Write A Rubric For A Descriptive Paragraph

A rubric for a descriptive paragraph is simply a score card on which you evaluate the topic sentence, descriptive details, development, unity, and coherence of a paragraph.

Writing a rubric for a descriptive paragraph involves establishing a rating system and definitions for the five elements contained in a good descriptive paragraph: a topic sentence, descriptive details, development, unity, and coherence. The topic sentence introduces what will be described. Descriptive details illustrate the overall impression given in the topic sentence. Adequate development leaves the reader with a complete image of the thing described. Unity in a paragraph means that there are no irrelevant statements or details; every word and sentence supports the topic sentence. Coherence means that the whole paragraph is orderly and makes sense; there are no unclear sentence structures or errors in spelling or punctuation. A rubric is simply a chart of these elements and the degree to which they are achieved by the writer.


1. Insert a table of 4 columns and 6 rows in a Word document. If you are writing the paragraph rubric by hand, make each cell approximately 2 inches by 2 inches, leaving the top row shorter and the far-left column narrower than the rest for labeling.

2. Resize the cells to accommodate the room you will need for the text. Resize as necessary as you fill in the criteria for each cell.

3. Label the cells, from left to right in the top row, creating the following headers for the columns: Criteria, Needs Improvement, Satisfactory, Exceptional.

4. Label the rows, from top to bottom, creating the following headers for the rows: Criteria (this will already be written in the cell after completing Step 3), Topic Sentence, Descriptive Language, Development, Unity, Coherence.

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5. Define each cell by describing what each one means for its corresponding set of criteria. Here are three examples: In the “Topic Sentence” row, underneath the “Satisfactory” column, you might write this: “The topic sentence adequately indicates what will be described in the paragraph.” In the “Descriptive Language” row, under the “Exceptional” column, you might write this: “Writer uses creative and thoughtful language that appeals to the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. There are no clich s; rather, the language creates a unique image of the description topic.” In the “Unity” row, beneath the “Needs Improvement” column, you could write this: “The paragraph strays from topic and breaks from unity of purpose. Fewer than three sentences in the paragraph focus on a single description. The writer does not establish a single, controlled idea.”

6. Decide what scale you will use and assign how many minimum and maximum points are available in each column. For example, the “Needs Improvement” column can include ratings 1–3; the “Satisfactory” column, 4–7; and the “Exceptional” column, 8–10. Or you could use a scale of 1–5, with “Needs Improvement” using 1–2, “Satisfactory” using 3, and “Exceptional” using 4–5. The values of the criteria are up to you. The point totals from each row can be added together at the end for a total score.

7. Insert two blank lines on which to write each student’s name and score at the top of the page above your completed rubric chart. This is only necessary if you intend to hand out the rubric along with the score itself to the student.

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