Single-Point Rubrics = My New Obsession

Making a great rubric is hard, which is why I know many educators opt to find something pre-made they can change a bit to suit their needs or just try and use what they find as is. Rubrics require good backwards design skills and demand a teacher plans with intent, keeping the learner and focus of the learning in mind throughout the process. This means good rubric making, even if ripped from the internet, takes time, which can become disheartening the moment a teacher realizes the rubric falls short of his or her needs. Yet, a rubric can and should be a powerful feedback tool for student and teacher alike. The question, sometimes, is the juice worth the squeeze? How much time and energy can a teacher put into making (or finding) a great rubric? Recently, while on a mission to help my district’s career and technical education teachers with their rubric making, I came across the concept of the single-point rubric via Cult of Pedagogy contributor Jennifer Gonzalez while adventuring on Twitter. Truly, you can go to the link above and get all the information you need on what the rubric is and how you use it, so I will encourage you to visit Jennifer’s post directly.

I simply want to expand on its potential and specifically why this approach to making and using rubrics is powerful in our current standards-driven world of education.

Example of a Single-Point Rubric from Jennifer Gonzalez’s post in Cult of Pedagogy

The single-point rubric is particularly powerful for student goal-setting and self-reflection. As Jarene Fluckiger explains, “The single point rubric is an ethical tool to assist students with their responsibilities of goal setting and self-assessment of their own education.” The beauty lies in its simplicity and focus. Whereas holistic and analytical rubrics can be sprawling, jargon-filled, and light in feedback, the single-point rubric brings a student’s attention directly to what is classified as a proficient demonstration of knowledge or skill with room to provide feedback on where there is excellence and areas of growth. In essence this is easy to read and understand by both student and teacher, and more importantly it is a rubric a student can actually help create and self-monitor with.

Student goal setting is a powerful instructional practice that can feel elusive; I know it did for me at times. This style of rubric gives a practical and tangible means to have students set goals and track progress throughout any assignment in a class. For a teacher, it helps focus on the knowledge and skill needing to be assessed. While there is no limit to the number of criteria a teacher can include, the format of a single-point rubric tends to ask a teacher to be discerning about the criteria to be chosen.

The downside? Well, the rubric demands feedback and reflection, which certainly takes time to write and discuss. But really why even use a rubric if not to help aid and monitor the growth of knowledge and skills where feedback is imperative to achievement? Think of the power in students reflecting on their work using this style rubric paired with the regular feedback a teacher could provide leading up to a finished and revised products.

If I’ve piqued your interest and you want to dabble in using the single-point rubric, click on the link at the beginning for Jennifer’s post where she offers a few downloadable templates. This style of rubric is absolutely the one I will be introducing to the teachers I work with going forward. My hope is to write a follow up post with a genuine review of how the use of the single-point rubric has panned out in my teachers’ classrooms. If you decide to use it in your own classroom, share your story and tweet at me (@theprofjones) or comment on the blog!

Happy rubric making!

Happy New Year: A Look Back in Books!

I genuinely wish I read more books in any given year. Since my doctoral studies, I have not pushed myself to read as voraciously as I always intend. One of my resolutions this year is to change that and in general read more books for both edification and pleasure.

Still, I read my fair share of interesting books that I am sharing in my first post of 2019 along with a brief sentence review for your consideration. Read on to check out the books, and here is to all of us reading more this year!

Hector and Hummingbird by Nicholas John Frith

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So turns out having a toddler changes you. Who knew? I wanted to start with one of the most charming children’s books I read to my daughter (over and over again) this past year. The artwork is unique and the story is a wonderful tale of how important friendships we may take for granted really are. I recommend this for any elementary teacher’s library and certainly for the home of anyone with a child to read to and with!

The Bible Tells Me So… Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns

While I do not talk about religion or my own affiliations on this blog, I mention Enns’ book because it is the one that resonated me unlike anything else I read. In a nutshell, Enns argues readers, interpreters, and followers of the Bible have to see the text as one that had a very specific audience and context for its time as it was assembled, and that acknowledging that there is metaphor, symbolism, and borrowed cultural experiences in it does not diminish or invalidate Christianity. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a refreshing way to wrestle with what appears to be the Bible’s inconsistencies.

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans

I know, I know, two books about the Bible in a row. What can I say, as a someone who considers himself a believer and someone who wrestles with doubt, Enns’ and Evans’ books were two of my most interesting reads. Evans has a similar take on discussing the Bible as Enns does; however, while Enns is a Bible scholar who blends history and scholarship effortlessly, Evans writes as a memoirist does, blending personal story telling, with contextual history, and re-imaging of some of the most brutal and difficult to reconcile stories in the Bible. I recommend this text really for the same reason as I recommended Enns’.

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Literacy Engagement through Peritexual Analysis edited by Shelby Whitte, Don Latham, & Melissa Gross

This will seem like a selfish plug, but it’s not. I genuinely feel this is a great collection of chapters showcasing the benefits of looking at, wrestling with, and leveraging peritext, or the text that surrounds the text proper (i.e. glossary, index, dedication, book jacket, etc.). I recommend this book to just about any media specialist, but also to teachers–ELA or otherwise–who want to help students make deeper connections to how text interacts and is informed by the text surrounding it that is often taken for granted.

Spider-Gwen Vol. 1: Greater Power by Jason Latour & Robbie Rodriguez

One of my favorite early reads of the year was the collection of comics that make up the first volume of Spider-Gwen comics. Now after seeing Into the Spiderverse at the movies, I have even more appreciation for the text and art created by Latour and Rodriguez. The collection is a refreshing take on Spider-man origin story with a unique, yet familiar heroine who has both depth and kick-ass qualities to keep you reading. I highly recommend for a high school or older audience, but especially anyone who loves the Spider-man or saw Into the Spiderverse and want to learn more.

Gnomon

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

This monster of a book ends my little list this year. Complex, compelling, and nearly impossible to finish my be the best way to explain my feelings about my one standout fiction text of this past year. The book takes on the survellance state in a way that is both jarring and, at times, unreadable. This is one of the most challenging narratives I’ve read in a long time, but it has elements of great storytelling throughout. I would recommend this for any reader looking for a challenging read, rife with diction not often used in fiction writing, and anyone who loves a good sci-fi detective story!

I wish I had more worth sharing, but beyond the texts above my reading this past year was both limited and maybe not as thrilling as I hoped. Here’s to a better year of reading ahead.

Observed in the Wild: Creative, Critical Thinking & Formative Assessment

I’m in San Antonio this week for the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) national conference. As part of my time here, I had a chance to visit CAST Tech a public charter STEM-focused school in the city. While the facility was remarkable in it’s design (it had removable walls and windows—like legos, y’all!), what really struck me were two classrooms I walked into. The first room was set up as a science lab, but algebra was the subject being taught. What struck me was on the wall beside the exit of the classroom.

Simple yet wonderful way to formatively assess students’ daily learning all why promoting metacognition!

The concept is so simple, but I know I have certainly never thought of doing it before. As you can see above, the teacher had posted four folders, color coded, and with clear visual and textual explanations of how a student may feel about the work they did that day. As an exit ticket, students could drop the days algebra practice into the folder based on how they felt they performed or understood the concept. 

I was struck immediately by how useful having papers already sorted can be for framing feedback for a student. If a student felt they did not know what was going on, but the work clearly showed they had at least a partial grasp on the concept, then the feedback can help redirect the student’s thinking of his or her own work. The same can be said for the other levels. The folders are also a simple but beautiful way to to promote metacognition among students. Having student self-evaluate daily is powerful. While I have no idea exactly how the teacher uses the folders, I can easily see how with some purposeful conversation, these folders become a powerful reflection and assessment tool for teacher and student alike!

The second classroom touted the presence of both a teacher and local business partners who were helping students learn and use UX (User Experience) methodology—an industry recognized approach to digital design, coding, and psychology. The moment was so exciting to me and my team, we are already brainstorming how we might promote this cross-curricularly and partner with businesses who use UX and have UX departments. At CAST Tech they are integrating the courses of digital design and AP psychology with freshmen.

To give you a taste of what caught our eye, take a look at the instructions from the video board in the classroom below:

 

Practical and engaging way to promote creativity and critical thinking in almost any classroom.

This protocol, strategy, instructional method—whatever you prefer to call it—was being used while freshmen brainstormed the creation of an app. If you look at the protocol’s instructions, you can easily see the how innovation, creativity, and critical thinking come into play immediately. Really, Crazy 8s could be used in almost any classroom where their is a problem to solve, a concept to be learned/understood, or an idea to generate (sometimes all three of those). What made this stand out even more were the business partners who were in the room with the students. While a teacher was there facilitating, so were at least three local UX experienced employees, asking questions and engaging with the students. 

As a lifetime English teacher, I would absolutely use some of this methodology  during a project-based learning experience or even to have students analyze the conflict and possible outfcomes of a narrative or play. The point here, really, is that we do a better service to our students when we recognize there is a need and space for industry practices in our classrooms. I left inspired to promote to core teachers to get out of their silos and cross-pollinate with other subject areas and businesses.

I suspect you will read more about UX from me in the future. In the meantime, I hope both the wall folder idea and the Crazy 8s protocol might be of use to you in your classroom immediately. Cheers!

Reflection on NCTE 2018

Attending this year’s National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) national conference was special for many reasons. For one, I missed last year’s conference, giving up my spot for another English teacher to attend from my school at the time. But certainly for another, reconnecting with scholars across the field, old friends, and, sure, that award did not hurt either. For this year’s reflection, I will share a few of the conference’s highlights for me. Continue reading

New Publication–Literacy Engagement through Peritextual Analysis–Out Now!

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Thanks to my former professor, Dr. Jennifer Dail, and one of the book’s editors, Dr. Shelbie Witte, I had the opportunity to contribute a chapter in the recently published Literacy Engagement through Peritextual Analysis (2018, ALA and NCTE). In the fall of 2017, I worked alongside Glenn Rhoades to bring visual literacy and peritextual analysis to his classroom. Peritext constitutes what makes up the components outside of the text proper (i.e. preface, afterwards, index, glossary, dust jackets, etc.). We spent nearly a month helping students learn about visual literacy and peritext as it might relate to pictures and film. In the case of our chapter, Inviting Students to Exit through the Gift Shop: Reading Banksy’s Public Art through Documentary Film and Director’s Cuts, we specifically had student create their own mini-documentaries featuring their own digital, Banksy-inspired pieces.

From the ALA website: “Paying attention to subtext is a crucial component of literacy. However, the concept of peritextual analysis takes such examination much further, teaching readers how to evaluate information and sources using elements that precede or follow the body of the text. A work’s Preface, Afterword, index, dust jacket, promotional blurbs, and bibliography are only some of the elements that can be used to help readers connect with and understand the main text. Speaking directly to librarians and educators working with K-16 students, this important book outlines the Peritextual Literacy Framework and explains its unique utility as a teaching and thinking tool…”

The book and the chapter I co-authored is available now through American Library Association (ALA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and will be featured in the NCTE conference bookstore this week in Houston, TX. See the linked title of the book above to navigate to the ALA store.