I used to spend hours grading students essays and felt extremely frustrated by the subjectiveness of my system. It was very difficult to think about all six traits of effective writing–ideas/content, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions–at one time while grading. I’d often get sidetracked by mistakes in one area, such as spelling or punctuation, and find myself tempted to score the paper lower than I should have because of those errors. Similarly, my students would find themselves too focused on one particular aspect as they were writing and would completely neglect the other traits.

The solution hit me one day in the middle of a modeling a narrative essay for my third graders: if we teach traits of effective writing individually, why not assess traits individually sometimes, too? Not every piece of writing needs a full assessment, and one trait rubrics make it easy for teachers to give meaningful feedback quickly without spending hours grading essays.

the one trait rubric system for teaching and grading writing

Using a straightforward rubric with only 3 or 4 criteria makes it clear to students and parents why an assignment earned the grade it did. It also prevents the teacher from downgrading a paper by weighting one aspect of good writing too heavily. Concentrating on only one trait makes it easier for the teacher to fairly assess a student’s skills in a particular trait.

The system is beneficial for students, too. It can be overwhelming (especially for younger children, reluctant writers, and English language learners) to try to concentrate on all aspects of great writing at one time. Knowing that they’ll only be assessed on a single trait helps students narrows their focus and makes the task more manageable.

I searched everywhere online for solid, kid-friendly one trait rubrics and wasn’t able to find what I needed. So, I created my own! I used the rubrics for years with my students and found that teaching AND assessing writing was greatly simplified. A few months ago, I polished them up a bit in order to make the rubrics available on TeachersPayTeachers.

The final version I created includes 6 rubrics, one for each of the 6 traits of effective writing: ideas/content, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions. I chose these traits because they’re a well-known way to organize writing instruction. However, you can use these rubrics with ANY writing curriculum and methodology, including Lucy Calkin’s Writer’s Workshop, Write Steps, Step Up to Writing, etc.

I like to kids staple the rubric to the front of their paper before turning it in and then self-assess. They can evaluate their own writing by circling how they think they scored in pencil, and the teacher can score on the same rubric with a pen. Both teacher and student can write comments at the bottom of the rubric or on the back.

one trait rubric

The writing rubrics were designed for use in grades 3-12. That’s a pretty broad grade range, I know! But during the two years I was a Literacy Coach, I used these rubrics with students from age seven through fifteen in schools across New York City, and never met a group of kids (or teachers) that didn’t find the rubrics useful. There is some sophisticated vocabulary in the rubrics, but I’ve seen kids as young as age 7 use them after modeling and practice.

Download the FREE preview now to see the 6 pages of ideas for use, instructions, and examples. The full product is only $3.50.

Even if you don’t purchase the one trait rubrics that I created, I still encourage you to try teaching and assessing one trait at a time. I have seen the evidence–one trait rubrics will help you refine your writing instruction, help students better understand characteristics of effective writing and how their work is assessed, and simplify your scoring process.

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Having a parent ask to move a child to a different classroom can be a huge blow to a teacher’s confidence. And it’s an issue that nearly every educator will face at some point–if not at multiple points–in their career. Sometime parents don’t like the fact that you are forcing them to address issues they’ve tried to sweep under the rug. Other times it’ s a personality conflict, a disagreement over your teaching style, or simply an attempt to get their child into the classroom of a teacher they think will do a better job.

Regardless of the reason, a parent requesting to have a student transferred to another classroom is enough to shake any teacher’s morale. Here are 6 strategies to help you handle the situation effectively:

Consider the element of truth in the parent’s criticism and disregard the rest.

Think deeply about your teaching practice. What is the heart of the issue that the parent is complaining about? On what points is she or he correct? Everyone has skills which they can improve, and if the parent has identified some legitimately weak areas of your teaching, you owe it to yourself and your students to consider that. Discern for yourself which pieces of information are insults/exaggerations and which pieces have an element of truth that needs to be dealt with. Don’t get so caught up in being offended that you miss the opportunity to reflect on your teaching and improve it.

Don’t go on the defensive.

The first time a room change is mentioned, you might want to try smoothing things over: “I really love having __ in my classroom, and she’s adjusted really well and made some great friends. I’d love to keep her in my room. I feel confident we can come up with a solution together and move forward.” But if the parent is insistent, don’t fight tooth and nail over every complaint. Resist the urge to call the parent or write a 5 page letter defending yourself. Tell yourself, This parent thinks the child will do better in another classroom, and he has the right to think that. I wish the family the best. I’m moving on and focusing on the needs of the kids who are still in my room.

dealing with parents who want to transfer their child to another teacher's room

Remember that the parent truly believes s/he is acting in the child’s best interests.

In Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching, I wrote a lot about the principle of separate realities. Other people will never the see world as we do, because they haven’t had all the same experiences we’ve had. That means trying to understand why they “don’t get it” will result in frustration every time because we each truly live in a separate reality. If a parent is requesting that his child be moved to another classroom, it’s because he sincerely believes that his or her child would be more successful there. You don’t have to agree with his position, but if you understand that the parent believes it deeply and is trying to advocate for the child, it’s easier to accept.

Let go of the offense: stop thinking about it, and stop talking about it.

Don’t tell everyone in the school about what happened. Don’t repeat the incident to all your friends, your spouse, your mom, and your neighbor. Don’t think about it, and don’t talk about it. The less you allow thoughts about negative situations to stay in your mind, the fuzzier your memories become, and the weaker your attached emotions get. Each time you are tempted to replay what happen, say to yourself, It’s over. I’m choosing not to think about that anymore.

Accept the fact that some parents are never going to like you.

I wish someone had told me that when I started teaching. I thought if I worked hard enough, they’d have no choice but to love me. But every year, I had at least one parent who gave me a hard time about pretty much everything, questioned my every move, and basically made me feel incompetent. No matter how accommodating I was, there was always a parent I could. not. please. Once I accepted that reality, it was a lot easier to handle. Instead of thinking, Why am I not good enough for her? I would think, There is no law of the universe stating that every parent is going to like me. This year, she is the parent who does not. That’s okay. It makes my job a little harder, but it won’t deter me from doing my very best each and every day.

Focus on the affirmations you’ve received, not the criticisms.

If the majority of your students’ parents think you’re doing a good job, why should you give one naysayer the power to destroy your self-esteem for the rest of the year? Reflect on and plan for areas that need improvement, but don’t replay your faults over and over. It’s human nature to put more weight on criticism than compliments, so we have to actively fight that tendency. At the end of each school day, make a mental (or written) list of all the things that went right and all the successes you had with kids and their families. Don’t lose sight of the progress both you and your students make throughout the year as you learn from your experiences. Repeat those small wins to yourself when you feel discouraged.

Have you had parents request to transfer their children to another teacher’s classroom? How did you handle it?


Intentionally blurring the lines between life and work

August 20, 2014
your work is part of your life

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the separation between our personal and professional lives. The line for me is getting increasingly fuzzy each year, with my professional work spilling over and mixing into my “free time” more and more….and I like that. Teaching, blogging, speaking, consulting, and writing are not just my job. They’re […]

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Bright ideas: how Voxer changed my personal AND professional life

August 16, 2014
Vover has been lifechanging for me as a teacher

I would never have written an article like this a year ago when a friend first told me about Voxer. Friend: “Angela, you HAVE to get on Voxer.” Me, skeptical: “Why? I already have enough social media accounts.” Friend: “No, no, this is different. It’s like text messaging, only instead of typing, you just talk.” […]

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15 terrific resources for close reading

August 12, 2014
close reading posters, anchor charts, mini-lessons, videos, and more

Snap Learning is a longtime partner and supporter of The Cornerstone, and they have sponsored this post. Though their products are not included in the roundup below as these resources are free, I encourage you to check out their Close Reading Portfolio or request a demo of the product here. They’re a fantastic company and I believe their interactive close reading exercises […]

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5 ridiculously unhelpful things I’ve said to students

August 8, 2014
5 things I regret saying to students

I was recently chatting online with a teacher who was sharing how embarrassed she was at a recent interaction with a student. He was frustrated with something in class and she told him, “Stop crying and get back to work.” As we reflected on that together, she wrote: Imagine how I would feel if I were crying […]

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Join us for the #teacherfriends practice Twitter chat!

August 5, 2014
Joing this newbie-friendly Twitter chat every Tuesday evening! GREAT people

Twitter chats are a great way to connect with inspiring people and talk with them about topics you care about. If you are new to Twitter or have never tried a Twitter chat, the #teacherfriends weekly chat is the perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself in a safe, newbie-friendly, encouraging environment. My friend Debbie Clement started the […]

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Edu All-Stars Podcast: Talking teaching and blogging

August 3, 2014
Free education podcast (and YouTube videos) interviewing inspiring educators. Love listening to this while exercising, driving, cooking, etc! So motivating.

I was honored to be a guest on the latest episode of the Edu All-Stars podcast, and I thought I’d share the conversation here with you all! I’ve had some great face to face conversations recently with Chris Kesler and Todd Nesloney (better known as Tech Ninja Todd) and it was so much fun to follow up and chat […]

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What’s it like to teach in Bangladesh?

July 31, 2014
Teaching Around the World

It’s been awhile since I’ve published a guest post in the Teaching Around the World blog series, and what better time than summer to daydream about seeing the world? In today’s post, we’ll hear from Karli Lomax, who has been a classroom teacher for 17 years. She’s originally from Massachusetts and earned her B.S. in […]

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Smooth sailing into a new school year: tips and tricks

July 27, 2014

School doesn’t start back until after Labor Day for us here in New York (sorry to make you jealous!), but of course I’ve already started planning ahead. I’ve teamed up with a fantastic group of teacher bloggers to share ideas for making the start of the school year easier. One major challenge during the first […]

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What do you mean by “it works for me”?

July 23, 2014
questions to ask when reflecting on your teaching practices

Hey, it keeps the kids busy and quiet, so it works for me! I don’t care what the “research” says, it works in my classroom. So what if that’s a better way, this is working for me! Yeah, using technology would probably improve it, but what I’m doing is working, so I’ll pass. How can […]

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A bright idea for gently yet firmly saying NO

July 19, 2014
how to tell people no

On my way home from the TpT conference last Saturday, I overheard a random conversation between a JetBlue flight attendant and a passenger. It’s now the topic of a blog post here, so I suppose that’s a lesson to all of us that even our most off-handed words can have a tremendous impact and reach. We […]

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Big fish, little fish, and separate ponds of educators

July 16, 2014
separate ponds of educators

I have never had the option of having a single, tight-knit group of friends. When I was growing up, my dad was in the army. We moved every 3 years, and so did all my classmates. That sounds kind of traumatic, but it was the only life I knew and I enjoyed the adventure of it […]

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The power of social media to connect: #tptvegas14

July 14, 2014

Every time I go to a conference, I say that the best part was connecting with the people I admire, learn from, and care about. I think that was ten times as true for the first TeachersPayTeachers conference held last Friday in Las Vegas. These are the ladies (and a few gents) that I connect with […]

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5 ways to support kids who struggle with student-directed learning

July 10, 2014
strategies for helping kids be successful with project based learning and student direct learning

I mentioned in my ten takeaways from #ISTE2014 post that I wanted to write a bit more about some of the problems teachers are encountering with project-based and student-directed learning. Even though we believe deeply in helping kids uncover their passions, ask and pursue answering their own questions, and take ownership over their learning, the […]

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Follett Classroom Connections: a new set of eBook tools

July 7, 2014
Follett Classroom Connections eBooks

I’m proud to have Follett Learning as a sponsor and supporter of this blog (you might recall my posts on the annual Follett Challenge which awards $200K in tech resources to schools), and today I’m going to share with you their newest add-on service to the free Follett Shelf platform. It’s called Classroom Connections, and it’s a set of instructional tools […]

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My 10 big take-aways from #iste2014

July 2, 2014
#ISTE2014 Atlanta

I’ve always thought the term “re-entry” to our regular lives after an ISTE conference was a bit dramatic, but it really does feel that way this year. 16,000 educators in one building is…intense. Now that I’m back from Atlanta and scrolling through my notes, I’m going to try to condense everything down to 10 main take-aways. These are not necessarily the most […]

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Sortify: a free open-ended game for all grade levels

June 25, 2014
GameUp by BrainPOP

I don’t often talk about my work as the Educational Content Creator for BrainPOP because a lot of what I do is behind the scenes stuff that probably isn’t that blog-worthy. But I absolutely have to share with you this really cool game that I’ve been working on with the GameUp team for months because I think […]

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A bright idea for simplifying differentiation with smart student grouping

June 21, 2014
group work

Do your students hate group work? If so, they’re not alone. Personality conflicts and a wide range of abilities within the group often create results like this: Here’s a strategy to make it easier for you to form effective groups for a project or activity and differentiate the work that students do within their groups: 1) Pre-assess students […]

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“It must be nice to be paid not to work in the summer!”

June 16, 2014
why teachers don

If you had a dollar for every time you’ve heard that, right? It’s amazing how many people are unaware that most teachers spend their summers working a second job, teaching summer school, attending professional development, and/or doing curriculum mapping. And nearly all of us spend at least part of our summers working more unpaid hours preparing for the fall […]

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