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Using Rubrics, Lapbook Lessons, AVKO Spelling

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, February 22, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 12, February 22, 2010, ISSN: 1536-2035
© 2010, Heather Idoni - www.FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible.



Guest Article
-- How to Use Rubrics
Helpful Tip
-- Math Centre Site
Winning Website
-- Lapbook Lessons
Reader Question
-- Spelling Programs
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

Let Your Rubric Be Your Guide
by Karen Lange


What is a rubric? The word has several definitions, but the one
that applies here is an established rule or explanation. Quite
simply, it is a list of questions, items, or checkpoints that help
students review their work. When used consistently, a rubric will
encourage self assessment skills. It is also a great tool for
parents, who can use it to review their children’s work. 

A rubric can be helpful for writing projects, where age appropriate
questions and details are included for each student. It may be
customized for the student’s needs and ability, and for different
projects such as a research paper or essay. Students can be taught
that consulting a rubric is a necessary step before completion and
submission of a project.

What does a rubric look like? Here is a sample rubric for younger

1) Is the first word in each sentence capitalized? Are all proper
nouns capitalized?
2) Does each sentence end with a period?
3) Is each paragraph indented?
4) Is the paper neat and legible?

An older student’s rubric will contain reminders, tips, and
questions such as:

1) Check spelling and grammar. Are verb tenses correct?
2) Do all the sentences in each paragraph relate to the thesis
3) Are thoughts clear and concise; do they follow a logical order?
4) Is there a good balance of descriptive words and long and short
5) Have you read your work aloud to check for awkward or
rough spots?

I encourage my writing students to consult a rubric before they
submit their assignments. It outlines what I expect from them and
helps avoid common errors. This builds and encourages personal
responsibility and trouble shooting skills. Proofreading, editing,
and revising are important steps for writing, and a rubric helps
streamline this process.

How does one teach students to use a writing rubric? Allow age and
abilities to direct you. If necessary, choose one item for review,
such as punctuation or capitalization. Add items through the year
as comprehension and skills allow. Be patient; writing is a process
and these skills will develop given time.

Designate certain items for rubric review. Naturally you want to
encourage responsibility and build rubric comparison skills, but
let students have creative writing space as well. Don’t stifle the
creative juices by taking a red pen to every bit of writing that
they do. Better to build on writing and grammar skills, even into
the upper grades, than to have a child who despises writing because
they’re afraid of the red pen and what it means.

Need an idea to help build rubric skills? Try this:

Play “Writing Detective”.  Write a group of sentences or a short
paragraph laden with mistakes. Tell students that they must use
their rubric to find and correct the mistakes. If you wish, award
points for each mistake found, and another point for accurate
corrections. At the end of several rounds, the student with the
most points wins. Be sure to discuss the errors and corrective

An alternative to this idea is to have students write the paragraphs
with mistakes and exchange with other students of the same age or
relative ability. Apply the same rules and discuss the results.

Rubrics need not be limited to writing. They can be useful in other
areas, such as science experiments or history projects. Following
a rubric can also be as simple as following directions or a recipe.
Regardless of the subject or activity, using a rubric strengthens
reading and critical thinking. If you are so inclined, let a rubric
be a guide to teach your students important skills and to help make
your job a little easier.


Karen Lange taught her three children at home in grades K-12. She
is a freelance writer, homeschool consultant, and creator of The
Homeschool Online Creative Writing Co-op for teens. Visit her
website at www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com, or write to her at

Copyright 2010, Karen Lange.


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


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"I just wanted to drop you a line and let you
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I just love to use maps in school; it makes
everything so clear. And your maps are
perfect for each unit we study. It's great to
have a resource like this instead of having to
paw through numerous books to find maps
and then have to shrink them or enlarge
them to suit the need!  I have recommended
your maps to many people." -- Sue

Scroll to the bottom of this page for a FREE World History Sampler pack.
Try our Knowledge Quest products before you buy!

Helpful Tip


"This UK website includes quick reference leaflets, 'teach
yourself' booklets, practice and revision booklets, on-line
exercises, MathTutor video tutorials, iPod video segments,
3GP mobile phone downloads, link to other resources, and
more." -- Michael


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Winning Website

Lapbook Lessons

I was recently invited to join this active community of over 25,000
members by Tami, a homeschool mom who enjoyed my Four-Story
Mistake unit study

This community shares lapbooks, lapbook lessons and even videos
about creating lapbooks.  It is run on the Ning.com platform, which
is free to join and easy to use.

Last Issue's Reader Question

"Has any one used the AKVO/Sequential Spelling system all the way
through and been satisfied with the results?

I love the way it logically builds. It makes sense to me. I wondered if
anyone has used it for a child that did not think logically? How did they

One of my daughters, as Cynthia Tobias says in The Way They Learn,
is a global learner (needs to see the big picture before absorbing the details,
needs to hear something more than once), and something like... an abstract
random learner. Thank God I found that book or I'd think something was
wrong! She thinks so differently than me. :-)

I also wonder if anyone has found a spelling curiculum/system (yes, I'm
logically minded) that they found that worked well for my daughter's
learning style type -- global/abstract random/auditory learner.

Thanks." -- Anna

Our Readers' Responses

"Anna -- We have been using AVKO for the past two years
and will use nothing else. The built-in repetition and words
that build upon each other is a tremendous success.

My oldest fought spelling so we ditched it for a year. Then
we started using AVKO and he enjoys spelling now. We do not,
however, go with the suggested 25 words per day. At 8-10
years old, that is too much. We have them do 8-10 words each
day and has worked out great.

Their writing has greatly improved and when they ask us to
spell a word for them, I ask them to try first by sounding
it out and 90% of the time they get it." -- David


"Sequential Spelling did not work for my son at all. The one
that has worked for him is All About Spelling." -- Pam


"My kids have been using a site called SpellingCity. It's
great for auditory learners (or any child that enjoys computer
games). You can use it with any spelling curriculum by just
inputting that week's spelling words. You can also use spelling
lists that other members have shared on the site.

At SpellingCity, kids play online games with their spelling
words. It's so much more fun that the 'write-each-spelling-
word-five-times' practice method that I grew up with! I've
noticed that my own children remember whatever they are
studying when they have fun doing it. The audio word match
is one of my family's favorites, but there are word scrambles,
word finds, and a game called Hang Mouse... all using your
child's spelling words!

You can generate handwriting worksheets with the spelling
words, too. I like to do this because it's a way for my
children to practice spelling and penmanship at the same time.

Students can even take their spelling tests at SpellingCity.

Apparently, AVKO has teamed up with SpellingCity and they
can work well together. There's information about that here:


SpellingCity is FREE! There is an optional recordkeeping
program that you can subscribe to for an inexpensive annual
fee, but you don't need to do this unless you want records of
your student's work in the program kept online.

The site includes a forum where you can ask questions, too."
-- Kelly S.

Answer our NEW Question

"All through our home educating years (14 years) I've been
pretty casual about science.  Our older children have done
wonderfully as they've entered formal courses of studies
and adult life.

My #5 child has vision problems, though.  I'm looking for a
chemistry program that isn't as detailed, but points out the
key thoughts.

I'd prefer that our children notice details and think, but
this child has different needs.
Can you share ideas and thoughts about a self-paced, thorough,
college prep, God-based chemistry program?  Experiments are
fine as long as I don't have to use a lot of specialty items.
I'm open to video/CD helps.  Thanks!" -- Kathy


Do you some ideas for Kathy?  Thursday's newsletter will be a
High School Special Issue!  All contributions are welcome!

Please send your answer to: mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

Ask YOUR Question

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