Paying Attention In Class Essay Rubric

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if school were so engaging that all kids would be riveted by their activities?  Allowed to move as needed?  Where teachers and classmates assumed the best? Do teachers believe that students come to school deciding that they will be distracted all day?  The truth is that no one can maintain attention for hour after hour.  It’s not how the brain functions.  For kids who struggle with attention, it may be a constant battle to stay focused.  This student video on Understood provides powerful insights into the conflict that students experience as their bodies and minds pull against their best intentions.  After months or years of this struggle, many students give up and become serious classroom disruptors.

Here’s a rubric I’ve used with kids struggling to pay attention.  Many of these kids were medicated and just as many had parents who were adamantly opposed to meds.  Regardless, we can help kids feel better about themselves by rehearsing strategies for paying attention.  Students’ sticky notes can replace impulsive comments and record positive efforts to focus.  Other elements of rehearsal include practice finding the best places to sit in a group, such as on the sides, near the teacher, and/or next to a supportive partner.  Students should also practice making positive self-statements to combat that inevitable sense of failure.  Getting the classroom teacher to support their plan is huge.  These students should be allowed time to leave the group in a socially acceptable way, should be encouraged to advocate for privacy but not continuously excluded, and their efforts should be praised.  They may respond well to a fidget item; a wristband can work if they have rehearsed keeping it in place (and not using it as a slingshot!).  May parents can provide an after school outlet for energy, such as martial arts or sports.  Some students benefit from an external reward system, especially one administered by parents.  One student’s dad took him to the gym after a predetermined number of earned stars.  Finally, these students should NEVER be denied an active recess.  


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Posted on by teachezwell • This entry was posted in Behavior Modifiers, Rubrics, Social Skills and tagged ADHD and ADD, paying attention, rehearsal of desired behavior, rubric to support paying attention, Bookmark the permalink.

A rubric is a type of scoring guide that assesses and articulates specific components and expectations for an assignment.  Rubrics can be used for a variety of assignments: research papers, group projects, portfolios and presentations.

Why use rubrics?
How can you develop a rubric?
How can you incorporate rubrics in a course?
Online Rubric Resources

Why use rubrics?

Rubrics help instructors:

  • Assess assignments consistently from student-to-student.
  • Save time in grading, both short-term and long-term.
  • Give timely, effective feedback and promote student learning in a sustainable way.
  • Clarify expectations and components of an assignment for both students and course TAs.
  • Refine teaching skills by evaluating rubric results.

Rubrics help students:

  • Understand expectations and components of an assignment.
  • Become more aware of their learning process and progress.
  • Improve work through timely and detailed feedback.

How can you develop a rubric?

Getting Started

  • Start small by creating one rubric for one assignment in a semester.
  • Ask colleagues if they have developed rubrics for similar assignments.
  • Although it takes time to build a rubric, time will be saved in the long run as grading and providing feedback on student work will become more streamlined.

Rubric Development Guidelines

  • Examine an assignment for your course.
  • Outline the elements or critical attributes to be evaluated (these attributes must be objectively measurable).
  • Create an evaluative range for performance quality under each element; for instance, “excellent,” “good,” “unsatisfactory.”
  • You can reinforce a developmental approach by students by using a developmental scale in your rubric, like “Beginning”, “Emerging” and “Exemplary.”
  • Add descriptors that qualify each level of performance:
  • Avoid using subjective or vague criteria such as “interesting” or “creative”; instead, outline objective indicators that would fall under these categories.
  • The criteria must clearly differentiate one performance level from another.
  • Assign a numerical scale to each level.
  • Give a draft of the rubric to your colleagues and/or TAs for feedback.
  • Train students to use your rubric and solicit feedback; this will help you judge whether the rubric is clear to them and will identify any weaknesses.
  • Rework the rubric based on the feedback.

When developing rubrics consider the following:

  • A rubric can be a fillable pdf that can easily be e-mailed to students.
  • How much class time is required for teaching and re-teaching the rubric.

How can you incorporate rubrics in a course?

Rubrics are most often used to grade written assignments, but they have many other uses.

  • They can be used for oral presentations.
  • They are a great tool to evaluate teamwork and individual contribution to group tasks.
  • Rubrics facilitate peer-review by setting evaluation standards.
  • Students can use them for self-assessment to improve personal performance and learning.
  • For larger assignments, have students use the rubric to provide peer assessment on various drafts.
  • Encourage students to use the rubrics to assess their own work.
  • Motivate students to improve their work by using rubric feedback to resubmit their work incorporating the feedback.

Here is a sample strategy for introducing rubrics to students:

  1. Provide samples, or smaller sections of samples, of a complete assignment (consider asking previous students for permission to use their assignments as samples, provided that you remove their names).
  2. Have students evaluate the assignments individually using the rubric.
  3. Have students share their results with a partner and justify their evaluation by explaining how they used the rubric.
  4. Ask a few pairs to share their responses with the class. (Paying attention to students’ reactions/interpretations of the rubric is useful and may inform rubric adjustments).
  5. Provide your own evaluation of the sample assignments and explain how you used the rubric to assess the work.

Online Rubric Resources

  • RubiStar Website, an online tool to help instructors create rubrics.
  • Guide to Rating Critical & Integrative Thinking, Washington State University
  • Artwork Assessment Form,Marvin Bartel, Goshen College
    Art Rubric for Assessment of the Discussion & Writing on Art History, Aesthetics and Art Criticism - an Assessment Form.
  • EPortfolio (Digital Portfolio) Rubric, Joan Vandervelde, University of Wisconsin - Stout
    E-Portfolio Rubric used for self-assessment and peer feedback.
  • Rubric for Online Instruction, California State University, Chico
    Process for assessing online course design and delivery.
  • Assessment Rubrics,Kathleen Schrock, Discovery Education
    A collection of assessment rubrics and graphic organizers.
  • Science Rubrics
    Rubric templates for Assessing Research Paper, Portfolio, Reflective Essay, Lab Report, Oral Presentation and Backboard.
  • Poetry Speaking and Performance Rubric, International Reading Association
    Guide for evaluating students' speaking and performance skills when reading and performing poetry.
  • Institutional Assessment and Compliance,University of South Carolina
    Links to seven general education rubrics for assessing electronic, humanities/cultural, math, oral communication, science, social/behavioral sciences, and writing outcomes.
  • Rubrics for Assessment, University of Wisconsin-Stout
  • List of Educational Resources for Assessment Rubrics,Indiana University Kokomo
  • Rubrics Resources, University of Delaware
  • Online Instructional Resources on Assessment and Rubrics, Michigan State University
    Assorted links to rubrics & related resources.
  • Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) Rubrics,Association of American Colleges and Universities


Boix Mansilla., V., Duraisingh, E., Wolfe, C. R., & Haynes, C. (2009). Targeted assessment rubric: An empirically grounded rubric for interdisciplinary writing. Journal Of Higher Education, 80(3), 334-353.

Brookes, D. T., & Lin, Y. (2010). Structuring classroom discourse using formative assessment rubrics. AIP Conference Proceedings,1289(1), 5-8.

Mora, J., & Ochoa, H. (2010). Rubrics as an evaluation tool in macroeconomics. Economics, Management & Financial Markets, 5(2), 237-249.

Reddy, Y., & Andrade, H. (2010). A review of rubric use in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 35(4), 435-448.

Stevens, D. and Levi, A. (2005) Introduction to Rubrics. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Timmerman, B., Strickland, D. C., Johnson, R. L., & Payne, J. R. (2011). Development of a "universal" rubric for assessing undergraduates' scientific reasoning skills using scientific writing. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education,36(5), 509-547.

Tractenberg, R. E., Umans, J. G., & McCarter, R. J. (2010). A mastery rubric: Guiding curriculum design, admissions and development of course objectives. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 35(1), 17-35.

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