A meme of a teacher wishing for a single point rubric.

Effective Assessment and Feedback: The Single Point Rubric


I’ve never really been focused on grades in my classroom. Some educators and parents might find it shocking to read a teacher put that in print.  However, what I mean is that I seldom talk to my students about levels and letter grades.  I focus discussion around feedback, improvement, exemplars and success criteria.  When rubrics were all the rage I used them rather unsuccessfully. I found that traditional 4 level rubrics were about evaluating after the fact rather than providing feedback that can be acted upon during the learning. Rubrics are sometimes handed to the students as a “big reveal” when the project has been evaluated without any chance for acting on feedback.  I don’t believe that success criteria should be a secret to be kept from students.  It isn’t fair that students are thinking, “Well, if you’d only told me that was an expectation I’d have been happy to include it.  I can’t read the teacher’s mind!”  Clear is kind.  Be clear about the learning goals and success criteria for an assignment and give the students a rich task that they will have to dig into and get feedback to act upon during the learning.

Apart from the evaluative vs. the assessment function of a traditional rubric there are two other things that I dislike about the traditional 4 level rubric.  The first thing is that traditional rubrics inform students about what the bare minimum is that they have to do to complete something.  Some students will look at level 2 and do only just what it takes to fulfill that level.  Secondly, level 4 is meant to go above and beyond the expectations.  In a traditional rubric, students seeking level 4 don’t need to think outside the box at all.  All of the criteria for a level 4 is clearly stated-no thinking necessary.

The answer to this assessment question?  For me it was the Single Point Rubric.  Using the single point rubric changed the learning for my students and shifted my assessment practices. It focuses on what the student is doing well, what the student can do to improve in the work and exactly what the learning goal and the success criteria is for the learning.  However, it also allows for the above and beyond to be driven by the student.  It lets the student pleasantly surprise the teacher with creative thinking.  It is a clear and kind way to deliver feedback to students to encourage them to be successful in their learning.

I have included an example for a grade four  Single Point Rubric Literary Response.  Feel free to copy and change it to suit your needs.

If you would like to learn more about Single Point Rubrics:

Cult of Pedagogy

Edutopia-6 Reasons to Try the Single Point Rubric



Anchoring Learning

Anchor charts have long been identified as a high-yield learning tool. What exactly is an anchor chart? Why use them? How do you determine what should be on an anchor chart? These are common questions faced by teachers as they try to establish optimum learning environments for their students.

I have heard anchor charts best described as the ‘third teacher’. The following is a quote from Scholastic’s Literacy Place – For The Early Years, 2010. “ To promote literacy skills and encourage independence, you will want to make strategic and purposeful use of print resources such as posters, signs, lists, charts, and student/teacher writing samples in your classroom. One tool in particular, the anchor chart, is very effective in promoting student success. An anchor chart outlines or describes procedures, processes, and strategies on a particular theme or topic and is posted in the classroom for reference by students. Examples of anchor charts include: what to do in an interview, tips on using commas, what readers need to do when they infer, how to choose just right’ books, or how to write a literature response.

This of course aligns perfectly with the visual learner. Visual learners learn through seeing, observing and anchor charts allow them perpetual access to critical information and not just when instruction by a teacher is occurring. They can return to the key ideas or concepts when they need to and as often as they need to.

One lesson that I have learned is that not everything can be an anchor chart even though it is all so valuable. If the visual scene in your classroom becomes cluttered the benefits of this tool diminish as they just become part of the scenery and no longer a tool for the students. In my class we have a large variety of anchor charts positioned around the classroom with different colours, fonts, sizes, shapes and almost any other way I can make them unique and stick out. I did an experiment with my students one day where I gave them post it notes and asked them to go around and put them on the anchor charts they used most often and felt were most helpful to them. Prior to that I had made my prediction of what might occur. Needless to say, what I thought was most important did not align with their view. Sooooo from that point on, my anchor charts became a mutual task created by my students and myself. I still do all of the finish work, but the content and positioning in the room is a shared decision. One final change in my practice as a result of that data collection was that I am constantly changing the visual cues so that they stay fresh as learning tools and not just become a regular site in the room.

Another feature of this great tool is that I also have personal anchor charts around my desk that help me as I learn new pedagogy to add to my practice. I am able to return to them throughout the day to evaluate my growth and development progress. IMG_1799 IMG_1803 IMG_1804 IMG_1797 IMG_1806 IMG_1798 IMG_1800 IMG_1801

Harvesting Our Apples

It is that time of year when I am able to enjoy the labours of my endless hours of worrying, endless hours of commitment and endless hours of planning for my students. We call it our harvest time.

At the beginning of every school year a new group of students come into our program with a variety of dysfunctional behaviours accompanied by a lack of success in school and we always start with the same story. I bring out a group of apples in various conditions and ask them which one would they choose. Of course all of their decisions are based on what they see on the outside. Is it bruised? Is it ripe enough? Does it have the right shape as compared to all the other apples? But yet the best part of the apple is the part that nobody can see, the inside. That is who my students are. They are completely judged by what people see on the outside and from what they have experienced from the outside. Often, past teachers have no opportunity to experience what a wonderful, young person they truly are due to the violent, aggressive behaviour they exhibit. My first question to the students is how do we show people what an amazing person you really are on the inside. How do we show them your best part?

That is the question that was first asked over 10 months ago and after a year of academic and behavioural programming we have arrived at harvest time. They are now being judged for who they truly are and not what they previously looked like. Both the adults and students in Room 16 take great pride and enjoyment during harvest time. In our daily circles we are preparing them for that transition back to the regular world. That begins by revisiting awkward or negative scenarios that took place in our room, except at this time of the year we are able to laugh about it. The students shake their heads in disbelief as they have come so far and changed for the good so much, those past behaviours seem incomprehensible to them (self evaluation at its best).

They then begin to identify which strategies or skills have worked best for them over the year. They make a list of their most effective strategies, expressions or visuals and we put that together into a laminated bookmark. That is taken with them as they transition back to their next academic setting and becomes the foundation for their next year’s success.

I hope you are taking the time to enjoy your harvest time!

Classroom Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions are a time-tested tradition in which individuals make personal commitments to improve in some aspect of their life. I have used this activity in my classroom for over two decades and find it to be a wonderful, fun tool in helping both myself and my students set goals on how to make the most of their academic year.First and foremost I model this activity for my students by reflecting on my first four months of the school year. I determine what went well and what do I need to do to further enhance the success of my students. I set personal resolutions in the following areas:

  1. Continue – what practices are going very well and should continue in the new year
  2. Improve – what practices have not went as well as expected and what do I need to do to improve that area of my teaching
  3. Experiment – what new area or tool would I like to start to experiment with in my day-to-day practice

This year my resolutions are going to be to continue with the use of technology as an alternative option for demonstrations of learning. I will improve in my area to both understand and apply the concept of sensory accommodations in the room (especially around noise). I will start to experiment with social media and how it can become an option for my classroom pedagogy.

For my students it starts with a discussion around New Year’s Resolutions and how it is a part of their life. Most often they talk about how the adults in their life make resolutions around quitting smoking, losing weight or exercising more. The conversation shifts to what the purpose of a resolution is and why people make them. I pose the following question, ‘Should only adults make New Year’s Resolutions?’. Of course their answer is always no. That leads us to talking about the types of resolutions that children might make. It always generates a very rich discussion about how we are individuals with different strengths, different needs and different lifestyles. That focus in itself is a key vehicle in which our group comes to understand and accept the uniqueness of each other.

The final product that is used by my students is a graphic organizer that will focus on four different areas of their life. The first is personal health. What do they need to do in order to be healthier (exercise more, less screen time, eat healthier)? The second focus is on happiness. What will they do in order to be happier in their life? The third area is academics. What do they need to spend more time on in order to be successful? The final component will be on friendships. How will they be a better friend or seek out more friendships? For the month of January we review these resolutions every Friday. After that we look at them every 2-3 weeks and finally in our year-end celebration we examine how successful we have been in reaching our resolutions. Over time I have had the students put them in a time capsule that is opened up much later in the year as well as having them take it home and share with family or a close friend. Whatever way they are used, it is an enjoyable way to start the new calendar year off.

Photo of Lisa Taylor

Student Self Assessment

Our students need to be reflecting on their own learning and skills to ensure they are understanding. Having a child that is struggling with a concept and knows it is much better than having a child who is out to lunch and believes they are on the right track. We need to teach our children to reflect on their learning regularly and ask questions about their learning. Do I understand this? Could I do this on my own? How is this different? How is it the same?

Self Assessment isn’t the only assessment, we aren’t setting ourselves up to not need to assess our students by any means. But we do need to teach our students how to accurately self assess. There should be no surprises for them. If they don’t understand something, they should know that. It is essential that they are able to self assess so they can seek assistance when needed.

Some tools that I have used in my class that I have found to be extremely successful:

Post-it chart – Give each student a post-it and have them answer a question on a topic and put a smile, straight face or sad face on the back and put their answer on their number square of the chart when they leave (for lunch, gym, etc.). Kind of an exit slip, but with some self reflection. The happy, straight, sad face corresponds to how they feel about their answer – did they get it, kind of, not at all.

Stop Lights – I love this one! Give them a question or activity and have them work through it, and when they hand it in, they put it in the green, yellow, or red bin. They hand their work into the red bin if they feel like they aren’t really getting it, yellow if they are kind of getting it, and green if they think they have it. You can also do stop lights as a post-it activity. I used to keep a laminated stop light on my wall for post-its to be handed in. They just numbered their submission on the back so no one knew where they were putting it.

Self Assessment Form – In Math, I have a standard assessment form for problem solving that I staple to each problem. It has the rubric I use and space for comments, etc. This year I modified it to include a self assessment portion and now the student staples it to their work and fills in the self assessment portion before they submit their problem to me. This way, I have their problem, and their self assessment together and I can refer to them both in my assessment which is all on the same little sheet.

Make sure you do something with student self assessments. It is just as important that you check to see that they are accurate and talk to them about it. It is tricky to tell a child that they aren’t getting it when they think they are, and that is one of the very difficult parts of this job, but it is necessary. Students need to know what they can do and where their needs are so they can seek help and work to become more successful.

Work self assessment into everyday if you can. Even if it is small, like in a game, it is necessary.

Reporting Time


It is that time again, or maybe the first time for you – writing reports. It seems to loom over us as the due date for reports approaches. Yet, it isn’t always as insurmountable as it seems. Here are some tips for assessing, organizing, and preparing reports:

  • Create at-a-glance observation pages. These can be created in a grid or a list. Organize students in boxes or lists alphabetically by first name only. Print the observation sheets in a different colour than white, and put about 10 copies on 3 to 4 clipboards. Now they are handy to pick up and record what you notice, hear, see, throughout the day. If you prefer, you can title them to focus your observations, such as Learning Skills or Math skills. When writing reports it is easy to flip through a pile, looking at the same location on each page for anecdotal notes or examples to include in your reports.
  • Self-assessment. Provide time and guidance for student’s to self-assess particular work or their learning skills. It also beneficial to work on goal-setting and reflect on their goals prior to the end of each reporting period. These self-assessments can be useful when writing about their learning skill development.
  • Take photos. Using a smart phone or iPad to take many photos throughout the day can be valuable when writing reports (there are also apps for documenting student work, such as ThreeRing or Sesame). Often, you see students collaborating or participating in photos that you may not have realized during the activity. This happened for me when we had a guest dance instructor in the classroom. I took video and photos throughout the workshop. When I reviewed the video before writing reports I was surprised to see that the students I considered reluctant in dance, were actually dancing!
  • Record marks and brief comments. When I record marks in my assessment binder, I also add a brief comment. For example, after recording the students’ marks for a math test, I add a brief comment such as “doesn’t understand concept (knowledge)” or “needs work on communicating ideas” or “learning to apply…”. Then, when it comes time to write a comment for math in the reports, I have a quick reference that I can use to personalize the comment and the next steps for learning.
  • Maintain student portfolios. Use a crate or plastic bin for files. Make one folder for student and file all tests and work samples. Refer to the file when writing reports to have specific pieces as examples. Then return work to students and start anew for the next assessment period.
  • Build comments. Build subject specific or learning skill comments using brackets or *** to be filled in with comments and examples that are unique to each student. Cutting and pasting the same comment using only modifiers forces students to fit into a high, medium, or low category that may not best represent them.
  • Prepare for interviews. Before parent interviews, review the reports and jot down a few strengths and needs in a notebook (I organize one page per student) to guide your discussion. Then, make notes regarding any comments or concerns the parent offers, as well as any follow-up accommodations or communications you need to do. Then, you have these notes to refer to in any meetings that follow or for your next reporting period.
Finding your own routine of organizing and preparing for report, will help to ease the stress that report writing often brings.


Setting Learning Goals

One thing I really try to teach my students is a sense of ownership with regards to their education. All too often, I find students are content to just sit back, be told what to do and where to improve, and never think too hard about their own strengths and needs as learners. It isn’t ever as simple as just asking them what they think they did well and how they could improve next time, though – you have to start small and work up from there. Overall, I’ve found it a really rewarding experience to work with them to create goals, monitor their progress, and reflect on their learning.

I start on the very first day of school, where I ask them (among other things) what some of their goals are for the year ahead. Often my students’ goals are related to learning French, as I teach Middle French Immersion and it’s their first year in the program. I’ll ask them for a bit of detail – so instead of just saying “I want to get better at math,” I ask them what specifically they think they could be doing better in Math. It’s a good starting point to see what they think about themselves as learners. Sometimes it even highlights anxiety right from the start, as I have had students in the past give me a very long paragraph about how “bad” they are at reading, writing, multiplication, etc. It’s also usually very good insight into which students are highly motivated to learn and/or improve their French skills.

In mid-October, after we have gotten a few larger tasks finished and I have had time to see their learning skills and work habits in action, we have a discussion about the six different learning skills on the report card and what those mean for them in practice. I have them complete a self-evaluation using criteria that we develop as a class, giving themselves N, S, G, or E for each learning skill and answering two questions: What do you think you are doing really well? and What do you think you could be doing better? I limit them to only one area to improve, in order to focus their attention; otherwise, some students would put “everything” down for what they could improve.

This first self-evaluation often has students being WAY too hard on themselves. It’s why I always give them my own evaluation of their progress immediately afterwards, so they can see the comparison. Sometimes our opinions line up, sometimes our opinions are wildly different, but it’s an opportunity to have a dialogue with each student individually about what they think of themselves as learners and what I see as their teacher. We discuss both evaluations – mine and theirs – and then decide on a course of action. What will he/she be working towards improving? (Responsibility – managing time effectively and getting work done on or before the deadline.) How will he/she get there? (Break tasks down into steps and check in with the teacher regularly to ensure that he/she is on track.) How will we know that he/she has been successful? (If most work has been handed in on time, it’s probably an improvement!)

I send the student’s self-evaluation and our plan of action home with them when I send the Progress Report in November. It helps students be accountable to their parents about how they are doing in school. If a student is going to give him/herself an S for Collaboration, and I agreed, then the parent knows that it isn’t just me that sees it this way – the student is admitting that they need to work on this area. It allows an opportunity for students to speak with their parents about their strengths and needs, too, and vastly reduces the amount of explaining parents need ME to do come interview time.

By the time first term report cards come up, students have generally had a lot of time to work towards their goals and we can sit down and assess where they are, whether they feel good about their progress or not, etc. We do another self-evaluation following the same format as the first, and I again show them my own evaluation afterwards. We repeat the process: sit down and chat, compare evaluations, decide on a course of action, send both evaluations home with the report card. Sometimes students keep the same goal, if they and I feel that they have more work to do, but others have made good progress by this point and want to tackle another area of need instead.

For the last report card, I still have students do a self-evaluation, but I don’t help them plan the course of action that time. They’re expected to be able to reflect, think critically, and come up with their own plan of attack for how they will work towards their goal over the summer and/or as they enter the next school year. Overall, my students have been very successful with this kind of self-reflection and I have seen a tremendous amount of benefit in having them be accountable for their learning skills and work habits. It sends the message that I feel that the first page of the report card is every bit as important as the academics on the subsequent two pages, and I find that my students take their work habits MUCH more seriously in class knowing that we talk about them so often.

Sometimes I have students who honestly deserve an Excellent in all six skills and don’t have much space for “improvement,” so to speak. For these students, we try to find ways to encourage them to take on more of a leadership role in the classroom so that other students can benefit from their skills and confidence. This, too, has been highly beneficial, especially in a second language classroom. It lets them know that their work isn’t finished when they get their E and that there is always somewhere to go from there.

I would strongly encourage all teachers to talk to their students about that first page of their report card, break the language down to criteria they will understand (because honestly, some of those criteria on the report card are HARD to understand!), and get them to think critically about their strengths and needs as learners.

Time for Reflection

The last week of school is a great opportunity for reflection. It is a good winding-down exercise that the students can enjoy. In my grade 5/6 class I am currently leading the students through the steps of creating a Portfolio of their work. This is what we are doing:

– last week, we handed out all the work that I had saved through the year in various folders for assessments/interviews (such as math tests that were returned after being signed, displayed writing pieces, art work, individual goals).

– each student had a large pile of accumulated work to sort through on their desk. As they sorted I listened to their recollections and delights as they discussed their work with their peers.

– I provided each student with a folder and instructions to select 2-3 pieces to represent math, language, art and any other subjects that they wanted to represent.

– then they were encouraged to create a table of contents for their work, and write a reflection on why they chose the pieces that they did.

– now they are assembling and decorating their folders as they choose. Some students have stapled their work in, while others have used holes and ribbon to create a book.

– in the next few days we plan to do a gallery walk and the students can share their portfolios with others in the class.

This exercise in reflection has provided students with direction and time to reflect on their own progress and success. Every student has been engaged and interested in creating their own personal portfolio. It has also encouraged them to take pride in their work and take home at least one folder, rather than making the rash decision to recycle their work before it even makes it home. It also provides a vehicle to share the work with their families.

Photo of Mike Beetham

Time To Smell The Roses

As the year now shifts to the final months of academia, it is important to take the time and reflect on the growth of yourself as a teacher, the academic gains that your students have made and the endless best efforts that took place in your learning community. We often start to stress or feel the pressure of the year ending with so much curriculum yet to cover that we neglect the opportunity to recognize the gains accomplished thus far. By instilling in your students (and developing in your teaching practice) the skills to reflect on their effort, accomplishments and next steps we pave the way for students to become a partner with us in the educational journey.

The timing is critical as it will allow all parties involved the opportunity to give and receive feedback that will direct them in their goal setting for the last two months of the year. If this feedback is provided too close to the end of the year there will not be an adequate amount of time to use it to create change. This is an essential time when I focus on the accomplishments of each student and work with them to establish next steps. An analogy that I would use is when a coach takes that final timeout to share a plan and pump up his/her team for that final push to reach their goal. The message the student receives is that I am capable, I have been successful and it is important for me to keep it going rather than coasting into summer vacation. Enjoy this time of year and take great pride in what you have been able to accomplish with your students.



Photo of Tina Ginglo

Using Audio for Self-Assessment

I have added a new layer to the writing process in my third-grade writing workshop.  As I wrote in a past post, our writing workshop process begins with students writing in their Writer’s Notebooks.  When a writer completes a piece of writing, they then meet with their assigned writing partner and/or me for a writing conference.  At this conference, writers review the success criteria for their writing assignment and then identify two ways in which they have successfully met the criteria.  Writers then identify one criterion that needs to be developed further. They then transfer their writing to their laptop keeping in mind the feedback they received and making their revisions as they type their second draft.  Ultimately, writers post their narratives in their writing group on Edmodo.com where they receive more feedback from their group members.

Using Audacity software and a set of headphones with microphone, my third graders have learned how to read and record their personal narratives.  Once recorded, students listen back.  They then ask themselves two questions:  “In what ways does my story sound like a real story?”  And “In what ways can I make my story sound more like a real story?”  Students enthusiastically record their stories.  This component of the writing process engages those auditory learners who could benefit from this new component of the writing process.

I have changed the way I phrase these reflection questions.  At first I instructed students to ask themselves, “Does my story sound like a real story? Yes or no?”  If yes, why does it sound like a real story? If no, why not?”  I found that this self-assessment exercise wasn’t making a significant difference in their writing.   I concluded that it wasn’t the process that was ineffective, but the questions I was asking writers to consider.   These yes/no questions left writers basically rating their narratives as “good” or “bad.”  Their narratives either sounded “real” or didn’t.  These questions didn’t allow students to identify the strengths in their narratives and where it could sound better.  Realistically, all of my writers’ stories sounded a tad real, some more so than others. The goal here is to make everyone’s writing sound better. Using these new questions should ultimately improve the writers’ craft.

I am also thinking of adding audio to the writing conferences with writing partners and teacher.  Some students struggle to give feedback on other students’ writing for a number of reasons.  Perhaps a student’s penmanship is difficult to read or spelling or punctuation is interfering with comprehension.  Listening to a story as it is intended to sound eliminates those barriers to comprehension.

I am proud of my third graders.  Each day they are becoming more independent writers.  I believe the secret to their success is that the students understand the flow of our writing workshop and, thanks to clear success criteria, they can identify their strengths as writers.   They see themselves as writers!   I am fortunate to have access to audio technology.  In reality, you don’t need computers or even headphones to make this happen in your classroom.   You can go “old school” with a mini cassette recorder.   Some old cell phones have recording devices.  One of our goals is to teach our writers to write like readers and read like writers.  Using audio is one way to get there!