Rubrics that students create themselves are a great way for students to take ownership of their work and have a clear understanding of assessment criteria. I use them across all subject areas as a way for students to start out knowing what they need to be successful. When students are creating assessment rubrics themselves, in kid-friendly language, they really are invested in the task.

Before I explain how these rubrics work in my classroom, let me say that it is not a quick process when you first start. I teach in a 3rd-grade Integrated Co-Teaching class, and I usually introduce student-created rubrics in late October or early November. First, students need to be taught how to use rubrics before, during and after completing their work. Once I feel that most of them are comfortable using a teacher-created rubric, I present the concept of a student-created rubric by telling them they are going to get to be the teachers for the rest of the year. They get really excited at the prospect of creating their own rubrics and using them in discussions, writing, math and reading.

The first time you introduce it, the process may be painstaking. But the payoff is worth it. After just a few times, students become experts at it.

I first present the class with a given task. Then, I put up a blank four-point rubric on our smartboard. For writing, I will include traits such as focus, development, reading, introduction/conclusion, structure, organization, transitions and conventions on the side.

We first discuss what will be needed to exceed the standards. For example, students know their introduction must include an inference to qualify as a Level 4. Then we move over to the Level 3 column and come up with something like “An introduction that explains the topic but does not necessarily include an inference.” Then we move on to a 2 and a 1. We do this together through each trait.

If students leave something out or are way off track, I will have a model piece ready to look at. For example, I will read the conclusion of a student’s work and ask what they noticed. They will say things like, “It has a conclusion so we should give it a 4.” Then, another student might say, “It didn’t have an inference so it can’t be a 4, it must be a 3.” Students typically start debating what qualifies as a 4 or a 3. This discussion is the goal because now they are looking at their work and the work of their peers with a critical eye.

As the process evolves, the students generally start debating about the importance of the traits. For example, they examine the traits and realize that having text-based details is more important to the overall task than having every word spelled correctly.

Student-created rubrics also work for math. They can be general, unit-based or task-specific. For a general one, criteria can be: solved accurately, showed work, used mathematical vocabulary to explain the answer or solved the problem in two or more ways. For a unit rubric, you can be more specific. For instance, for a unit on fractions, students can create a rubric with the following criteria: represented the fraction correctly, compared the fractions accurately, found an equivalent fraction, drew a model of the fraction, and used mathematical vocabulary to explain how to solve the problem. For a task-specific rubric, I usually put up the standards we are addressing and have the students work from there to create their rubrics.

In no time, students begin asking to create rubrics for just about everything. My class this year suggested that we have a rubric for group discussions. I videotaped a group discussion on my iPad and had the students watch the video and share their observations. They gave “warm” and “cool” feedback on the group discussion and a student-created rubric was born!

There are many benefits of these student-created rubrics. For one, it builds confidence in even the most struggling student. Everyone has a voice and a chance to participate and contribute. In addition, when students are completing their tasks they are fully aware of their criteria for being successful. They often refer to their rubric while working. They become more skilled at assessing their own work and also proficient in assessing the work of their peers.

*Daniela Carollo Mazzella is a 3rd-grade teacher and a model teacher at PS 71 in Ridgewood, Queens.*