Why my rubrics don't add up to 100

So I have been thinking about doing this for a few years now and BAM
this year is the year I decided to do it.

It all started with our READING LOG…
I only require my kiddos to read 20 minutes a night…
and that is Monday - Thursday so if I added all that up…
it would equal an 80…..
SO I decided to add that the highest grade you can earn is 105
if you do the bare minimum you get an 80… go above and beyond and you can get up to 105
It has really worked out well and it is quite EYE OPENING to see which kiddos
DO NOT go that extra minute or two to earn a higher grade.
If you truly TRULY think about it… it ONLY requires them to read an extra 5
YEP FIVE minutes a night to earn the 100!!!
some seem to be totally OK with the 80…
while others not so much and are always getting the 105
some even read up to 200 minutes

I even tried it with one of our projects.
I made it very clear the rubric only added up to 80...
and going above and beyond would be the only way to score above an 80.
I also made it clear... they had to think OFF the rubric.
For example... a title was needed to get 5 points...
I did not give extra points if they had a light up title with glitter... that isn't going off the rubric.
The rubric didn't state "to get 5 points you need to have a WOW factor"
it said... 5 points for a neat and correctly spelled title
if little kid A wrote his title on his box in pencil and it was neat and spelled correctly he got 5 points...
just like little lady B with lights and glitter.

You are probably thinking WOW that's harsh...

little kid A doesn't get help from home bc his mom and grandma work 2 jobs each and his older siblings take care of home stuff
... his family is on free and reduced lunch and they live pay check to pay check...
I am not about to compare his project to little lady B
who comes from a totally different home environment.
Her mamma could have her own crafting channel... heck so could little lady B...
this family enjoys at home projects and puts education as a priority...
these two little kiddos have different home environments as do ALL of my kiddos...

In the past I would send home a rubric that aded up to 100 and give bonus points for "WOW"
but what was I giving "WOW" points for... glitter, lights, the cool things....
I know I did give points for amazing presentations
BUT that is where it stopped... really since I was telling them how to get 100
all the projects kinda looked the same...
I could totally tell you before the rubric was handed out which kiddo would get the 100 plus WOW
based on home life...
I was giving WOW points for looks and not content
I started thinking... year after year... and project after project...  what can I do to spice this up...
change this up...
instead of me telling them here is your 100... let them decide how to earn those extra points...

and after reading a book by Ron Clark I was like YEP
make my rubrics worth 80...
the kids at first were not happy...
they were like... WTH really
kids these days are use to getting the here's your 100 rubrics... it doesn't really require them to THINK

wow imagine that...
so I began to tell them... you have to THINK off the rubric...
you can do the rubric to the best of your ability BUT that only gets you a 80
BUT if you think off the rubric... that will get your WOW points

this was a hard concept for the kids and parents too...
my hope for this was that each kids' personality would shine

some kids' projects tried the whole glitter and lights to the title thing
BUT that wasn't off the rubric...
a title spelled correctly and neatly was on the rubric...
so little kid a and little lady b scored the same points

also on the rubric was to create a map showing the location of their indian tribe...
and it had to include a key and compass
little kid a - drew his own map of Texas (kinda wonky but still Texas like) on the side of the box...
it was hard to see it through the giant Nike Swoosh, but everything required on the map was drawn in brown colored pencil...
he even put a spiderman sticker where his tribe was located
and then he showed the migration pattern of his tribe with glued on string
labeled his map as winter grounds and summer grounds and then had pictures of the animals that were hunted in both winter and summer homes around his Texas drawing... he had a correct key (with a spiderman) and a nice compass
little lady b had a beautiful map of Texas that was printed or purchased...
It was a beautiful map and it was displayed perfectly on top of her box with a piece of foam board...
everything requiring a label was done with sticker letters and
 it had a pin where her tribe was located... her compass rose was done beautifully in puffy glitter glue...
and her key was color coded with metallic paint
it was stunning...

which kid got bonus points???
little kid a- he went off the rubric he had migration patterns and pictures of the animals hunted
little lady b - did what the rubric asked for

another requirement was they had to make the dwelling in a diorama with examples of their food, transportation, and clothing
little lady b -  wowzers... looked like the best teepee diorama ever...
looked like real animal skin teepee, had a little fake candle thingy to represent the campfire, the clothes were hung on a line as if they were drying and over the fake flame was a sculpted out of clay carcass to represent the food
she also had a fake plastic horse to represent transportation.... did she go off the rubric??? no
did it look amazing.....YES

little boy a... used writing paper for all of his things... so everything had blue stripes
he divided his box in two with tinfoil
and on one side had the winter home... again made out of writing paper that he had colored
and on the other side he had the summer home
both sides had writing paper animals that were taped to the back to represent the animals they hunted and
he had a travois made out of toothpicks... he also had his tribe members clothed appropriately for each season... again done with striped paper but colored with crayons or colored pencils
sounds like he stayed in the rubric too right...
NOPE... he added labels for everything... and put the months when they would stay at each home.
his project wasn't as pretty and neat as hers BUT his was off the rubric

when I was doing projects and grades the old way...
I realized I was giving bonus points to those that had the means...
they had parents at home that would help them
those parents probably had extra money to make it shine and sparkle
they could purchase the extras


was that fair to my kiddos who do not get that type of support at home?
my low income families do not have the means to purchase glitter, stickers, maps, and other crafting supplies....

by requiring the above and beyond OFF THE RUBRIC points...
my kids are on an even playing field...
everyone has to think off the rubric...

even though little lady b's project could put Martha Stewart to shame...
she scored an 80

and even though little boy a's box looked like he scrounged all his supplies off my floor at the end of the day (which he did) he scored a 97... his project might not be a cover story picture on a projects magazine BUT he went off the rubric and went above and beyond

I will leave you with this...
are you giving bonus points for glitter and glam?
is that fair to all of your kiddos?

let's be sure we aren't giving extra points for flash and flair...
and we are giving extra point for going off the rubric and doing more than expected
it shouldn't be about looks it should be about content...

I am interested in what you might have to say about this...
type your ideas or comments down below...


  1. I agree with you 1000%. Best post about rubrics ever!!!!!!! I also only require a reading log for homework. Started with 20 minutes and recently went up to 30. Kids with many, many books at home won't complete the log and kids who borrow books from me have lots more than required.

    Thanks for putting this in writing. GREAT post!!!

  2. This is great and really eye opening! I've been thinking lately about how to motivate students to put more details into their work and I think this will help. I'm printing this and hanging it in the teacher's room! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. I love that you mentioned your low income kiddos and how important is to keep them in mind when creating rubrics that focus on outside support.

  4. I'll definitely be using this for my kiddos this year! I love the reading rubric idea! The last self-contained grade level I taught was kinder and I'm moving to 3rd this year, so that will HANDS DOWN be something I use with my older kiddos. As usual, your post is great! Thank you for sharing!

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