My Experience with the Single-Point Rubric

After talking with my good friend Danah Hashem, reading her excellent NCTE article, and reading Jennifer Gonzalez‘s blog post, I decided to give the single-point rubric a try.

If you’ve never heard of the rubric, don’t worry; I hadn’t heard of it until this summer! The two posts I linked above give excellent explanations of them, so I would highly recommend checking them out. For a very brief description, however, the single-point rubric explains the expectations for an assessment and provides spaces for teacher comments on areas in which students need work and areas in which students excel.

My school has pre-made rubrics for most of our assessments; however, creative writing is one assessment for which teachers can create their own. With this freedom, I decided the short story creative assignments for my senior classes were the perfect opportunity to try the single-point rubric!

My Single-Point Rubrics

(Inspired by rubrics Jennifer Gonzalez created on her blog)

You can scroll through each embedded document; if you’re on a mobile device, please feel free to click on the link below to view the Google Doc.

To view the Google Doc, please click here.

To view the Google Doc, please click here.

If you’d like an explanation of why I included each category, I’m happy to write a post about that as well!

When I first started thinking about using the single-point rubric, I had to determine how I would translate my feedback into grades. To make it easier to understand for myself and my students, I explained that the column labeled “criteria” would be in the B range, “advanced” A range, and so on. For a more detailed description of this, check the bottom of the rubric.

My Experience

Spoiler alert: I thoroughly enjoyed using the single-point rubric!

What I found was that the marginal feedback and the end “letters” I would normally give students were easily integrated into the spaces provided in the rubric. Not only did I not feel like I was doing any extra work, but I also felt like the work I was doing was better organized and better focused. Moreover, I felt like writing in the category boxes made it easier for students to understand how my feedback translates to their grade, so instead of seeing a marginal comment of “check date format” or an end not reading “plot structure wasn’t clear,” students saw it in the categories and the grade breakdown in the rubric. This made it easier for students to clearly see the areas my feedback suggested they need the most practice in.

Freeing up the marginal space of assessment feedback, I was able to use marginal comments to respond as a reader. Because these were creative short stories, I wanted to give students feedback on how I, as their audience, experienced their creative piece. Rather than my experience being overshadowed by marginal feedback, it was the central focus. I found myself commenting things like “Glad the character said this because I was thinking it!” and “I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING” and “haha! This character’s amazing.” I was able to comment on their short story like I might in person or how I might with a friend. This was incredibly freeing for me, and I think comments like this can only help to improve students’ confidence in their writing!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about or experiences with the single-point rubric in the comments!


Why Everyone Should Attend an Edcamp

This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Edcamp North Shore at Lynnfield High School.

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 10.20.18 AM

Source: Edcamp North Shore’s website

If you’ve never been to an edcamp, first of all, why?! They’re amazing, and I can’t recommend them enough. But second of all, here’s what it is: an edcamp is formatted in the style of an “unconference” in which participants make the schedule that day and all in attendance are encouraged to participate as experts in the field. For anyone who hasn’t attended an edcamp, this format may seem scary, but I can assure you, the atmosphere at edcamps is nothing but encouraging and welcoming.

Something that I love about edcamps (and there’s a lot) is that moving between topics during a session is encouraged, so if you feel like you’ve gone to a topic that either doesn’t really meet your needs or you’ve gotten as much as you feel you needed from, you can head to another topic. This was particularly useful for me because there were some sessions during which several topics that were interesting to me were happening, so I was able to move in and out of the topics as needed in order to get as much out of the day as possible. In addition, for this particular edcamp, there were Google Docs created for each session and topic, so now I can go back and read through the notes for each session (ones I attended and ones I didn’t) in order to use all the incredible resource suggestions from the teacher-attendees.

A few topics that I found particularly useful were: movement in the class, students as teachers, and going gradeless. But even the conversations that happened during breakfast and lunch were invaluable. If you’re interested in reading more about the things I learned, check out my Twitter feed and/or #edcampnorthshore.

I can’t recommend edcamps enough, so the next time you see one being offered in your area, register, invite friends, make new friends, share your experiences, and learn from others!

My Teaching Manifesto: 2017-2018 Edition

With the school year finally here, and after reading the inspired posts from fellow teacher and bloggers Susan G Barber and Danah Hashem, I’ve decided to write my own teaching manifesto for this school year. By posting these commitments here, I want to refer back to them through the year, sharing my progress on meeting these goals. My hope is that this will become a yearly practice, making me a more purposeful, well-rounded, and reflective teacher. Without further ado, here’s my 2017-2018 teaching manifesto.

My students

  • I will get to know each of my students on a personal level, enabling me to meet not only their academic needs but also their mental-emotional ones.
  • I will go to school activities in order to see my students partaking in activities that make them feel proud.
  • I will be mindful that students have more than my class to worry about, and, therefore, I won’t ever give them busywork.
  • I will worry less about how many texts we get through and more about how deeply we get into each text.
  • I will have my students do various kinds of writing, frequently.

My colleagues

  • I will ask questions and ask my colleagues for help.
  • I will utilize my colleagues’ areas of expertise.
  • I will share areas in which I feel confident.

My personal life

  • I will prioritize time with my husband and dog.
  • I will take my dog for a walk at least once a day (even when it’s cold, and I just want to cuddle under a pile of blankets).
  • I will make time to see friends, and I’ll try not to spend that time just talking about work.
  • I will (try) to keep my home life organized throughout the week rather than having a massive organization/ cleaning day during the weekend.

My self

  • I will make time for me at least once a month (whether it’s getting a manicure, a massage, or just reading by myself), and I’ll try not to feel guilty about it.
  • I will prioritize my physical, emotional, and mental health, starting with being more physically active.
  • I will forgive myself. When I, inevitably, fall short in one of these areas, I will forgive myself, and I’ll try not spend so much time beating myself up about it. I will understand that I’m only human, and I make mistakes, and I will try to learn from them.

These are just a few of the commitments I’m making for this school year. I’d love to know what commitments you’re all making as well!

Malden bound

With the school year approaching, I want to share some news: I’ll be moving on to a new school. I’ll miss my colleagues and my students at Haverhill High, and I wish them all a successful school year. To all the wonderful people I met at HHS, please keep in touch!

This coming school year, I’ll be joining Malden High School’s English Department. I’m excited for this new opportunity and anxious to begin!


Malden High School (Source: Bunker Hill Community College)

At Malden, I’ll be teaching junior and senior English. Junior year focuses on rhetoric and argument; as rhetoric is an academic focus of mine, I’m ecstatic to teach a course devoted to it. And the senior course I’ll be teaching is called “Monsters;” after speaking with the teacher who developed the course, I’m even more thrilled to teach it this year.

I can’t wait to start this new journey in my teaching career, and I’m excited to share it all with you!


Why Every Teacher Should Watch 13 Reasons Why and To the Bone

Possible Trigger Warning: For anyone who has or may still be struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or eating disorders, please be aware that this post will touch on these subjects. Please continue reading only if you feel ready to engage with those topics.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or eating disorders, please contact the resources below:

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

National Eating Disorders Helpline: 1-800-931-2237

Additionally, don’t hesitate to seek out help from a trained professional. There is so much strength in seeking help.

Continue reading

What I Learned From My First Full Year Teaching

It’s been quite some time since I posted on the blog, and I hope that this post will shed some light on why I’ve been so neglectful (see #4 below).

On June 20th, I finished my first full year of teaching. This year has been so many things– exciting, exhausting, challenging — but, most importantly, it has been enlightening. I have learned so many things from this first year, and to ensure that I never forget these valuable lessons, I thought I’d share them here. Continue reading

You Should Be an Actor

At least once a week, I hear a student say, “You should be an actor” or ask, “Why weren’t you a drama teacher?” I always laugh and remind students that my passion is English, but it’s a question I’ve been reflecting on a lot recently.

Of course part of the reason for these comments and questions is that when we read plays, I enthusiastically teach acting skills and the importance of purposefully using one’s voice to deliver lines. However, a bigger reason for these questions is due to how I deliver my lessons. I am constantly playing with my voice in the deliverance of different parts of my lessons.

For example, I’ve had both students and colleagues laugh at how I call out names when I’m passing back materials; frequently, I call names as if I’m introducing them at some sort of sports game. Sure, students will cringe and might laugh at me, but I get a little chuckle and smile from them, and that’s what’s important to me. I find doing silly things like calling out names in an announcer voice or cheering someone on when they pass in work has made my students much more open with me. And although my students might act like they’re embarrassed for me sometimes, I can tell that also think it’s fun. I had a student recently who passed in some work late, and when I replied, “one more assignment to go” (in a chipper, but not DJ-announcer cheering-voice), she said she was upset I didn’t cheer; when she passed in her last late assignment, I happened to be working with someone else, and when I finished with the other student, she reminded me that I said I’d cheer for her, so off I went with my “woos” and clapping. Did I look strange to anyone who might have walked by room? Probably. But she went back to her seat with a smile on her face, and that’s what counts!

I joke with my students that my weird tones make the class even more exciting and keep them on their toes, but there’s actually a much deeper method to my madness. I am not afraid to be weird in front of my students; I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself, and this is important to my teaching philosophy and how I want my students to engage with learning in my classroom. I’ve had students get anxious about reading in class or answering a question (for fear of being wrong), but I’m able to say to them “‘Insert name,’ do you see me every class? You can never look as silly as me! Don’t be worried!” And do you know what my students’ responses often are? “True…” and then they try. By being dorky and silly in class, I am able to empower my students to take risks that they may not be willing to take otherwise. I want my students to view learning as an exciting process, and I want them to be comfortable making mistakes, taking risks, and, well, being a little dorky!

I don’t write this post to suggest teachers should always be dorky and goofy; I’m certainly not like this all of the time. My goal is to teach my students the skills they will need to move on in education, but the best way to do that is by making a connection with my students, which, I believe, this does.