4 Tips for Using Rubrics in Middle School


Use these tips when creating and evaluating project-based learning for your middle school students!

As the end of the school year approaches, I like to engage my students in project-based learning. To ensure students know exactly what is expected and precisely how they will be graded I use rubrics. Rubrics clearly state how a student can earn top points for their work and how they might earn less than top points.  I have found that these 4 tips help make them more effective.

1.  Start with the End in Mind

When I create projects, I always think about the creative side.  I think about how the students will have a chance to make something new and explore!  But then I am faced with the fact that some students don't seem to have the same sense of wonder I have and need to be told that things like depth and dimension are necessary parts.

Whenever we complete projects in my middle school ELA classroom, I always use rubrics to grade.
So I think about what I want the end product to look like to demonstrate learning and then begin to build my rubric from the top down.

The top score is always 4 points and this is where I categorize all the things I expect to see.  A score of 4 has all the required parts.  A score of 3 has most of the required parts.  A score of 2 has some of the required parts and a score of 1 has hardly any of the required parts.

2.  Make the terminology student-friendly

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I distinctly remember using words like "depth" and "dimension" and of course, my students thought I was from Mars.  

I also like to make the scale very student-friendly with room for half points.  Sometimes, a student's work is in between a 4 and a 3 in a certain category.  I say use the half points and just provide some written feedback as to why.  

3.  Don't re-invent the wheel

Have you seen the website called Rubistar?  There are TONS of pre-made, editable rubrics for teachers to use for FREE! It's an amazing site to begin your rubric-making because it saves tons of time and helps you categorize the areas for grading.

4.  Use smaller versions of your rubric for grading

When I grade the students' projects, I make smaller versions of the rubric to attach to each student's work. I use it as a grade sheet and circle the parts of the rubric that their work demonstrates and then do the math right there on the rubric to determine the grade.  I can also write feedback on the rubric, including how 1/2 points were assessed.  Then, when students get their work back, they can see exactly how their grade was determined and I have much, much fewer (if any) inquiries about grades.

Honestly, I can't imagine grading projects in any other way.  And we have projects in my classroom all the time - for reading standards practice, for novel assessments, and more.  Here a few that are ready to go with included rubrics:

TEN highly structured choices for Project-Based Learning with included Rubrics - Printable and Digital!
10 different projects each with very structured directions and a rubric for grading.  There's something for everyone with all kinds of creative ideas to match various intelligences.
Your middle school students will use menus to practice determining central idea, take a quiz, and then either receive a menu for enrichment or remediation using this set!

This is one of my reading project-based learning sets for central idea.  Students get a menu of 2 choices to help them practice determining a central idea. Then there's a quiz. Students who score 80% or better receive an enrichment menu to create something new. Those who score below 80% receive an enhancement menu with 2 choices to remediate the content.  Each menu comes with a rubric.  :)

I actually have project-based learning sets like this for the first EIGHT reading anchor standards in one money-saving bundle.

I hope this helps you when creating and evaluating project-based learning for your middle school students!

Thanks for stopping by!

1 comment

Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope to hear from you and will reply via e-mail. :)