How to Teach and Grade Using Rubrics

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using rubrics

How many times have you assigned a report or project to  your homeschooled student and then were surprised when they turned in SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than you expected? Me, too! Until I  learned how to teach and grade using rubrics.

As the teacher it’s your job to clearly communicate what you want your student to do for an assignment. No matter what type of homeschooling curriculum or methodology you use or how old your students are,  learning to teach and grade using a simple rubric will help you be a more effective teacher.  Especially as you get into the middle school and high school years!


How do you use a Rubric?

You are teaching and modeling clear communication when you use rubrics with your students.

A rubric often eliminates misunderstandings by:

  • helping you think through the assignment before you give it.
  • giving you a clear, concrete way to explain exactly what you want your student to do.
  • providing a written reminder to your student of what he’s aiming for as he works on the assignment.
  • giving your student a way to double-check to make sure his assignment is complete before turning it in.
  • offering you the perfect tool to evaluate and discuss your student’s work with her.

Rubrics work equally well with written assignments, oral presentations, hands on projects or anything else you might dream up, for history, science, language arts and many other subjects you teach. You can make your rubric as simple or complicated as you want, depending upon the age of your student and your grading criteria.


Sample Rubrics

Personally, I didn’t grade my children until midway through middle school. But I often used a rubric to ensure that my kids understood what I expected to be done for an assignment. Here are a few rubric examples.  The first is a simple rubric you might use in elementary school if your student was assigned to write a story.

Basic Rubric for Elementary















Upper Grades Rubric

Here’s a more detailed rubric that I’ve used for a middle school or high school student. I love that you can make these as simple or detailed as you want, depending upon the age of your student and the complexity of an assignment!

This particular rubric is used in many of our high school literature courses, such as Essay Styles (for 8th/9th grade) and General Literature (usually for 9th grade).

Narrative Essay






Directions for scoring this rubric: An easy scale of 4-excellent, 3-satisfactory, 2-fair and 1-poor works well when grading with rubrics like this one. Once you’ve determined the total points earned compared to the total possible points, you can develop a percentage score. For example, in the Narrative rubric example above, a total of 24 points is possible. If your student scored 21 out of the 24, simply divide the total scored by the total possible and multiply by 100.

21/24 x 100 = 87.5 or 88%


Two Teaching Tips for Using Rubrics


    1. If one of my students turned in something that I would have had to grade as “poor,” I considered it unfinished and sent it back for more work.


  1. The difference between ‘excellent’ and ‘good’ often reflects the student’s effort. If someone really wants to do an excellent job, that student goes the extra mile to make sure the assignment is correct and complete.


How to Make Your Own Rubrics


  1. Decide which skills or concepts you want to evaluate.
  2. List them in the first column on the left.
  3. Create a table in a computer program or draw a grid on paper.
  4. You may add rows or columns if you would like a more fine-tuned system.
  5. Share the rubric with your student to explain your expectations for the assignment.
  6. Teach students to check assignment rubrics while they are working on the assignment and before they turn the assignment in to make sure they didn’t forget anything.
  7. Evaluate the assignment using the rubric and calculate the points if you are giving your student a grade for that assignment.
  8. As the teacher, you determine the grading scale depending on the number of elements and whether certain elements are more important than others.

I actually waited as long as I could to begin formal grading. But whether you decide to grade earlier or not, rubrics will still go a long way to ensure you and your students are on the same page with assignments and evaluation.

Have you used rubrics with your students? When did you start using them and how have they worked for you?


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