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by Erica Fischer on Sep 3, 2013

Creating Effective Rubrics for Various World Language Tasks

creating effective rubrics for various world language tasksRubrics are assessment tools that specifically outline how to succeed at a certain task. Although many #langchat teachers know about rubrics, there is discussion about the best ways to create and implement them in the world language classroom.

On Thursday night, #langchat teachers from around the country gathered to discuss the benefits of rubrics and how to design them to assess certain tasks. Although participants had some great ideas about the best rubrics for interpersonal, interpretive and presentational activities, the real gem of the night was the idea of incorporating student decision-making in the rubric creative process.

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Basic Elements of a Good Rubric

#langchat teachers all had different ideas about what should be included in the perfect set of rubrics. @profesorM suggested the use of benchmarks relating to Vocabulary, Form and Purpose. @SECottrell said,” I emphasize vocabulary, function, comprehensibility and comprehension. De-emphasize but still assess language control and task completion.” @crwmsteach said that she likes to encourage Risk-Taking as a rubric, since it can motivate students to take more chances in their language production. @profesorM cautioned teachers to keep rubric goals to a minimum: “I only use 3-4 dimensions usually, then I use them each year and tweak.”

A Time and a Place for Rubrics

Using rubrics is one of the best ways to clarify the goals of your task and help students to accomplish it. Still, they are most helpful in the world language classroom when working on certain types of activities. @trescolumnae said, “My students and I find rubrics helpful, especially for large tasks, and especially when the tasks are tightly focused on proficiency goals.” When asked what competencies we assess, @msfrenchteach replied, “It depends on the mode of communication, but for ex. language control, comprehension, and vocabulary.”@trescolumnae said, “I do a monthly 1-on-1 proficiency check with students, and proficiency-focused rubric makes all the difference.”

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Meshing School-Wide and ACTFL-Based Rubrics

One of the concerns discussed on Thursday’s chat was the incorporation of school-wide rubrics in addition to language-specific ones. @SraSpanglish shared a typical issue: “My school SUGGESTS rubrics so we can reinforce same goals, but hard to justify using them if I’m trying to focus on proficiency.”

While some teachers liked the idea of having a consistent rubric across the school or district, others thought it might be too constricting. In @crwmsteach’s school district, all world language teachers use “the same rubrics and same evaluations for pre and post-assessment.” @trescolumnae has the opposite. He said, “It would be nice to have some consistency, but no, they don’t. Schools and teachers are all over the place with assessment.”

@mrsbolanos had a great idea to combine proficiency-based rubrics with the consistency of school-wide or district-wide language stantards. She said, “[We hade no great rubrics] for WL so we made our own.” @trescolumnae responded, “I think happy medium is ideal – maybe a standard rubric that the teachers develop together??”

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The Problem with Grades

Since rubrics are so linked to grading, it is no wonder that the topic turned to grade-centered students and how they perceive rubrics. @MagistraHigley asked the vital question: “What do you do about students who do the minimum to earn a particular grade? Feedback is the most important part of educating, more than a number. Some kids only want bottom line.”

@profesorM suggested that if students are so focused on grades that they are no longer reaping language rewards, the student should become more involved in the project-creation process. He said, “In that case, the students should come up with their own project to avoid teacher expectations.”

Student-Centered, Student-Designed

This discussion led to one of the most important topics of the night: how student-centered and designed rubrics can improve language proficiency. @mrsbolanos said, “I let my students design how they want to show me what they’ve learned. It allows for more creativity and student interest.”

Not only does including students in the rubric-creation process give them more buy-in when they are completing projects, but it encourages a positive classroom climate and creativity. @crwmsteach said, “I use student input. They often come up with similar rubrics but also a creative component. Then there are never questions regarding evaluation.” @trescolumnae added, “If you design them (and the process) so that students are the primary customers of rubrics (assessing selves), that really helps.”

Still, student-driven rubrics require some management in order for them to be successful. @msfrenchteach said, “It seems to me that it takes skill to guide conversations re: rubrics, expectations, and so on.”@trescolumnae suggested to post previous student-created rubrics in case a particular class was having trouble helping define the rubrics. @SraSpanglish mentioned that students often have too high expectations and must be reminded to start small. She said, “The one thing I learned from seeking their input was start with AT standard, not ABOVE.”

@MagistraHigley summed up this important topic for the evening: “My take away is feeling a sense of community with students: great teachers wanting and doing great things with students!” @msfrenchteach agreed: “My takeaway: Involve students more in decisions about their learning!”

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Thank You

We’d like to thank our moderators, @msfrenchteach and @SECottrell for helping us share relevant resources and ideas for using rubrics in the world language classroom. Unfortunately, there were many comments that we could not include in our overview. If you’d like to see the full transcript of the night’s chat, check out our online archive.

Do you have an idea for a future #langchat topic? Share your ideas with us!

Additional Resources

Musicuentos Proficency Rubric
NYLOTE Rubrics
How and why I don’t use a rubric to grade regular free-topic writing. (@musicuentos)
Bill Heller’s class participation rubric
Glastonbury (CT) rubrics by mode and level
FLENJ CAPS Rubrics for World Language
Terrill/Theisen Rubrics
Jefferson County Public Schools Performance Rubric
2 Useful Tools to Create Rubrics for Your Class (@medkh9)
Tech Integration for Foreign (World) Language teachers


Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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