Grading Rubric for Middle School Art

I have a new teaching challenge this year… giving letter grades for middle school Art!  My elementary school added a middle school this fall, so Art has become an elective for 6th & 7th grade, and letter grades go along with that!  Fortunately, my very first teaching job was teaching Art to grades 7-12 at a college-prep Charter School, so I learned how to grade artwork and give semester grades while I was there.  Otherwise, I’d probably be freaking out right now!  I’ll share here what I’m doing for grading.  I’d love to hear what others of you are doing, too – so please chime in!

First of all, grading artwork is not about making a judgement on any natural talent or ability the student may have, but determining how well the student follows directions and meets the stated requirements.  That takes a lot of pressure off of everyone right there!   Having a grading rubric posted in the front of the room as we begin each new project is the key to being clear about my expectations and making sure my students understand exactly what they need to do to get an “A”.  I like to keep my rubrics very simple, usually with just four requirements which are based on a 12 point scoring system.  

Here’s an example of the grading rubric from my “Graffiti Lettering” project: (1) Large, overlapping letters: 3 points, (2) Placement of shadows: 3 points, (3) Use of color: 3 points, and (4) Craftsmanship (or neatness): 3 points.  I gave this project a “weight” of 1, but a more involved project could have a weight of 2 for a total of 24 possible points, or 3 for a total of 36 possible points.  Then you just divide the student’s total points earned by the weight of the project to get their letter grade.

Students use a “Grade Record Sheet” to keep a running total of the points they’ve earned (I round up) and the weight of each assignment.  By dividing their total points by total weight, they can figure out their current grade for the class at any given time without having to ask.  I’m sure I’ll be fine tuning my grading system as I figure out ways to improve it, but this seems like a good place to start.  

For those of you who already give letter grades for Art, what system do you use?

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10 Responses to Grading Rubric for Middle School Art

  1. Prairie Mother September 17, 2011 at 5:13 am #

    I taught middle school art years ago and hated giving grades. I had a similar rubric but I like yours better yours is more precise. I love the weighted system and the Grade Record Sheet! If I ever get back in the classroom I think I may just have to borrow your model. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kristyn DeMint September 17, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    When I grade my middle schoolers I use a 100 point system on each major project. Participation/Effort, Following Directions, Creativity, Craftsmanship, and Overall Artistic Appearance are each worth 20 points. This helps my students who might not be the most artistic still be successful.

  3. Phyl September 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    I started having to give NUMBER grades to my 6th graders a couple of years ago. I hate it, because I only see them twice every 6 days, which means once or twice a week, and so we're lucky if in a 10 week marking period we get 2 projects done to grade. So I do quickie projects in between the bigger stuff. I grade their projects with letters, and then translate them into numbers for the quarterly grade. I do not use an official rubric – just so time consuming for kids that are only a small percentage of my student load. But I do have a list of criteria which includes: following directions, showing an understanding of the assignment and completing it as assigned, craftsmanship, effort, appropriate use of materials, cleanup, and attitude. The last criteria is “filling out your passport” which I will be posting about this weekend, so check back in a day or two! I expect to retire this June, and I know someone who would LOVE my job and is a community member (and former student teacher). I expect, if she lands the job, that she would continue the passport system but define it better with a rubric.

  4. TeachKidsArt September 19, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    I like the categories you use, Kristyn. I may try those on a future project!

    Phyl, I agree… using a rubric IS time consuming! But it really helps me to be able to explain and support the grades I give. I'm always on the lookout, though, for easier and better ways to do things, so that's why these conversations are so helpful!

  5. Maryann J. September 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    Do you use the same system for k-6 levels? I like the idea to grade older kids although it seems a good system to adapt for the little ones too.

  6. TeachKidsArt September 20, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    Maryann, at my school we only give “behavior grades” (O, S, N) for K-5 Art. Middle School Art (6th & 7th, and next year, 8th) gets letter grades. Grading with rubrics is great, but would be way too time consuming with K-5, since we often do a new project every week or two. Behavior grades are really what's most important at the younger ages anyway!

  7. Anonymous September 21, 2011 at 5:14 am #

    Hi; I have been teaching middle school art for 6 years,(elementary before) I use a rubric something like your except there are two columns. One is that they have to self rate using my grading system which they do before they turn in the project. The other columnm is where I score according to the listed criteria. At the bottom of each rubric is a space for students to write a reflection. They have to tell me what they learned, what they would improve on and WHY, and what they are most happy with, and WHY. I feel that this helps form a habit of reflecting on other things they do in life.

  8. Fancy for nyc September 21, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    Hi, I was wondering if you attach the individual student 'project rubric' to their project? Do you just give it to the student? or Do you hold on to them for parent teacher conferences? This year my school in wants to have quantifiable data per grade (eek!) measuring student improvement in art, so rubrics are my life this year!
    I have an overall rubric with state standards (used for quarterly grades) and I break the standards by skills through projects, quizzes, and written assignments. Each project has a rubric…craftsmanship, effort, originality, etc… It's a lot of paperwork, it all seems very useful and all but not sure what to do with my mountains of rubrics!

  9. pebblekeeper October 3, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Wow! That is so clear and helpful.

  10. laura minala November 24, 2012 at 8:00 am #