Using rubrics to assess speaking and writing performance

My official goal to design best-in class assessments started in 2011-2012. That year, the College Board finally got rid of the old mammoth that was the French AP exam and designed a new exam. I used to tell my AP students that we would only practice for the exam 2 weeks prior because I was not going to waste their AP year drilling verbs, listening to canned conversations that were not authentic, and doing “fill-in-the-blanks”. That is not what a world language is about! So you can imagine how excited as I was for this change: a real world exam aligned with the World Languages standards, with authentic texts and audio pieces (Interpretive), a simulated conversation and an email reply (Interpersonal), and an oral cultural presentation and a persuasive essay (Presentational).

And so that summer,  I took the newly published French AP rubrics and worked backwards with my colleague to design speaking and writing rubrics for every level of French. We now use these rubrics for formative and summative assessments. Here are some comments from my French 1 and 3 students about the rubrics:

—“The rubrics tell me what to improve for next time.”
—“It helps to see exactly what is expected, and when doing corrections, it expedites the process.”
—“Rubrics allow me to set goals and know what I should be aiming for in my speaking and writing.”

—“It has helped because it pushes me to use new vocabulary and learn more as I go.”

4/20/13: I have removed my rubrics from this post because I am working with the Ohio Foreign Language Association (OFLA) to create performance and proficiency rubrics, building on the work that Martha Pero (OFLA PD chair) and I have done on this topic. I will share once we have completed our work (very soon – summer 2013 at the latest)

Here are all the rubrics I designed with @MarthaPero for the Ohio Foreign Language Association:


  1. Hi, I am currently preparing my PA French Teacher Certification K-12. Your blog is a wonderful resource for L2 teachers, with so many resources to chose from. I was personally interested in French L2 performance assessments in French, more especially how to grade essays.

    The work you realized for OFLA is priceless, more especially the entire tab “Student Learning Objectives”, which gives access to many resources, but also to so many rubrics from which a teacher starting her/his career can find guidelines from.

    However, I have one question per regards to the Performance Rubric on” Intermediate Presentational Writing”: as a scorer, how do you evaluate/measure criteria such as “most of the time” , “sometimes”, rarely” , “[causing] “confusion for a native speaker” ? Shouldn’t those anchors be quantified to stay objective in term of scoring (e.g. (e.g.: Comprehensibility: “My writing has no errors” ; My writing has less than 4 errors”, etc.)? Thanks!

    • Bonjour Chantal! Thank you for your great question. My philosophy of assessment is based on wholistic grading. If I want to assess my students’ performance and help them communicate in all 3 modes, then I need to focus on what they can do, not on counting their errors.

      Let’s take an example. Student A writes a paragraph. In the paragraph, the student is taking risks with the language, while s/he shows mastery of expected structures and is comprehensible, s/he is trying to create new language with phrases s/he knows. As a result, student A’s paragraph has a few mistakes.

      Student B however, writes a paragraph with no errors. S/he does not venture out of what s/he knows.

      If I am counting errors, then student A is going to get a bad grade. If you put in any rubric something like “less than 4 errors” then you are rewarding accuracy at the expense of communication, and stifling creativity and risk taking.

      I can also guarantee that by using standard-based feed-back and staying away from “counting mistakes”, your feed-back to your students will tremendously improve! Which feed-back will inspire your students to grow? “you have 13 mistakes”, or “I comprehended everything you wrote, continue incorporating new phrases in your writing.”

      I hope this makes sense, Chantal! I would recommend you read the ACTFL workbook called “THE KEYS to Assessing Language Performance”. We used the ACTFL language to design the Ohio rubrics 🙂 I would be happy to continue this dialogue via email and show you some students samples! Finally, please note that I moved away from Ohio about 2 years ago and that the rubrics have evolved (but the language you are referring to is still there)!
      You can find them here:

      A bientot!
      Cecile –

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