Monthly Archives: March 2012

Another rubric for creative assignments: short stories

I have used a holistic, comment-based rubric for my short story assignment in Creative Writing for several years. After reading all this information about rubric, I decided to revise it into a point-based, more analytic rubric. I also changed the point values because the short story ends up being one of the longest assignments in the class, so I changed it from 100 to 150 points (I plan to decrease the points in their literary critique since that is a shorter overall assignment). I hope this new rubric makes the expectations of the assignment clearer to students and make grading more objective and clear.


Here is my original rubric (with examples of comments and a grade):


Short story rubric 



Fiction technique Description Your story Comments
Character development Are the characters well developed through a variety of character techniques (such as dialogue, using gestures, observations, etc.)?


ok Good character but I wanted to know more about her—and see her more in action. So much of the story is summary that we only get general info on her.
Plot Is the plot interesting and original? Is the plot condensed enough to develop in the length of the story?


ok Good idea for plot—just need more scenes and less summary to make the story more effective.
Story beginning Does the story start with action or dialogue instead of summary?


Needs work It’s most effective to start with dialogue and/or action. You begin more with an introduction or summary.  I would suggest just starting with the first scene—let the background  of the characters come out through the plot.
Scenes Does the story contain scenes that let the characters act and move and not just a summary of events or time periods?


Needs work Good at the start but try to let the action and dialogue show things—try not to explain everything. Also you need more scenes—to really move the action along and help the readers get into the story and characters.
Grammar and style Does the story contain college-level writing and an interesting writing style? Are there too many grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors?


Needs work Avoid using second person (you) in fiction.  Also some comma splices, apostrophe errors, run-ons, and other errors are getting in the way of your ideas.
Dialogue Is the dialogue in the story natural and realistic? Does it help develop characters, action, and scenes?


ok Use a comma between speaker and dialogue. Just need more dialogue in scenes.
Setting and detail Are the setting and details in the story well developed and unique?


Good Great detail about the city but need more details in some places–scenes would help with that.
Overall comments Great start here–see comments above for ways to improve the story.    
Grade 84/100 B  





Here is the first draft of my new rubric:


Short Story Assignment 

            Write a short story (possibly using a character/characters you have developed in class assignments (week three discussion assignment). Think about all the elements of fiction which the fiction lessons and your textbook discuss.  Try to write a unique story in your own writing style.  Try not to fall back on common plots, stereotypical characters, etc.

Length:  6-25 pages (1200-6000 words)

Format: Double-spaced, in RTF format.

                Name the file as:  yourlastname_story  (for example: swing_story)

                Make sure to have title page with name, name of story, date, etc.

                Make sure to start a new paragraph when a new character speaks.

                Make sure to use correct capitalization, spelling, and grammar. See this website for grammar review if needed:




Fiction technique Excellent On the right Track Needs Development Comments


50 points

□   Plot is original and surprising (had tension), but not shocking. It engages audience throughout story.

□   The plot is condensed enough to develop in a short story (time is condensed)

□   Beginning of the story engages audience and begins with action or a scene and not summary or background.

□   Ending is satisfying even if it’s abrupt or doesn’t wrap up all ideas.

□   Story meets word requirements.

□   Plot is interesting but may contain some confusion, clichéd ideas, or vagueness.

□   The plot is fairy condensed but may span too much time or have too much history or summary.

□   Beginning of the story is interesting but may have too much summary and not enough action.

□   Ending is ok but could be more satisfying or original.

□   Story meets word requirements, but needs to be longer, ideas need to developed further.

□    Plot is not engaging, doesn’t contain tension, or is clichéd.

□   The plot tries to cover too much time or is confusing to follow.

□   Beginning of the story has too much summary and background—needs a scene and action.

□   Ending is clichéd, shocking, or unbelievable.

□   Story does not meet minimum word requirements.

Character development


20 points

□   Characters, especially main character, is developed well through multiple techniques (dialogue gestures, description, action, etc).

□   Characters are unique and not stereotypes or one dimensional

□   Character relationships are well developed and interesting.

□   Character makes some significant change in the story.

□   Characters, especially main character, is developed well but needs more showing and less telling. Need to have the character in action more.

□   Characters are interesting but may be a bit stereotypical or one dimensional at times.

□   Character relationships are interesting but may need more development.

□   Character makes some changes but they might not be enough or realistic based on the plot of the story.

□    Characters, especially main character, are not developed enough. Need action, dialogue, background, etc.  

□   Characters are stereotypical or one dimensional.

□   Character relationships are not developed or unrealistic.

□   Character does not make any significant or realistic changes throughout the story.



20 points

□   Multiples scenes are used in the story to show and not tell the story

□   Scenes are in a clear and logical sequence even if flashbacks are used

□   Scenes are interesting and effective

□   Story has some scenes that develop ideas, but may need more scenes and less summary.

□   Scenes are in a clear order but may need some reorganization.

□   Scenes are good but may need more action or tension

□    Story is mostly summary and needs scene to develop characters, tension, and ideas.

□   Scenes are not in a clear order and are confusing.

□   Scenes are unrealistic or uninteresting or unoriginal.



15 points

□   Dialogue is natural and not stilted or awkward

□   Dialogue is effectively used to develop characters, give character background, and develop tension.

□   Dialogue uses correct quotation mark placement and  is indented with each new speaker


□   Dialogue original but may be stilted or inconsistent at time (need to use contractions, for example)

□   Dialogue gives some character and plot details but could be used more to develop those traits.

□   Dialogue uses mostly correct format, but may need some corrections like a comma between speaker and quotation or correct indentation.


□   Dialogue is not used enough or is stilted and/or inconsistent (need to use contractions, for example or character’s voice changes)

□   Dialogue needs to be used to develop characters and details more effectively.

□   Dialogue does not follow correct format (indent with each speaker, comma between speaker and quote, correct quotation marks, etc.)


Grammar and style


20 points

□   The story is written using college-level writing skills in a professional manner.

□   The story does not contain many errors in spelling, sentences errors, pronoun use, apostrophes, or other errors.

□   Style of the story is consistent and engaging and not wordy or overly passive.

□    Story uses appropriate and consistent point of view.

□   The story is written at college level but may have some inconsistencies.

□   The story contains some errors in spelling, sentences errors, pronoun use, apostrophes, or other errors.

□   Style of the story is mostly consistent and engaging but may have some wordiness, vagueness, etc.

□   Story uses appropriate point of view but may shift once or twice.

□   The story is not written at college level.

□   The story contains many errors in spelling, sentences errors, pronoun use, apostrophes, or other errors.

□   Style of the story is inconsistent and engaging contains too much wordiness, vagueness, etc.

□   Story shifts point of view multiple times and for no logical reason.

Setting and detail


15 points

□    Setting in the story is clear, unique, and well developed.

□   Setting is an important part of the plot or tension in the story.

□    Details in the story such as colors, clothes, music, objects, are unique and used to develop characters and plot.


□   Setting in the story is clear but could developed further.

□   Setting could be used more as part of the plot or tension.

□   Some of the details in the story such as colors, clothes, music, objects, are unique but could be used more to develop characters and plot.

□   Setting is vague or unclear.

□    Setting has no relationship to the plot or characters.

□   Story needs more details like colors, clothes, music, cars, landscape, etc. to develop characters and plot.

Paper format


10 points



□   Story was submitted on time in the dropbox with correct file name.

□   Story follows paper format (double-spaced, one in margins).

□   Story has unique title and correct heading.

□   Story was submitted on time in the dropbox with correct file name.

□   Story follows paper format (double-spaced, one in margins) with one or two minor errors.

Story has a title and heading but may have some errors.

□   Story was not submitted on time in the dropbox and or has an incorrect file name.

□   Story does not follows paper format (double-spaced, one in margins).

□   Story has a not title and/or no heading.

Overall comments        
Points / Out of 150 points Grade:    






My Rubrics: College Composition I final exam

Finally, after all the research, I feel more confident in writing rubrics. I also feel more justified in the need and use of them. I am excited to try some student-generated rubrics, and I also want to use rubrics as a department. In that spirit, I have created a draft of a rubric to use for the College Composition I final exam. I plan to present this to the department to start some discussions about conistency and standards for the exit exam.


Here is the draft:


College Composition I Final Exam


To pass the course, students must receive a “D” or better on a departmentally-administered final examination of 500-700 words.  The final will be written using word processing skills during the assigned final exam period.  A standard dictionary may be used during the final exam. 


TASK DESCRIPTION: Write a clear, professional essay of 500-800 words on a topic given by the instructor. A mode of writing may also be given. 


DIMENSIONS Exceeds outcomes Meets outcomes Does not meet outcomes Comments and points

Content and purpose

40 points

□    Paper has a clear, original, and interesting thesis or focus that engages audience and has a clear purpose.□    Content of the paper demonstrates complex and creative ideas and thoughts.□    Thesis and ideas are supported with specific and interesting examples and details appropriate to audience.

□    If sources are used, they are used appropriately, introduced and given credit.


□    Paper has a thesis that focuses the paper and has a purpose and an audience.  □    Content of the paper demonstrates specific ideas and thoughts.□    Thesis and ideas are supported with examples and details.

□    If sources are used, they are introduced or given credit.


□    Paper does not have a clear thesis, purpose, or audience.   □    Content of the paper demonstrates only simple thoughts or ideas and may not meet word requirements.□    Thesis and ideas are not supported with examples and details.

□    If sources are used, they are not clearly introduced or cited.  




25 points


□    Paper is effectively organized, and paragraphs tie back to thesis.□    Paragraphs are clearly focused and linked together.□    Paper has an engaging and clear title, introduction, and conclusion.


□    Paper has a clear organization, but ideas might not always tie to thesis.□    Paragraphs are focused but may lack transitions.□    Paper has a title, introduction, and conclusion.


□    The paper’s organization is unclear or ineffective.□    Paragraphs are unfocused and lack transitions.□    Paper does not have a title, introduction, or conclusion.


Style and point of view 20 points □    Paper shows a unique style created through sentence and word choice.□    Style is consistent and appropriate to audience.□    Style is economical with no unneeded words or passive construction.

□    Point of view/pronoun use is clear and consistent.

□    Paper has an identifiable style.□    Style is mostly consistent and appropriate to audience.□    Style may have some vagueness or wordiness.

□    Point of view/pronoun use is mostly consistent and clear: may have some errors or shifting.

□    Paper has no clear style or tone.  □    Style is inconsistent or inappropriate to audience and purpose.□    Style is wordy, vague, and passive.

□    Point of view/pronoun use inconsistent and unclear.  


 Professionalism15 points □    Paper has correct heading and formatting (1 inch margins, 12 point font), and page numbers.□    Grammar and punctuation are used effectively to enhance ideas in the paper. Errors are minimal.□    Sentences are varied and fit with ideas in the paper.


□    Paper has mostly correct heading and formatting (1 inch margins, 12 point font), and page numbers—may have small errors.□    Grammar and punctuation are used purposefully, and errors in grammar and syntax are few and do not distract from paper’s meaning or style.□    Sentences are clear but may be unvaried. □    Paper does not have correct heading, formatting, or page numbers.  □    Grammar and punctuation errors get in the way of the ideas in the paper.□    Sentences are unvaried, vague, and confusing.  
Total Points: 100       Grade:



Overall Comments:

Complete Rubrics, the final chapters

Quinlan, Audrey M. A Complete Guide to Rubrics: Assessment Made Easy for Teachers, K-College. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006. Print.



Chapters 10-12: These chapters deal with many of the concepts I learned from Introduction to Rubrics, so I’ll just summarize the information and give interesting ideas. The last two chapters deal with report cards and websites/resources, so I’ll skip those.


Chapter 10: How to Create your Own Rubrics.


Quinlan uses methods very similar to the Intro to Rubrics book in this chapter. She asks rubric creators to follow ten steps:


  1. 1.       Focus on clear outcomes
  2. 2.       List three or four critical attributes of the performance/project.
  3. 3.       Describe the expected qualities or attributes—the standard.
  4. 4.       Develop statements that describe or define those qualities of performance short of expectation and beyond expectations.
  5. 5.       Decide if the rubric will be analytic or holistic.
  6. 6.       Research other rubrics.
  7. 7.       Evaluate—Present the rubric to colleagues and students for  input.
  8. 8.       Do a practice test or a dry run if possible.
  9. 9.       Revise as needed.
  10. 10.   Share information. (Quinlan 168, Box 10.1)



Most of these steps have already been covered. I do like the idea of doing a practice run, but most likely the practice run would be the first time one uses the rubric in an assignment. As most instructors know, that’s the real test of any assignment or assessment.



Chapter 11: Student-Generated Rubrics


In this chapter Quinlan spends a good amount of time talking about student centered or learning centered teaching. Involving students in rubric creation really puts the students in the center of their own learning. She, too, suggests the four by four method for having students create rubrics. She also gives some useful suggestions about how to teach students about rubrics—from a basic elementary level to college classes. I definitely plan to try a student generated rubric in my comp 1 class this fall.


Chapter 12: Teaching Others to Use Rubrics


In this chapter, Quinlan gives some very clever ideas of how to teach teachers to use rubrics. Her main suggestions for those new to rubrics are:


  • Begin with a familiar activity or project.
  • Research sample rubrics.
  • Don’t expect perfection.
  • Begin with the standard or benchmark and then describe work beyond and below that standard.
  • Don’t try to assess everything in one assignment.
  • Work with peers.
  • Get student input. (Quinlan, 193, Box 12.1).



Then Quinlan describes several models to illustrate rubric creation from the restaurant model to the potato chip model to the clean room rubric.

Complete Rubrics: Rubrics for Online Activities

Quinlan, Audrey M. A Complete Guide to Rubrics: Assessment Made Easy for Teachers, K-College. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006. Print.



Chapter 9: Rubrics for Online Activities


Chapter 8 deals with using rubrics for computer products, so I didn’t think that was too relevant to my discussions. However, Chapter 9 looks at many ways an instructor can and should use rubrics for online activities.  At first, I thought this really wouldn’t be any different from using rubrics in any other assignments, but Quinlan gives some excellent examples and rationale for creating rubrics for online assignments. Partly because students use the internet so much and because they are often advanced in their skills—even beyond the instructor’s technology skills, students may find rubrics help guide them in their use of technology (147-48).


Quinlan spends the first part of the chapter talking about digital plagiarism and gives some examples of simple rubrics that can be used to teach students ethical rules and guide their use of source  material online. Then she gives some great example of using rubrics to assess the information on the internet, to evaluate sources. I will definitely use these ideas in my comp II classes. Interestingly, most of her examples are rubrics that teachers can use to assess technology (how an instructor can evaluate a website, for example, and see if it’s appropriate for the grade level, assignment, etc.). However, I can see using these kinds of simple rubrics to have students evaluate their online sources too.


Quinlan then gives some examples of how to use rubrics to assess chat rooms, threaded discussions, and even blogs. Great examples and ideas! I like the way she is using rubrics to help teachers evaluate and improve their own resources and lessons. She does give some good examples, too, of how to use these to assess student works too—like criteria for blogging. I would like to create something like this for my journal assignment in creative writing—where students can use a blog or handwritten or typed journal. Often students flounder a bit on how to complete this assignment. A rubric might help.

Complete Rubrics, Chapter 7: Adult Learners

Quinlan, Audrey M. A Complete Guide to Rubrics: Assessment Made Easy for Teachers, K-College. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006. Print.



Chapter 7: Rubrics with Adult Learners


Quinlan begins this chapter with a discussion of adult learner stages. Most post-secondary students are in Erickson’s early Adulthood (19-40) stage, which means their main conflict centers around intimacy versus isolation, “which means that they will either be able to form meaningful relations with others or remain self-absorbed” (100).  Some of our students may be in middle or even late adulthood, and they deal with generativity versus stagnation or ego integrity versus despair respectively (100).  Quinlan also talks about the difference between pedagogy and andragogy (teaching adults). Basically, andragogy focuses more on independent learning and using the students’ wealth of knowledge and experience more in the learning experiences (101). 


Quinlan gives Mark Tennant’s book Psychology and Adult Learning (1997) as a resource for recommendations for teaching adult learners. According to Tennant, adult educators need to:


  • Value the experience of the learners
  • Engage in reflection of the learners’ experiences.
  • Establish the environment or spirit of a community of learners.
  • Empower the students.
  • Assess each student as an individual.
  • Encourage learner to discuss conflicting points of view.
  • Help students to identify the social, historical, and cultural bases for their experiences.
  • Encourage a wiliness to make changes based on learning experiences. (102)


These characteristics are pretty clear to those of us who teach college, especially non-traditional learners who don’t need lecture and direction as much as guidance and information.


Quinlan then goes into a discussion about grading and about grade inflation, wondering if professors don’t spend enough time grading—or at least enough time communicating their grade decisions to students. Rubrics are, of course, the answer to communicating grades clearly and as objectively as possible (103-06).


The rest of the chapter gives numerous examples of rubrics that are or can be used in post-secondary work, from research papers and dramatic performances to instructor evaluations and self-assessments for classroom lessons and preparedness.