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Speed Up Grading with Rubric Codes


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Do you have a mountain of student writing to grade? A pile of extended responses that have been sitting in your passenger seat for a week? Do you wish you had more time to give students better feedback?

This video shows you how to use rubric codes—a small twist on grading student writing that keeps the feedback but cuts way down on the time. If you’re getting way behind on your grading, this may be just what you need.


Need Ready-Made Rubrics?

My Rubric Pack gives you four different designs in Microsoft Word and Google Docs formats. It also comes with video tutorials to show you how to customize them for any need, plus a Teacher’s Manual to help you understand the pros and cons of each style. Check it out here:

If you thought this was helpful, stick around.
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  1. Felicia Morrissey says:

    This is VERY useful! I sent the link to my supervisor and posting to my edmodo teacher group. Thank you! This is SO helpful @ midterm time in ELA world…

  2. I’m so glad to hear it! Let me know if you guys end up making any tweaks or learning any tips through trial and error, and whether it makes a difference in time! I tried to emphasize this in the video, but I think the whole-class reflection time after papers are returned is really key. Anyway, update us later, okay?

  3. shayneswift says:

    OK…this makes sense. What I usually do is go through the drafts with the personalized detailed feedback. Then when the final draft is done, then I just check of the score using the rubric. Students still want more feedback so I can use the rubric codes for the final draft and they can track it.

  4. shayneswift says:


  5. Adding this to my list of things to be thankful for! Thanks!

  6. Melba says:

    Any suggestions for using this rubric for grading math work?

    • I’m not very familiar with rubrics for math, mostly because I always assume that math teachers grade individual problems, rather than give more holistic assessments. I can see you using codes, however for common math issues. For example, if a student approached a math problem correctly, but just did the arithmetic wrong at some point, you could create some kind of two-letter code that alerts them that there’s a computation error (like CE) that you’d write beside it? If you’re interested in a rubric that would score homework on a larger scale (rather than calculating individual scores for each assignment), take a look at my free Homework Rubric: I have an Elementary and a Secondary version.

  7. Zodwa says:

    Excellent, I need to learn more. I am a teacher in South Africa.

  8. I am so, so happy that a colleague sent me your post on rubric codes! Although your post sat in an open tab in my browser for a month (I never got around to it), I’m kicking myself that I didn’t watch your 4-minute video the day that I received it!

    I’m a secondary ELA teacher who is halfway through grading a stack of capstone research papers, and while I have a system of detailed feedback that I like, I do not have the best time management skills with paper grading. I have always thought that being a good teacher meant giving detailed feedback on everything a student turns in for assessment–and it’s true! Student’s learn best from regular, detailed feedback–but it’s just not realistic. The system above allows me to give the same feedback without writing long, complete sentences. I also like that you put rubric codes where a student did well in green and rubric codes where a student needs work in red. Great, easy idea.

    I will definitely be trying this with my next rubric. Thank you so much!

  9. Kyle Prince says:

    How would rubric codes work for a single point rubric?

    • Debbie Sachs says:

      Hi Kyle! This is Debbie, a Customer Experience Manager with CoP. Rubric codes can absolutely work with the single-point rubric. I’d check out the post How To Turn Rubric Scores into Grades. There you’ll see how to assign points to a single-point rubric. The same concept can be used to assign rubric codes. For example, in the post you’ll see there are 3 criteria under Structure. You could assign the codes S1, S2, S3, or whatever you think would work best. I’d definitely give it a try!

  10. Hey,

    I love your podcast and blog. I get so many ideas from you that I felt like I could maybe say thank you by sending an idea your way (in case you hadn’t already thought of it). I stumbled across this while looking for ideas for one of my teachers looking for ways to improve their feedback while decreasing the amount of time they spend grading. I do something similar to rubric codes, but I use a text expander to actually insert a full comment, links to resources, and follow-up assessment on digital documents. Here’s a link that explains it more:

    Thanks for all the ideas over the years and for enhancing teaching and learning through your work. As an instructional coach, I can’t even tell you how much your work has helped me help other teachers.

    • Thanks so much for sharing this, Tyler!

    • Mark says:

      Hey Tyler, Good call on the Text Expander idea! I checked out your blog and explored the cheaper version, but am more inclined to go with the more expensive one: “Textexpander” as it seems to be monitored and updated currently. The other one looked like it has not been updated for a while. I’m seeing if other teachers want to join me in a team account. Might be cheaper in the long run.

  11. Mark Phillips says:

    Hi Jennifer, I’ve just reconnected with your idea of coding a rubric to speed up the grading of an assignment. In the past, when scoring work digitally, I have made collections of oft-used comments that I can copy and paste into a document or into a single-point rubric.

    Your rubric code idea and the copying/pasting of frequently used comments has definitely sped up the process of sharing feedback comments with students.

    Typically, our rubrics describe what we would like to see in a student’s piece of work. They are often lifted from standards documents and are written in “teacher-ese.” When students follow that code to the rubric, I wonder if it would be more helpful to them if could read a feedback comment, written TO them, helping them identify their successes and the places where they could improve. In other words, the kinds of comments we would write in margins of student work.

    I wonder if we should either have two rubrics for assignments. The first is the traditional kind that identifies what the various performance levels associated with a particular standard will tend to look like. (Almost a checklist for students before they turn in the document.) The second rubric is the one we code and is written as a collection of oft-used comments. This approach still allows us to write other comments and connect them with a standard (row) & a performance level (column), even if we didn’t have those particular items on the first rubric (the checklist).

    If writing two rubrics seems like too much work, we could just create the oft-used comment type of rubric and use that. I’m not sure how that would be received by students who might be looking for more of a checklist-type of rubric.

    This kind of idea has probably been suggested before, so I apologize for the repetition. I just wanted to let you know, I’m gratefully still using your ideas, and wanted to let you know what I’d been thinking in case it hadn’t been mentioned before. Keep up your great work!

  12. Nicci Rounce says:

    So, I’m reading through the 20 Ways to Cut Grading Time in Half and got onto this post with #13 – “SHORTHAND YOUR FEEDBACK”. My question for you is, if you’re an almost completely digital teacher, like me, and use Google Classroom for the majority of your assignments, how do some of these hacks work? So many of them seem to be for paper-pencil assignments.

    • Eric Wenninger says:

      Hey Nicki, good question! I think a lot of the strategies that are offered in “20 Ways to Cut Grading Time in Half” can be applied to a digital environment. In reference to rubric codes, for example, instead of writing them directly on students’ papers, you could simply type them as comments into a Google Doc of students’ writing. The rubric itself could also be shared digitally. In this case, time is saved by using the rubric codes themselves, not necessarily by using digital technologies.

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