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 #


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