 10 vocabulary words.

Review Process: Pyramid for success (ala John Wooden) In Pairs Each kid gets a number (30 kids, teams 1-15), rotate teams, show rotation visually.

One partner stays one partner moves

Top Cards worth 5 points Fill in the blank (1 card)

then 3 pointers for multiple choice (2 cards)

then 1 pointers for True False (3 cards)

Look Listen and Link

Look for a problem (in general in their own life), listen to a problem (listen for the feelings about the words) , then Link to problem solve it.

Exit Strategy: Small groups one activity, What challenged me?, What more would I like to learn about it?

(Sidenote: If students have a hard time answering what they did or learned at school, ask them what their friends did at school.)

Kagan Structures (Cooperative learning activities)

Teacher A, B, and C

A: Traditional (teacher talks, students listen and work alone) problem: Wide Gap of Achievers

B: Group Work: No individual Accountability, kids can hide

C: Kagan: Each student accountable, PIES must be included, Positive Interdependence, Individual Accountability, Equal Participation, Simultaneous Interaction

Team Building(Fun, no content, easy), Class Building (Students are Up, Moving, and Sharing) Encouraged to do at least one team building one per week, like madlibs

Must haves, Timer tools, online or standing but visible to whole class, small white boards, white board markers, Nice to have: Numbered heads together, team tools, selector tools, number cards.

Face partners, shoulder partners, High, med high, med low, low (you dont want to have high and low partner up.

Face partners = discussion, shoulder partners = working together

To begin, you can just do one a week, have the kids learn it really well, then add another one the next week, and use 3 or 4 that work really well.

Chapter Reviews

•January 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

American Education Chapter 2:

This chapter focuses on the idea of equality of opportunity regarding education in the U.S. Spring first focuses on three school models that attempt to move U.S. schools to more equal opportunities for all students. These are the common school model, where everyone receives a “common” or the same education, regardless of socioeconomic, gender, or ethnic characteristics, the sorting-Machine model, where students are placed in ability groups or tracks to overcome the “influences” and differences of family background toward equal opportunity in education, and the High Stakes testing model, testing what students have learned to determine whether a student may promote to the next level, with the equal opportunity in the guise of a common test.

Spring challenges the success of these models with statistics that show that income, gender, and race have great impact on not only what students come equipped with when they enter school depending on these characteristics, but also, what great differences lie in what students from differing backgrounds can expect when predicting incomes from their jobs after school. Commonly, the wealthier, traditionally white non-Hispanic students can expect better opportunities in school, whereas minorities, especially black and Hispanic students can expect lesser opportunities. An interesting them in this chapter is whether or not schools are perpetuating the cycle of inequality or actually helping to change toward more equal opportunities, regardless of family background. Statistics shared show that the “rich get richer” and the “poor get poorer”, despite the efforts of schools to provide equal opportunities for all students.

Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Teaching for Understanding focuses on how to “uncover” the content as opposed to deliver, getting away from the notion that one must utilize a textbook as their instructional guide to delivering instruction. There are several methods to teach for understanding, but the author chooses to focus on 3 for this chapter: Essential Questions, the 6 facets of understanding, and WHERETO.

Essential Questions are a method of asking questions, generally 2-5 for a unit, that ask questions at the heart of the unit’s learning goals, and are asking questions that are open ended which can be revisited multiple times during the unit to deepen the students’ thinking.

The 6 facets of understanding can be used as instructional tools when planning what student actions during lessons. They are explain, interpret, apply, perspective, empathy and self-knowledge. The author shares several verbs connected to each facet that students can use to uncover the content by processing ideas and making meaning of it. The author makes an important note that these can be utilized by students collaboratively hashing out the content regardless of whether they are gifted or struggling students. Students can learn the important facts by hashing out the content, rather than needing to know the important facts before they engage in the content.

Finally, WHERETO is a framework to consider when planning for student learning.

W = How will I help learners know What they will be learning? Why this is worth learning? What evidence will show their learning? H= How will I hook and engage the learners? In what ways will I help them connect desired learning to their experiences and interests?

E = How will I equip students to master identified standards and succeed with the targeted performances? What learning experiences will help develop and deepen understanding of important ideas?

R = How will I encourage the learners to rethink previous learning? How will I encourage ongoing revision and refinement?

E = How will I promote students’ self-evaluation and reflection?

T = How will I tailor the learning activities and my teaching to address the different readiness levels, learning profiles, and interests of my students?

O = How will the learning experiences be organized to maximize engaging and effective learning? What sequence will work best for my students and this content?

These are intended to guide the planning of your lessons throughout your unit, ultimately asking the question Where to? as you plan.

FAT City revisited 2005

•November 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

These are just my notes from part 2.  Beyond FAT city.

Never do to a kid what you wouldn’t do to an adult.


dumb vs bad

Kids would rather look bad than look dumb most of the time.

There is nothing so unequal as equal treatment of unequals

Attention seeking behavior: Then what do we give them Ignore

Remedial and Compensatory

Three Stooges analogy: cutting off the quills from Curly’s behind, instead of taking them out.

putting books on tape helps, but doesn’t teach the kid how to read

Learned Helplessness

Why open up the hood of the car if I don’t know how to fix anything.

Symptoms might be the same, but the treatment is different.

Laziness vs Learned Helplessness

LD is very pervasive throughout the child’s life.

Spelling Difficulty: Trouble with Revisualization

The Mind’s Eye – You can revisualize what a word looks like (know that it’s spelled wrong, even if you can’t spell it correctly), same goes for visualizing a clean room.

(Reminds me of the cultural impact of mind’s eye, as in a TED video, that native or aboriginal cultures do not utilize their minds eye in the same way)

No idea what the end product is going to look like is like giving someone a job with no vision on what it would look like at the end.

USE a Camera to take a picture to help them revisualize. (for a job like cleaning a room, etc.)

As parents give kids roots and wings

Make no Assumptions

Lack a ton of background information:

LD as a hidden handicap

This is for the rest of my life:

LD is a condition for life.

Adolescence: Celebrating the generalist

Adult world is kinder to the LD kids because they celebrate the specialist.

Adolescent time is the only time that differences are not celebrated, you’ve got to fit right in the little box that the other adolescents have made for you, and it’s a terrible, terrible time.

Recognition of permanence: Realize that what you see in the mirror is what you’re going to be the rest of your life. If you look in the mirror and you like yourself, no big. But what if you look in the mirror, and your parents don’t understand you, your teachers don’t and other kids don’t like you.

Better definitions of LD’s

Attention Deficit Disorder:

They need stimulation.

Biggest problem they face is the lack of organization and planning skills when they hit high school and above.

Social Contracts

Waiting at the end of the line. How to behave in line.

Many LD kids don’t understand the social contracts in life.

Kids walk right through a situation they don’t understand that the social contract doesn’t call for it. They don’t recognize cues that tell them that they shouldn’t walk through, etc.


Kids who pick on them and kids who don’t. They think the kids who don’t pick on them are their friends, lack of understanding of what true friendship really is.

What do you do when they have a good day?

Do you hold it over them as how they should be all the time? Or do you celebrate it as a target?

A lot of LD kids don’t benefit from the kinetic melodies ( brushing teeth, signing your name, tying a tie, making a bed ) its like a new experience every time.

When elephants fight

Impact on family:

When a parent gets the diagnoses of LD, parents go through different stages of understanding in their own time.

Mom and dad don’t experience the same stages at the same time, then they disagree on their kids.

When people are in crisis, they don’t understand.

MultiDisciplinary Teams

Change to transdisciplinary teams. Everybody is there for one reason: to advocate for the child rather than for their department or subject.

When elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets trampled – African proverb

The use of punishment is ineffective. They need positive reinforcement.


They don’t understand how tone of voice and body language can change the meaning of a message. Kids with LD don’t get it.

Special Education rooms and teachers are set up for student success, so it means a great deal more when the LD kids get success in the regular class. Self confidence and self esteem are the largest problems.

Regular educators are the ones who can improve the self esteem of the LD kids.

Parents : become the expert on your child’s disabilities, but take your place at the table, be an advocate for your child.

Symptom Clusters

like elements in different compounds, kids have different clusters of the 110 or so symptoms of LD

High Stakes testing

Based on the idea that kids do their best work. Competition doesn’t motivate but the best kids

Risk Taking

What does it feel like for them.


Violence happens from kids who are bullied. Overwhelming amount of bullying are verbal, spreading rumors, and the internet has added to that.

Make him beautiful again

A boy was beautiful until he went to school, then went to Lavioe’s Cape Cod School, and became beautiful again.

My Problem Statement

•November 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

What is it that frustrates me most, or that I see as one of the major problems I face in my instructional context?

Two things jump right out at me. Number one, the reluctance of some teachers to embrace the available technology we have at our school. Number two, I feel that our school has a lot of room for improvement for family involvement in the children’s education, and that using proper technology can really improve this issue.

One thing I’ve begun this year is a website workshop for teachers at our school every Wednesday after school. I have added computers to our computer lab from a todtal of 15 computers to 30 (thanks to the willingness and cooperation of teachers donating one of their student computers) and plan on changing the focus of the after school technology workshops toward how to use the available technology at our school as the year progresses.

I also want to help increase parent teacher communication and family involvement in our school through the use of technology such as websites, Wikis, and Voicethreads.

Informational Literacy Self Assessment

•November 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Here are four standards provided by CityU related to informational literacy, which is right up my alley as a newly annointed librarian. The librarians in my school district are currently using informational literacy standards that they created last year when we collaborate for professional development.

Number 1: Recognize when information is required and determine the extent of information needed.

Where am I? I think that so long as I have some background with the topic, I can identify concepts related to the topic, I can find sufficient resources, and can articulate the types of information that would be useful. I would say that I fit mostly in the proficient range here.

What do I need to work on? I do feel I could work on identifying an effective and clear research question.

2. Access needed information effectively and efficiently.

Where am I? I don’t see too much difference between proficient and advanced, other than designing a research plan. I feel proficient at finding access to information, but I don’t necessarily have an executable plan. It’s usually more of a consistent roadmap that I usually follow.

What do I need to work on? I could improve on the use of larger search engines in a more efficient manner. I have gotten stuck trying to look up something where it feels like I’m searching for a needle in a haystack. I don’t know all the tools to exclude words in a search, or to search for a specific phrase. I do have a lot of experience, however.

3. Evaluate information and its sources critically.

Where am I? I feel I am somewhere between advanced and proficient here. I am pretty critical about where I get my information for everyday life and news, and am aware that every news provider has some sort of bias. Some just wear it a little stronger than others. I can tell pretty quickly whether an article is going to be of much use to prove my point, whether it lacks in credibility, relevance, or accuracy.

What do I need to work on? I think the area I struggle with the most here is recognizing the authority of the author of a selected text or article. It helps to know what context the author is writing the text in. Scholarly journals generally get a pass, but otherwise, I’m wondering for what purpose is this person writing this.

4. Use information effectively.

Where am I? I feel I am proficient in this area. I do like to have a big picture idea set in my mind of how the parts of the research paper will fit together before I truly start constructing the paper. I feel pretty confident in my ability to communicate my findings in a clear yet succinct manner.

What do I need to work on? I do struggle with time. I feel like I take forever sometimes to revise a sentence so that it clearly says what I am intending.