Encourage Risks

In a stack of papers called Grading.

  • Sep
  • 06
  • 2008

I like the ideas under “Creativity” on the Flickr Assessment Rubric and am thinking of something like this to emphasize risk taking in student writing. This means I’ll need to separate style and content when I assess, not letting errors in one impact the grade of the other, but I think I can manage it in the name of experimentation.

How often do you read paragraphs that lifelessly address the letter of the writing prompt, but entirely miss the spirit of the assignment? That could easily happen in a piece of writing that demonstrates competence of the state standards. So you read one paragraph that shows no style, yet meets all requirements of the assignment. And read an eloquent and interesting paragraph that also meets all requirements. Currently, both those paragraphs earn varying degrees of a passing grade. For most students, passing is good enough. If there’s no reason to do anything better than that, why bother?

With a bit about what phrase could be used to describe the writing dictating some additional row of a rubric, I extend an invitation to all authors to push their current writing abilities with no penalty — that row of the rubric wouldn’t fall below 75% so even a failed attempt at style earns a passing grade.


The following comes directly from the first writing assignment I handed to my juniors. While the Style category isn’t worth much right now, I may increase it later in the year depending on the response I get.


In addition to the rubric used for grading, points earned for Style (10% of the final score) will be determined by which of the following can be said about the final paper:

100% 90% 85% 75%
unique way of expressing ideas that approaches professional, publishable style ideas conveyed with experimental techniques that make the meaning clearer ideas appear in an interesting way that is ineffective, but doesn’t take away from the meaning of the writing ideas follow formulaic but accurate expression, lacking anything but the bare minimum needed to make sense

If you are not creative, you do not fail. This portion of the grade is meant to encourage you to take risks with how and what you write. If you take no risks, you still earn 7.5 points for this portion of the grade, which is passing.


  • Thesis/Organization – 30 points
  • Textual Details/Support – 30 points
  • Sentence Variety – 20 points
  • Conventions – 10 points
  • Style – 10 points

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