Tuesday, November 27, 2007


No catchy titles lately. I'd probably be marked down for that if I was being graded on a rubric.
Rubrics have been a popular topic again lately. I see that as a good sign because that means there are is more project based learning going on. I'm okay with a few worksheets here and there to support learning- but I have seen more understanding through projects where the kids have to apply thinking skills.
While doing my trainings lately and talking to educators, I mention rubrics to grade a project and the teachers will ask, "Do you have a favorite site for creating rubrics?" Oh yes! YES! It's my favorite by far, and it's found at Myt4l (My Tools for Learning- a gift to educators from the creators of Tech4Learning products.) When I found their rubric maker online, I became one happy teacher. I like the fact that I can select the categories and subcategories, edit the text if needed, and when I save it- I'm either saving it as an HTML file or as an Excel file (which is great for making changes later). But besides being a great rubric maker, one of the things I really enjoy is the fact that it creates a checklist for the students.
I once helped a teacher do a study, after we read about a similar one online. We did a small project with a rubric with the ones column first and the fours last. We learned that a majority of the kids only did the ones column. They really do read left to right and they stopped after the first column. So lesson #1 - always start with your highest standard and work backwards. The next thing we did was do another simple project with the fours first this time. Much better results - but some of our smart slackers who read column three realized that they could do a little bit less and still get a passing score. So the third project we did a checklist of what was required. We had gone over the rubric in class and then handed out the checklist as a guide. The results were awesome, even from our smart slackers. For that reason, Myt4l's rubric maker is one of my favorites.
However, one of the things I have been learning lately is that teachers that have not taken a proper PBL class have no idea how to write a rubric and I am one of those masochists who believe everyone should try to write one by hand first to get a full appreciation for the rubric makers online. If you are trying to teach someone a rubric, I'd like to share with you something that I learned YEARS ago, I believe on the Beacon Learning Site.
Imagine that you are about to hire a maid. (I know- every teachers dream!) You can either pay her $25, $50, $75, or $100 a visit. Write out what you expect done for each amount. Obviously when you pay more, you'll get more. (A guy teacher once told me this made more sense dealing with buying a car- but it's the same concept.) Okay, so for $25 you want her to come in and vacuum, sweep and mop all rooms in the house. For $50 she's going to do all that, plus add in dusting, washing your baseboards, and cleaning the toilets bowls. For $75 she'll do all that and also change the sheets on the beds and change out all the guest towels and clean the entire toilets. For a $100, she's going to go from room to room and do everything, plus completely clean the kitchen, wash out the bathtubs, and any laundry within a time period that she can get done.
Of course, that's a little off, but you get an idea. And yes, the maid could be a male - didn't mean to be so gender specific there.
The next issue that comes up with rubrics are how to actually USE them to get the score. That's where this nifty little website comes in to play. I learned about it on Twitter (thanks JMaklary) and loved the explanation! The site is called Roobrix, and the explanation is the part that I really liked. So if you're new to GRADING by a rubric, check it out. OH, and it's free to use.
So come on teachers! Get out Inspiration, plan a lesson with web researching (using netTrekker of course), decide on a product outcome that would show understanding (Photostory/Digital Story, a blog entry, creation of a wiki with the organized information, a model, etc.) and use a rubric now that you have a cool tool for building AND grading!

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