More than two years ago, I wrote a popular post about one of the activities my students do instead of homework, free-topic blogging. In the past month I’ve received a flurry of requests for information on how I grade student blogs, specifically what rubric I use to grade them. Clearly, the idea continues to gain ground and bring up questions.
Here’s an admission – I don’t use a rubric to grade blogs. And I give very little feedback on them. It’s one area where I just step back and let students use the language however they want to and I don’t step in a whole lot. For this particular assignment, especially if you make it interactive among students, comprehensibility may be the only feedback they need.
The performance assessment rubric I use to grade almost all my assessments informs the way I grade everything else, including blogs. However, especially back when I was grading 100 blogs per week, I could not allow myself to get overwhelmed with filling out a rubric on each one. Rather, I made very clear expectations at the beginning of the year. The students and I had a sort of agreement on the rules for the blogs.
For an A (excellent, exceeding expectations):
- Exceed the word requirement (this begins with fully answering guided questions at first semester, 25 words Level 1 Semester 2 – Level 2 Semester 1, 35 words Level 2 Semester 2 – Level 3 Semester 1, 50 words beyond that).
- Do not use any English words that are not proper nouns. Putting it in quotes does not make it Spanish: ‘Yo tengo cuatro “chairs” en mi casa’)
- Write with a theme.
To improve proficiency (i.e. improve the grade), ask the following questions:
- Am I using sentences when appropriate, and not fragments?
- Am I stretching my vocabulary? (I’ll have Spanish 3 students blog about what they like and how old they are)
- Am I using connecting words to string thoughts together?
- Do I have a topic or do I just keep adding random sentences in an effort to meet the word requirement?
- Have I ever commented on someone else’s entry?
- Am I trying to do something with verbs rather than pairing a person with a flat verb (e.g. yo hablar)?
- If I use the dictionary am I careful to make sure I’m choosing the right type of word and the right word? (we’ll get entries like yo tengo un sustantivo)
- Have I ever posted a picture or link to make my blog more interesting and interactive?
Students have always been welcome to question their grade and sit down with me to review the post and exactly why it received the grade it did, but this rarely happens. Also, I do not have students go back and correct posts. I trust that interacting with the language in class and on their own will clear up most of their accuracy problems. However, the blogs will often inform me on a widespread accuracy problem I can target with the whole class, not just with one student (e.g. using mis amigos y mi).
What about Novice Low learners?
To clarify what I do from the beginning, when students first come to the language, they don’t have enough proficiency to write an entry. So, for the first semester, I write a series (4-7) of questions tied to what we’ve been doing in class, sometimes open-ended, sometimes not. Some of them have particular answers, but others they have to answer simply with something that makes sense. Thus, they cannot just copy and paste what someone else wrote or I’ll know it – many questions do not have any particular right answer.
For example, if in the first few weeks of school, our stories have involved a penguin and a girl named María, I would post a cartoon penguin above the questions and the questions might be like:
1) ¿De qué colores es el pingüino?
2) ¿Cómo se llama el pingüino?
3) ¿Cómo se llama el amigo del pingüino?
4) ¿Qué color es el color favorito del pingüino?
5) ¿Cuándo es el cumpleaños del pingüino?
And #1 (and #2 if we’ve named him, which we did) are the only ones with “right” answers.
We used to use Blogger to do our blogs but we’ve since moved to Edmodo and everyone likes it better. One teacher at my school used Ning one year and students hated it. We like Edmodo because of how easy it is to share a variety of things, and after all, it does look like Facebook.