student generated rubrics = better student work

As we began to dig into our study of data collection and graphing, I realized quickly that my students didn’t have a lot of experience setting up their own graphs on graph paper. This became the perfect opportunity to engage the children in taking a closer look their work and creating some guidelines together for what a quality graph should look like. Read on to learn more about our journey…

For Valentine’s Day, I gave the kids Skittles Valentines and we used them to engage in a mini graphing project. They created tally charts of the colors found in their own packages.


Then they shared their numbers with the other children at their table and tallied the colors they had as a group. We had some discussion about the most and least common colors within their group and as a whole class as well.


Each student took the data their group collected and turned it into a bar graph. Once the graphs were completed, we hung them up on the board and looked at them as a group. The children made observations about what made the graphs “look good” and about what made them hard to read. We were careful to refer to a graph by its location rather than name the student who created it.

I should also mention that discussing student work is something we do often so we have some protocols for how to do this in a positive way that isn’t hurtful. I believe this is essential to creating a safe, supportive classroom environment.


Our discussion led to the creation of the student generated rubric shown below. I like to take each aspect of the graph one at a time. I ask for a suggestion about what would make a graph a ‘3’ (proficient in terms of third grade standards) and then ask them what that same quality would look like in the ‘1’ category. For example, the first quality for a 3 is ‘neat, careful coloring’ and, in contrast,  a ‘1’ is ‘messy and not colored completely in’. This method helps students clearly articulate the difference between an effective graph and one that doesn’t quite meet the mark.


This is a somewhat lengthy process but SO very worth your time. We don’t detail what a ‘2’ graph looks like but all of the discussion we have about the ‘3’ and ‘1’ really makes that unnecessary. They can all look at their own graphs and evaluate them using the rubric. Even better, they know exactly what can be done to improve their work – making a ‘3’ very much within their reach. We refer to that rubric often when making graphs and the work they created after developing it was a huge improvement over what they did at the start of the unit. Buy-in from students is high when we use these  rubrics because they have been a part of deciding on their own grading criteria.

Here’s an example of a ‘2’ graph with student suggestions to help the group achieve a ‘3’ the next time:


And here’s a ‘3’. Even a ‘3’ has room for some improvement so you’ll see a couple of suggestions on this one as well! The Engineering Design Process is always at work in our classroom. 🙂


Do you ever find yourself feeling frustrated that your students just don’t seem to know how to improve their work? Give student generated rubrics a try!

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