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EssayTagger is a web-based tool to help teachers grade essays faster.
But it is not an auto-grader.

This blog will cover EssayTagger's latest feature updates as well as musings on
education, policy, innovation, and preserving teachers' sanity.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Rubric: Common Core Explanatory / Informative Writing (9-10) rubric

The first of many rubrics distilled from the Common Core State Standards.

Update 9/21/12:
In the six months since this post was originally published, my view of how to integrate with Common Core has evolved a considerable amount. This post is now old news. I've built a free, publicly-accessible tool to help teachers create their own customized Common Core-aligned rubrics. It's going to make life SO much easier for all of us!

Read about this new approach or jump straight to the EssayTagger Common Core Rubric Creation Tool

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Original Post:
The Common Core State Standards. Oof.

You've heard all the talk. You suspect they might get in your way and make your life a living hell. Just thinking about them makes you want to curl up on the couch in the fetal position and take a nap (my default reaction to moderately stressful things).

I'm not here to sell you on its merits or argue that there is a lack thereof. I'm here to make your life a little bit easier when you find yourself held accountable to the Common Core standards when teaching writing.

Friday, March 2, 2012

New Rubric: "They Say, I Say"

One of our first demo rubrics is now available for anyone to use in their own EssayTagger assignments!

Gerald Graff was one of my professors at the University of Illinois at Chicago during my M.Ed. program. And, I'll be honest, I was very wary of "They Say, I Say" when he first explained the concept of the book to my class. But TSIS quickly won me over. And the skyrocketing sales that he and his wife/co-writer have enjoyed certainly show that others appreciate its value as well.

But there was one thing I noticed -- the book does not address assessment. I love the guidance it offers for teaching composition and the structure it gives to developing writers, but I felt like there was a missing final chapter on how to evaluate the resulting TSIS-style essays.

So I began developing a TSIS-style rubric that would work within the EssayTagger system. I met with Prof. Graff to show him an early draft and his eyes lit up with enthusiasm.

Now that I've completed EssayTagger's rubric sharing and import features, I can post the rubric for anyone to use:

EssayTagger "They Say, I Say" rubric:

This rubric is listed as a "work-in-progress" because, well, it is. But it's a pretty dang good start. And keep in mind that any rubric shared on EssayTagger is meant to be a starting point. Teachers should alter and customize these rubrics however they see fit.

Let me know what you think!

New Rubric: Four-Strand/Four-Level

From what I'm told, the Four-Strand/Four-Level rubric is fairly common in Washington schools. I've adapted it for use in EssayTagger (you can import it straight into your own assignments!) but you'll still want to customize it to suit your needs.

EssayTagger version of the Four-Strand/Four-Level rubric:

And as I've said previously, because rubrics are so macroscopic, they inevitably undergo some changes when they are adapted for the much more fine-grained world of EssayTagger.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Changing how we think about rubrics

Traditional rubrics are too general and macroscopic to help students. The future is specificity. And it's here.

Sharing rubrics is a simple, but important, way for teachers to collaborate.

Unfortunately, traditional rubrics -- by their nature -- can only address general, overall trends in a paper: "Some evidence was insufficient." That's fine for a quick, high-level diagnostic, but it's not very helpful for the student.

My goal when I'm grading papers is to coach the students so they can learn from their mistakes and do better next time. Traditional rubrics are good for setting expectations before the attempt, but once the essays are graded, they're really just an assessment tool. They're not a learning tool.

In order to improve, students need more fine-grained feedback: Which specific piece of evidence was weak? Why wasn't it compelling?

Traditional rubrics simply can't address these questions (nor, to be fair, were they meant to). Traditional rubrics are macroscopic. But students need the microscopic.

Latest Update: Rubric sharing and rubric import!

Instructions for using our new rubric sharing and rubric import features!

You can -- and should -- share your EssayTagger rubrics with your colleagues and/or the whole world wide web!

Sharing a rubric
After you log in you'll notice the new top nav menu bar:

Here's a bigger view so you can read the options:

Click on "my rubrics" and you'll see the new My Rubrics page:

This page will list all of your rubrics. Pick a rubric you'd like to share and click on the "view / share" link. That will take you to the Sharing Info page for that rubric: