Book Talk Assignment And Rubric Definition


The practice of using single point rubrics is slowly but surely catching on. The simplicity of these rubrics — with just a single column of criteria, rather than a full menu of performance levels — offers a whole host of benefits:

  • Teachers find them easier and faster to create, because they no longer have to spend precious time thinking up all the different ways students could fail to meet expectations.
  • Students find them easier to read when preparing an assignment. With only the target expectations to focus on, they are more likely to read those expectations.
  • They allow for higher-quality feedback, because teachers must specify key problem areas and notable areas of excellence for that particular student, rather than choosing from a list of generic descriptions.

Want to Learn More?

I first talked about this type of rubric in an earlier post (Know Your Terms: Holistic, Analytic, and Single-Point Rubrics), and again in a post I wrote for Brilliant or Insane (Your Rubric is a Hot Mess; Here’s How to Fix It). If this is the first time you’ve encountered this type of rubric, reading both of these will give you some background knowledge on all the different types of rubrics and why the single-point deserves world domination.

Show Us Your Rubrics!

I urge you to take one of your most convoluted rubrics and make a single-point version of it. Then show it to the world, so other teachers can learn: Take a screenshot of it and post the picture on Twitter with the hashtag #singlepointrubric. If you aren’t on Twitter or don’t feel like doing this, just put a link to your rubric in the comments below. Help us start a movement to rid the world of ineffective rubrics!

Another Variation (Added in 2017)

After considering some of the limitations of this format, I played around with the rubric a bit more and came up with this variation:

The original version of the single point rubric allowed no space for actually pointing out when the student hit the standard, apart from maybe circling or highlighting the middle column. With this format, teachers can pinpoint where the student is on each descriptor, then offer feedback, either constructive, positive, or both.

To grab a copy of this for your own modification, click here.

Need Ready-Made Rubrics?

My Rubric Pack gives you four different designs in Microsoft Word and Google Docs formats. It also comes with video tutorials to show you how to customize them for any need, plus a Teacher’s Manual to help you understand the pros and cons of each style. Check it out here:


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Basics of the Book Review - History Workshop

Due Date: Oct 16


Book report - An essay which summarizes the book and does little else. DO NOT DO THIS.
Book review - A critical analysis of the ideas, structure, and methodology (among other things) of a given book. This is your assignment.

Two-part Rough Guideline for doing a book review:

1. First, determine what the purpose of the book is. Does the book have a main ideas or ideas that it seeks to prove? A book called Cuba and the United States: Ties of Singular Intimacy is clearly suggesting that there is something special about the relationship between the two countries. You, the reviewer, must first determine what that "something" is.
2. Second, you must ask yourself two questions: (a) How does the author go about supporting the main idea(s) of the book? (b) How well does the author go about supporting those ideas? These two questions will form the meat and potatoes of your essay.

Answering questions (a) and (b).
There is no exact path to take at this point, for each book is different. The primary thing you must do is to follow the argument that the author makes, and to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of that argument. Because each argument is different, no two reviews will follow the same path. However, it is possible to suggest some things to look for:

1. What are the author's sources? Where does the author obtain his or her information? Look in the footnotes/endnotes and bibliography for this.
2. Is there an obvious bias? Does the author seem to have an ax to grind? Does the author omit obvious sources, for example? (A book about the Holocaust that didn't use survivors' accounts, for example, omits an obvious source.) As another example, are the author's political view obvious?
3. Does the author's logic make sense? Is there any logic to the author's main points? Does that logic flow naturally from the information presented?
4. Does the writing style and the structure of the book make is easy or hard to follow its points?
5. Were you convinced, and did you learn anything new and/or valuable from reading this work?
6. Make use of some of the analytical techniques we have discussed in class. For example, what factors does the author consider to be most important in causation? Does the author emphasize ideas, social forces, individual personalities, or something else? Does the author emphasize the importance of continuity aver change, or vice-versa? Do you find the author's analytical choices appropriate? These are only examples. There are other questions that you might ask, depending on the source.
7. Return to Chapter 7 in the textbook, which discusses much of this and more.
8. It is important to note that if you can find no main idea or logic to the book, that's a valid point, and you would show that by following these same questions, and demonstrating the author's failures.
9. Remember - each source is different. Please feel free to ask me about issues concerning your particular book.

Length: This review should be 3-4 pages long, or about 650-860 words long.

Please put at the top of the first page a bibliographic citation so that I will know what you have read. The citation should look like this:

Author's Name. The Title of the Book. Place of publication: Name of the publishing company, Date of publication.

Arnold Toynbee. Mankind and Mother Earth: A Narrative History of the World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

 Grading Rubric for the Book Review:

General Presentation (10%)


The presentation of the review is consistent with the standards of a scholarly publication, including full citation of the selected work, font size and margins, and paragraph organization.


The presentation of the review is consistent with high academic standards but would require some minor revision, with reference to one or more of the criteria above, to be submitted for publication.


The presentation of the review is acceptable but needs improvement.  The selected work may not be cited fully; font size and margins may be irregular; or paragraph structure may require further attention.


The presentation of the review is significantly deficient with reference to one or more of the criteria above.


The presentation of the review is not adequate for the assignment.

Writing (20%)


Writing is clear and compelling.  Grammar, spelling, and word choice are completely or almost completely correct.


The review contains some writing errors, but they do not dominate the paper, which is basically well written.


The review contains a significant number of writing errors that detract from its overall quality.


Writing problems require serious attention.  Unless these are the result of carelessness, the student should consider seeking some assistance from the .


Writing is very unclear.  Assistance from the is recommended.

Contextual Information (10%)


The review effectively situates the work in its scholarly context, including relevant information about the author, his or her academic discipline, and the genre of the work (general work, monograph, biography, etc.).


The review provides meaningful information with respect to the criteria above but may neglect one or more significant considerations.


The review provides some basic information about the authorship and nature of the work, but this aspect of the review requires more consideration.


Information about the scholarly context of the work is significantly lacking or inaccurate.


The review provides little or no information about the scholarly context of the work, or the information presented is substantially incorrect.

Review of Content (30%)


The review surveys the content of the work evenly and thoroughly (generally demonstrating that the student has read it in its entirety) and reflects a clear understanding and appreciation of its central observations, arguments, and insights.


The review surveys the work thoroughly but may neglect some observations, arguments, or insights of importance.


The review demonstrates familiarity with the work but may survey its content unevenly or neglect central observations, arguments, or insights.


The review does not demonstrate thorough familiarity with the work.  Significant parts of the work may have been neglected or misunderstood.


The review does not demonstrate an adequate understanding of the work.

Critique (30%)


The review assesses the relevance and originality of the work, its conceptual framework and assumptions, the strength of its arguments, its use of evidence, and the effectiveness of its presentation (i.e., writing quality and organization).


The review identifies the basic claims (or thesis/theses) of the work and evaluates its arguments but may neglect some of the other criteria above.


The review comments substantively on the quality of the work but does not provide a thorough critique of its claims and arguments.


The review's critique of the work is significantly lacking or flawed in its analysis.


The review does not provide an adequate critique of the work.

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