Update and Reflection on Using Rubric Codes

Lean, Mean, Grading Machine


Why Codes?

My #goals are constantly around trying to get unburied from a stack of paper. This week, I got through 64 argumentative essay rough drafts. I spent three hours total. Insert dramatic pause for reflection, thought, and awe. For any English or writing teacher, this may be making your brain go all fuzzy or blurry because before rubric coding I was spending 5-6 minutes per paper. That would have been 6.4 hours. How did I cut this time in half you ask? The power of rubric codes. 

I got the idea of rubric coding from Laura Randazzo and her TPT product Exhausted by Essays. In her product guide, she offers a solution to get the reading of papers down to 5 minutes. I got down to 2.5 minutes on rough drafts. Now, I did this through a system that I will outline in this post using the six traits of writing.  I started the journey in October, and I have already made revisions to my six trait rubric codes already. I wrote about in my first post with rubric coding that the six traits gave all writing genres a common language, and that students are able to identify their mistakes. Better yet, I am able to help students who cannot identify how to fix a mistake better fix an error. 

How It Works

Here are my coding sheets and the revision plan that I give students to fill out and my recently updated argumentative essay code sheet. 

Step 1: Students turn in rough drafts. 

Step 2: I give feedback. I limited it to Voice, Organization, and Ideas for this draft of the paper. On the next draft, I will look at all six writing traits. 

Step 3: Students will complete a revision plan using the form all the way to the left. 

Step 4: Students get feedback on vague answers on "how to fix their feedback." Example: Missing a citation for the paragraph. Student responds "I will fix my citation." Teacher states, "Okay, what citation? What page number?" Etc. Commence with writing conferences!

Step 5: Student produces a new draft. All codes will be fair game on the next draft for all six traits of writing. 

Variations to Grading

For the first round of argumentative essays, students were asked to insert evidence and introduce and explain it as well. This is the first time that any teacher has asked this of my students, and I knew they were going to struggle. However, I limited the amount of feedback to Voice, Organization, and Ideas. No matter how bad I wanted to circle stuff, things, good, bad, vague pronoun "they," crazy, weirdo, and so on...I didn't. I was just looking for these three types of codes. While I love the six traits, I would argue that Voice, Organization, and Ideas are the three most important. While Conventions, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency refine a body of text, it is the former three that make it have any bones or body at all. Here is an example of a submitted revision plan:

Student is writing an argumentative essay with Maus I by Art Spiegelman as an anchor text.

Student is writing an argumentative essay with Maus I by Art Spiegelman as an anchor text.

My plan is to use this focused method of feedback in different types of writing. This can be from quick write paragraphs to longer pieces of text.  I can give feedback using only one category at a time, or I can pick and choose my categories in the six traits to assess student writing. For example, if my students submit a paragraph response. I can only choose to look at Sentence Fluency and Ideas. Mix and match. 

Reflections on Student-Teacher Writing Conferences

While walking around during drafting time, it was interesting to ask students about their plans. I critiqued their revision plans, and I asked them questions about how they were going to fix specific feedback. My main concerns were looking at papers that I knew had no quotations or evidence from the text. Then, I was looking at organizational structures. One of the most curious things to come from these conversations was that students were overwhelmingly concerned with presentation. It may be that they are not sure of how to fix a running header or that they were looking at line spacing, but I found this curious that sometimes they had not addressed larger issues with their paper and were narrowed in on how their paper appeared on the page. In the future, I may avoid putting presentation codes until I look at Voice, Organization, and Ideas. I got around to 30+ students in about 50 minutes. I was moving, but I didn't take any more paper home for this day. 

Future #Goals

Goal #1: Make rubric codes accessible to struggling writers. I feel all of these codes-even limiting categories-is still too much for writers who struggle. I am getting ready to grade personal narratives for General English 6, and I am excited to use feedback codes. I want to limit the codes to 2-3 in each category so the feedback is more concise, and students have less room for error when trying to identify issues in their own writing. 

Goal #2: I want to continue to modify the code sheet for different types of writing. I feel confident about the argumentative essay one after I have revised and edited it twice. I want to make sure I have code sheets for simple paragraphs, compare and contrast essays, personal narratives, cause and effect essays, research writing, problem/solution writing, etc. My goal involves building an arsenal of rubric code sheets that have been refined by the writing process of my students. 

Goal #3: I need to focus on positive writing skills too. I recognize this form of feedback identifies only weaknesses or areas of improvement. I want to also create a rubric coding sheet that is all positive feedback. I think I may use this on their next essay-just to give them a boost in self-esteem and self-efficacy in their own writing. The goal is not to be scared of writing, but respectful of the process that never seems to have an end result. We submit final drafts, but I am not sure we ever really write them. 

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Writing Mindset Reflection: How do you incorporate POSITIVE writing feedback into your writing conferencing or written feedback? How are you making your writing feedback more efficient to save time?