Student Made Standards Based Rubrics – NVWP Summer Institute – Day 12 pt. 1

Now we have Nick Maneno. He’s one of the many rockstars of the Writing Project. He is a model for pretty much all of us. He apparently begins most of his emails with, “hmmm..” I think I’m going to start doing that.

Nick cover

Student Made Standards Based Rubrics: An Inquiry Approach to using a Mentor Text to identify standards, develop a Rubric, craft and score a poem. 

What a title!

Nick begins by talking about how he isn’t really that into rubrics. But he works in a school system that uses Standards-Based Grading (want to learn more about it? Look up Rick Wormeli. He’s sort of like the guru). Nick says he likes neither rubrics nor standards, but he has to make it work. So this demo lesson is an attempt to make all of this work. Please note that this demo lesson write-up will be devoid of any authorial commentary by yours truly.

Quickwrite1: List some things you do for fun and recreation.
-video games
-pretend to exercise

Now, pick one thing from the list and keep it in your head while reading the following poem. (An intention for reading)  

Sorry about the poor quality!

Sorry about the poor quality!

Then he tells us to read it again, only this time looking for literary elements and text features. What standards do we see being used here? We discuss movement, font size changes, capitalization, onomatopoeia, author’s purpose, exaggerated spellings, non-standard use of line breaks and white space, (link here to Katie’s presentation), alliteration, strong verbs/word choice (link here to Janique’s lesson), a title (link here to Michele’s lesson), parallelism with the ‘ing’ forms, we gerunds.

We get ourselves together in groups of three. Three is the perfect number, he says. You get a diversity of opinions while still allowing a space for everyone to give their opinion. We add polysemous words, some repetition, the form paralleling the content of the poem, and more. (Nick says here that collaborating and turning and talking with partners is the most important part of his classroom. Nick gives a plug for “Teaching with Your Mouth Shut [which I’ve never heard of! Amazon, here we come]). I’ve already learned so much from just this conversation.

So we’re all noticing here. Nick shows us what his fifth graders noticed:

Student stds

Nick is going to have us write our own poem using the Kwame Alexander as a mentor text.

The first step is to compose a rubric for the poem we’re about to write, using the Virginia writing standards of ‘Composition,’ ‘Expression,’ and ‘Mechanics.’ I don’t get very far. We work on our rubric individually, then we go back to our group of three and try to put it together. Nick tells us that he doesn’t really care that much about the rubric. The important part, he says, is the dialogue parsing out what it is that makes a poem successful or not. Nick ties this into the Inquiry model. Immerse students in the genre, and then have them create a rubric for what they’re about to create. Here’s the rubric Nick’s class came up with.

Class rubric

I am again, for the enteenth time this summer institute, reminded of Katie Wood Ray and “writing under the influence.”

Nick wants us to now write a poem emulating Kwame Alexander’s poetic form following the class’ rubric. I’ve written mine about one of my hobbies: watching Northern Lion’s YouTube Let’s Play videos after work. I do this religiously every day. I’ve been watching his videos for months, and by now I feel like part of the family. Interesting connections here with online communities, video games as an industry, YouTube as a public sphere, etc. Here’s my draft!

My Poem

Now he has us ask ourselves the following questions: What did I learn by doing the rubric? Did it help me learn? To be honest, our group was more interested in gabbing about our poems than we were discussing the rubric portion. Nick then shows us a powerful slide reflecting what his students thought about the rubric process.

Student Refl

Next up is Essaying. Nick sets us up with a T-Chart. He calls this the Chronologic method, which I love. Chronologic writing comes from Paul Heilker. Left side is “What I think the poem is about” and the right side is “Why I think Like I do.” He then reads us a poem line by line. After each line he stops reading and we keep a running log of what we think it’s about and why I think the way I do.

T Chart

The evidence falls into five categories: logic, life experiences, intuition, emotion, and text evidence. These are the five paradigms of essay writing, he says. This type of line-by-line analysis is an excellent way to promote the essay as a tool for understanding. Nick is interested in reclaiming the essay for ‘writing to learn’ instead of ‘a record of learning.’ He mentions that the French verb ‘es say’  is ‘to try.’ So he encourages us to use tentative language (instead of the authoritarian language often taught alongside the essay). Coming to understanding through stages of measured analysis and thought. After each stage the class discusses our various interpretations and reasonings. We’re encouraged to ponder each new perspective, adding it to our own if we want. The essay becomes the combination of the Chronologic thinking. Claim and evidence moving forward towards a new point of understanding.



  1. Pingback: Writing Resources from the Northern Virginia Writing Project | Mr. Anderson Reads & Writes

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