The Georgia State Writing Test has a rubric that measures students on four categories: ideas, organization, conventions, and style. These skills may all be important stepping stones to great writing, but let me ask you this: when was the last time you asked someone why they loved a favorite essay or story, and they said, “What really gets my juices flowing is when ideas are cogent and nicely organized, the grammar is correct, and the author varies his sentence structure and uses an impressive vocabulary!”
Yeah, right. Organization, grammar, and sentence structure may make a piece of writing intelligible, but they have very little to do with what makes a piece of writing great.
Because at Deep we believe that my students are capable of something much greater than merely intelligible writing, I have invented a new rubric for them that measures artistic merit, rather than mere competence. This rubric requires that their writing be three things:
- Vivid. As in, full of juicy, telling, laser-targeted details rather than lazy generalizations or safe clichés.
- Unique. In the true sense of the word–as in no one has ever, or could ever, say anything like this. Said another way: demonstrating a specific and memorable voice.
- Fearless. As in, honest (in the artistic sense, not necessarily the literal one) and willing to embrace humor, say unusual or unpopular things, be frank, challenge common beliefs, criticize oneself, and/or approach difficult topics.
I will be scoring students’ work on a pass-fail basis: students will be expected to work with peer and mentor feedback until their writing demonstrates all three of these qualities.
What do you think of this rubric? What else makes great writing? How would you encourage students to aim for brilliance, rather than just competence?
- Making Better Writers (edwardscottibur.com)
- Multiple Ways to Assess: Rubrics (allaccesspassblog.wordpress.com)
- Update to Course Rubric – Skill: Sensory Imagery (mrbfunk.wordpress.com)
- Grading with Rubrics in Writing-Intensive Courses (teacherlingo.com)
- Writing as mask, writing as revelation (trophos.wordpress.com)
- All about Assessment (keltchat.wordpress.com)
- Getting it Write. (heartofenglish.wordpress.com)
- A cure for bad teaching of writing (educationviews.org)