Designing A Vocabulary Rubric For Evaluating The Language Skills

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Vocabulary Rubric is widely used by teachers around the world for testing the students’ vocabulary skills. The criteria used for the assessment vary from person to person, institution to institution. Therefore, it is normal for teachers to get confused about which aspects should be considered when building their own Vocabulary Rubric.

Evaluating the progress of a student is a part and parcel of the learning process, and vocabulary learning is no exception. Teachers should evaluate the skills of their students regularly for effective learning. These tests not only show the progress but also find out the weakness of a student. If a student is facing trouble with learning something, test results should show it. Then teachers can make adjustments to their lesson plan to make the concepts easier for the students.

As one of the main objectives of evaluation is to find out the students’ strengths and weaknesses, the Vocabulary Rubric should be efficient enough to assess each student’s skill properly. Teachers should determine which factors should be considered and which are not necessarily enough.

In this article, we will discuss how to build an ideal Vocabulary Rubric for students’ skill evaluation. We will discuss the necessity of certain factors, the scoring plan etc.

So, let’s get started!

What Is Vocabulary Rubric?

Many of you might get confused seeing the mention of ‘Rubric’. Well, it’s not unnatural considering there are multiple meanings of the word and one of them is ‘Title or heading of a content’. But Rubric also means a set of instructions, used mainly for grading. In this case, we are going with the latter.

Vocabulary Rubric is a grading guide containing specific instructions that are used to evaluate the vocabulary skill of the students. It introduces the students to what is expected from them and prepares them accordingly.

Why Do We Need A Vocabulary Rubric?

Evaluating a student’s skill is not easy. As a teacher, you need to find out all the fields they excel in along with the ones they don’t. It is normal to forget to consider a certain factor for evaluation if there are no written instructions. That is why building a grading rubric is important.

Following a structured pattern for evaluation makes scoring and grading easier. Students know about the criteria they need to focus on. It also ensures effective communication between students and teachers.

Many might argue that such structured patterns might limit the criteria that are considered for a student’s evaluation. And such cases might lead to misjudgment of a student’s skill. They also need to be updated regularly which sounds like a hassle. But the reality is different. Teachers often praise how rubrics make the evaluation process easier, fair, and fruitful.

If you can design a vocabulary Rubric efficiently, then the chance of leaving any important criteria is zero and the model will last for years. You should also welcome suggestions from colleagues and students to make the grading rubric more efficient.

Check out this blog to get some great root word examples. This will help you come up with a great vocabulary rubric. 

How To Make A Vocabulary Rubric?

Now that you understand the benefits of a vocabulary Rubric, you should build one as well. The model you make can be used for formal or personal use. But the criteria for evaluation should remain the same to ensure efficiency.

Let’s consider you are building a vocabulary rubric middle school students will find useful. What is the procedure? What are the factors you will consider? The step-by-step guide is given below:

Step 1: What Is Your Goal

What will you be using this vocabulary Rubric for? Assessing vocabulary skills is too much of a vague answer. You need to be more specific. Use the questions below to define your goal with detailed information:

  • How detailed will be the feedback?
  • How to break down the expectation from the students for this task?
  • Are all the parts of the test equally important?
  • In which way will the performance be assessed?
  • What standard will be used to define levels such as adequate or exceptional performance?
  • Will the result be given based on overall performance? Or will it contain information about achievements in each factor?
  • Will participation be considered for evaluation? Or only the work will be judged?

Step 2: Which Type Of Rubric Will You Use?

There are two types of rubrics used for grading students- Holistic and analytical.

Holistic Rubric

This type of rubric is a one-dimensional structure used to evaluate the overall achievement of a student. You just need to score overall performance and add an explanation. An example will make it easier to understand:




The student shows a complete understanding of all the given topics. They are fully capable of explaining their reasoning. The writing is error-free.


The student shows considerable understanding of all the given topics. They are somewhat capable of explaining their reasoning. The writing includes minor errors.


The student shows considerable understanding of the majority of the given topics. They can explain their reasoning in some cases. The writing includes several errors.


The Student failed to demonstrate their understanding in the majority of the cases. Writing contains major errors.


Holistic rubrics are easier to build and define, but they lack detailed information. This might lead to misjudgment of students’ skills. They are also not very helpful for effective communication. A student might not understand exactly in which field they need to focus more.

Analytical Rubric

The analytical rubric contains detailed information about the student’s achievement. It follows a two-dimensional structure, organized in a table form. The criteria considered are mentioned and the achievement in each are explained. Below is an example:












Shows understanding in some of the cases

Shows understanding in the majority of the cases

Displays considerable understanding in all the cases

Shows complete understanding in all the cases


Reasoning present in a few cases

Present in several cases

Reasoning present in the majority of the cases

Logical reasoning is present in the majority/ all the cases


Contains lots of major errors

Contains a few major errors

A few minor errors

No error

Analytical rubrics provide better information. They are suitable for effective communication between students and teachers. However, it is comparatively harder to build than holistic rubrics.

You should check some rich vocabulary words to improve your overall English fluency. 

Step 3: What Are The Criteria For Your Vocabulary Rubric?

What aspects are we considering for the evaluation? What should the student be able to do with the words they learned?

When you are selecting the criteria, always keep in mind what the learning objective of the course is. Determine which skills you expect the students to show and in what way. List all the expectations first, then categorize them based on their similarities. Also, determine which criteria can be ignored because too many criteria increase the complexity of the model.

For a vocabulary Rubric, here are a few suggestions for considerable criteria:

Students should be able to —

  • Pronounce the word correctly
  • Spell the word correctly
  • Explain the word with its definition
  • Guess the word if the definition is given
  • Write a sentence with the word
  • Make a sentence verbally with the word

You can add more to the list if you want.

Step 4: Define Performance Levels

Will you score between 1-10, 1-20, 1-50 or 1-100? How many levels will be in the model? You can design a vocabulary Rubric with 3 levels- No understanding, Partial understanding, and Full understanding. You can also add more levels for better understanding such as Not satisfactory, somewhat satisfactory, Satisfactory, Good performance, Excellent performance etc. It is not mandatory to start from the lower level and proceed to higher levels. You can reverse the order if you like.

Step 5: Add Description For The Levels

This might be the hardest part for you. You need to define what you expect from each level in short sentences. The students need to understand how they should perform to reach a certain level from that description. Holistic rubrics won’t require much writing, just all the key points need to be mentioned. Analytical rubrics, however, require a more detailed description for each level for each criterion.

Step 6: Don’t Underestimate Revising

Once you are done, revise the chart again to find out mistakes or any important information lacking. Remember that the chart should never exceed one page. Ask for suggestions from your fellow teachers and students. You can also join internet communities for more information about Vocabulary Rubric.

Utilizing The Vocabulary Rubric

After designing the rubric, you need to figure out what type of tests are you going to take to utilize the model. If you are considering factors such as demonstrating speaking or listening skills, your test must contain such parts. You need to set questions according to your Vocabulary Rubric.

Finding tests that utilize multiple skills of the student is difficult. You can use the SpellQuiz Spelling Test which utilizes the listening and spelling skills of a student. The test is simple. The participant needs to listen to the audio clip played in each round and type it with accurate spelling. Each clip contains a full-sentence recorded with professional voice actors. The student can listen to the clip as many times as they want. The clip at first is played at the normal pace and then again at a slowed pace so that the student has no problem understanding it. Moreover, the test is divided into grades! You can easily find the test appropriate for your students and don’t need to worry if the test is too difficult or easy for them.

What’s More On SpellQuiz?

Competition is a great way to motivate students. You can arrange a spelling bee competition in the classroom, or you can use SpellQuiz Spelling Bee Online. It is an online spelling bee competition where students around the world can participate. Sign your students up for the competition and let them compete against each other. There are scoreboards for top spellers of the week, of the month, of the year and all-time. Seeing one’s own name on those boards can be a serious goal for a student that will motivate them to put more effort into learning.

If any student is nervous about joining a competition right away, SpellQuiz Practice Test is here to help. They can practice as much as they want before joining the main competition. Along with being a warm-up test, it can also get the students accustomed to the online environment.

If you are wondering how, you will be able to monitor the progress of your students on an online platform, check out the wide range of subscription plans of SpellQuiz. There are multiple packages for teachers depending on the number of students. You can see their scores from your dashboard and use the scores for your vocabulary Rubric as well. SpellQuiz offers a 14-day trial period where you can explore all the features for free before you decide to buy anything. You can also find useful tips on language learning, teaching process, vocabulary build-up etc. in the SpellQuiz blog.

So, what are you waiting for? Join SpellQuiz today and make the teaching process fun!

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