May 2024
Vol 21 No 5

Current Issue » Cover Page Cover Story Harry & Rosemary Wong Columns Articles Features
Back Issues


About Harry and Rosemary Wong...

Harry and Rosemary Wong are teachers. Harry is a native of San Francisco and taught middle school and high school science.  Rosemary is a native of New Orleans and taught K-8, including working as the school media coordinator and student activity director.

Harry Wong has been awarded the Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal. Rosemary was chosen as one of California's first mentor teachers and has been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year Award.

Harry Wong is the most sought after speaker in education today. He has been called "Mr. Practicality" for his common sense, user-friendly, no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level student success.

Nearly a million teachers worldwide have heard his message. Because he is fully booked for two years, he has agreed to and has invited his wife to join him in doing a monthly column for Teachers.Net so that more people can hear their message.

About Their Work... Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to bringing quality and dignity to the materials they produce. For this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO. They have dedicated their lives to leaving a legacy in education and making a difference in the lives of teachers and students.

Their latest contribution to helping teachers succeed is an eLearning course on Classroom Management.

1. The course can be taken in private at the learner's convenience.

2. The outcome of the course is
a 2 inch binder with your own
Classroom Management Action Plan.

This Action Plan is similar to the organized and structured plan used by all successful teachers.  Details for the classroom management course can be seen at

The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education. Over 29 million copies have been sold.

A third edition of The First Days of School includes an added bonus, an Enhanced CD featuring Harry Wong. The Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn, is dedicated to those teachers who know that the more they learn, the more effective they become.

The Wongs have also produced the video series The Effective Teacher, winner of the Telly Award for the best educational video of the past twenty years and awarded the 1st place Gold Award in the International Film and Video Festival.

They have released a new set of CDs with Harry Wong LIVE, speaking on How to Improve Student Achievement, as he speaks at one of his many presentations. He is the most sought after speaker in education and his presentations are legendary.

When the book, video series, and CD, and eLearning course are used together, they form the most effective staff training tool for developing effective teachers. Staff developers and administrators who would like to know how to implement the aforementioned book, video series, and CD are encouraged to consult the book, New Teacher Induction:  How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers. Information about these products can be found by visiting the publisher's website at or

Best Sellers

The First Days of School with Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn
by Harry & Rosemary Wong
$18.30 from
More information


The Effective Teacher (Video Set)
Presented by Harry Wong

8 DVDs, with Facilitator's Handbook in PDF, book The First Days of School, and storage case, $695.00 from (volume discounts available)
More information


Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong
eLearning course for individual use, CEUs available Preview the course and order at $124.95 (Group discounts available.)


How to Improve Student Achievement
Hear Harry Wong Live! in this 2 CD set
More information


New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers
by Annette L. Breaux, Harry K. Wong

$23.07 from
More information

Pathways: A Guide for Energizing & Enriching Band, Orchestra, & Choral Programs
by Joseph Alsobrook

$12.57 from
More information


Results : The Key to Continuous School Improvement
by Mike Schmoker

$20.95 from
More information


Improving Schools from Within : Teachers, Parents, and Principals Can Make the Difference
by Roland Sawyer Barth

$13.30 from
More information


A First-Year Teacher's Guidebook, 2nd Ed.
by Bonnie Williamson, Marilyn Pribus (Editor), Kathy Hoff, Sandy Thornton (Illustrator)

$17.95 from
More information


Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education
by Peter M. Senge (Editor), Nelda H. Cambron McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Art Kleiner, Janis Dutton, Bryan Smith

$24.50 from
More information


The Courage to Teach : Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life
by Parker J. Palmer

$16.76 from
More information


If You Don't Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students : Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers
by Neila A. Connors

$13.96 from
More information


Effective Teaching...
by Harry and Rosemary Wong

November 2006

How to Write a Rubric

Oretha Ferguson teaches sophomore English in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and she is proud to share that her students have achieved so much success that they believe they can conquer any poem.

She had her students write sonnets and poems.  Thirteen of her students were interested in having their poetry published and submitted their poems to a national poetry competition.  Eight of the thirteen entries were accepted for publication and printed!  Two students later wrote poems that were submitted to a summer poetry competition, both of which were accepted for publication.

She attributes her students’ success to the foundation and interest created from her prose poetry unit.

The purpose of Oretha’s prose poetry unit is to transition sophomore students from reading prose to reading poetry and to help students gain an interest in and an appreciation for poetry.

To prepare her students for the unit on prose poetry, she uses a PowerPoint presentation.

Click here to see this prose poetry PowerPoint presentation in a separate browser window. (Important Note:  Use Internet Explorer for best result.  Click on Slide Show button in the lower right corner to view full screen with audio efffects.  Use space bar to advance slides.)

The first eight slides of the PowerPoint presentation introduce students to a brief explanation of prose poetry and the use of figurative language to create striking images. 
After the eighth slide and a brief introduction of the author, students follow along in their text books while listening to the audio of “A Storm in the Mountains” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

In response to the audio, students share their personal, unique encounters with nature, such as if they have gone camping, fishing, or hiking.  For example, one student shared her experience with an unexpected thunderstorm while camping in the woods.  Another student related his experience of hiking in the mountains during an unexpected torrential downpour.  Another student talked about a raging fire she witnessed, while another told about his close encounter with a tornado.  In response to the audio, students connected their “personal encounter with nature” to the prose poem.  This engages the students.

Before showing the PowerPoint slide “Compare and Contrast,” students brainstorm ideas of how “A Storm in the Mountains” compares and contrasts to short stories.  The objective for comparing prose poetry with short stories is to help students discover the unique imagery found in prose poetry.  A Venn diagram is perfect for leading students to find this striking difference.

After proceeding in the PowerPoint to the “Quickwrite” slide, students are given the Quickwrite worksheet that serves as a prewriting for their personal prose poem.

Click here for a copy of the Quickwrite worksheet (Note: Acrobat Reader is required for viewing the file).

Before leaving class, students have a strong foundation with which to successfully write their own prose poem, and write they do!  Students are now ready to read poems by Baca, Cummings, Dickinson, and Shakespeare.

Assessing Student Progress with a Rubric

The purpose of designing a lesson is not simply to ensure that students are taught, but to ensure that they learn.  That is, it is one thing to teach a lesson, but it’s another thing to ensure that the students learn the objectives of the lesson.  Teaching does not mean to lecture.

Teaching means to find the methods necessary to utilize your genius and creativity to deliver a lesson so that the students learn what you want them to learn.  The opposite of this would be a teacher who says,

“I covered it.  If they don’t want to learn it, it’s not my fault.”

Sorry, but if they do not learn it, you haven’t taught it well enough.

To help students learn, begin every lesson with a set of objectives.  To review what this means, please read our April 2006 column, “They're Eager to Do the Assignments.” (

In this column, we shared how a teacher, Julie Johnson, structures a lesson.

  1. She decides what her students are to learn (objectives).
  2. She shows them what they are to learn (demonstrates and teaches).
  3. They practice or do the assignment on what they are to learn (guided and independent practice).
  4. They are tested on what they know they are to learn (assessment).

Julie says, “There is no secret as to what is expected of them.  When I do this they all succeed.”

Also, please read Chapter 22 in The First Days of School.  This chapter talks about how to structure an assignment for student understanding.  We make the statement that if the students know what they are to learn, you increase the chances that they will learn (page 214).

Likewise, in 1993, the National Association of Secondary School Principals said that students will learn more if they know
  • what they are to learn,
  • how they are to learn it,
  • how they are to demonstrate what they have learned, and
  • how the quality of their learning will be evaluated (rubrics).

Prose Poetry Rubric

Andrew Erikson, who was a student in Oretha Ferguson’s class last year, says,

“Having the rubric was like having the poem in front of me.  The rubric guided me through the process of writing the poem, when otherwise I would have been clueless."

On page 209 in The First Days of School, we say that

  • The greater the structure of a lesson and the more precise the directions on what is to be accomplished, the higher the achievement rate.
  • Learning has nothing to do with what the teacher covers.  Learning has to do with what the student accomplishes.

To structure a lesson so that the students know beforehand what they are to accomplish, give the students a scoring guide, or rubric, before each writing assignment.  To review what a rubric is, please review our October 2006 column, “Assessing Student Progress with a Rubric.”  (

Rubrics give students a beginning focus point and a sense of direction for their writing.  Oretha not only uses the poetry rubric to evaluate students for grading, but also to evaluate students’ learning.  It also evaluates how well she created her lesson.

To write a rubric, you first decide what factors you are looking for that will tell you if students have learned what you want them to learn.  For Oretha’s lesson, she decided that five factors were important to measure student ability.  They are as follows:

  1. Ideas: How well can the student develop focus, interest, and involvement?
  2. Organization: How logical and organized are the ideas?
  3. Sensory Images: How vivid, detailed, and intense are the images?
  4. Use of Language: Are the choice of words rich and imaginative?
  5. Presentation: Does the presentation enhance and go beyond the assignment?

She then took each factor and divided it into four levels of competency, giving each a point value.

Students are graded and student learning is assessed on the following domains on a scale of one to four, with four being the highest level of achievement.

Prose Poetry Rubric

Advanced ideas that captivate and involve the reader deeply (4)
Proficient ideas that are well focused and interest reader throughout (3)
Basic ideas that have some focus but lack continuity (2)
Basic ideas that are unfocused and author seems unsure of direction (1)

Advanced ideas that use a logical, effective organizational strategy (4)
Proficient organization where sequencing is logical and the poetry form has been followed with few errors (3)
Basic organization that shows some sequencing but is not evident throughout the poem (2)
Below basic organization where sequencing is illogical or not evident (1)

Advanced sensory images that are vivid, detailed, and intensely felt (4)
Proficient sensory images that are clear and portray ideas or emotions (3)
Basic sensory images that express thoughts marginally (2)
Below basic sensory images that are difficult to visualize and do not express emotion (1)

Advanced use of language that expresses rich and imaginative language (4)
Proficient use of language that states appropriate choice of language (3)
Basic language that only uses thoughts marginally (2)
Below basic use of language that is imprecise or shows an inappropriate choice of words (1)

Advanced use of presentation that exhibits features beyond the assigned requirements which enhance meaning. Presentation is neat and legible (4)
Proficient presentation that demonstrates assigned format is followed and presentation is neat and legible. (3)
Basic presentation that shows a limited quality of appearance. The assigned format is not followed throughout. (2)
Below basic presentation where no quality of appearance is visible. The format is not followed. (1)

Rubrics or scoring guides come in many forms. They can be presented in a list as shared above. The same information can easily be turned into a chart or spreadsheet. Ease of understanding should drive your format choice.

To see such a rubric, click here.

Remember, as we explained in last month’s column, the purpose of a rubric is to provide meaningful feedback that will help teachers modify their instruction and will help students to improve their learning.

To help a teacher modify instruction, we say on page 238 of The First Days of School:

  • If the student MASTERS an objective, give the student enrichment (not more) work or ask the student to help other students in a supportive mode.
  • If the student DOES NOT MASTER an objective, give the student remediation or corrective help.

Effective Teachers Have Structured Classrooms

Oretha Ferguson’s success goes way beyond just a single lesson.  Her classroom is structured and organized from Day 1.

  • There is structure at Oretha’s school. The staff has agreed on five school wide rules. These are part of a PowerPoint presentation and you can see it by clicking here. (Note: Images can take a while to load.)
  • She distributes a tri-fold that lists her classroom procedures and rules. The students are required to keep the brochure in their English notebook for reference throughout the year. The parents also get this tri-fold. To see this tri-fold, click here.
  • She also has a Welcome Back Newsletter. Click here to see this.

Her class runs so smoothly that if a student forgets what to do, such as throwing away trash properly or sharpening a pencil, all she has to say is,

"What is the procedure, please?"

Oretha explains that the reason there is so much familiar material in her tri-fold is because her procedures are based on The First Days of School that the district gave to all new teacher inductees during New Teacher Induction.

Students Learn What Gets Taught

The most effective schools and teachers are organized and structured for learning.  If you would like to learn how to organize a well-managed classroom, please go to

The ineffective teacher stumbles from day-to-day, wondering what to do next and has no structure to the classroom.  This is why students ask, “Why are we doing this?” or “I’m bored.” When this happens, no learning takes place and behavior problems start to escalate.

The effective teacher has a well-managed classroom where more teaching and more learning takes place.

In a study it was discovered why one teacher was so much more successful with his students.  He taught 28 times as much science as the teacher down the hall, but no one knew this until the researchers came and observed a set of teachers, because in most schools teachers teach in isolation.

It should be common sense that if you do not teach it, they won’t learn it.  Just as, if a sales person does not sell the product, the customers are not going to buy it.  If the quarterback does not throw the ball, the end will have nothing to catch.  And, if you don’t throw a party, the guests are not going to come!

The research is very specific about student achievement.

  • Mike Schmoker says, “Lay out a sound set of standards and then actually teach these standards and we will get a rise in levels of achievement immensely.”
  • Robert Marzano did a study of what affects student achievement and says, “It is what gets taught!”
  • Andrew Porter of Vanderbilt University says, “What gets taught is the strongest possible predictor of gains in achievement.”

In Oretha Ferguson’s classroom, the students know what they are to learn and Oretha knows what she is to teach.

Rubric for How to Write a Rubric

If you use rubrics in your teaching, take the test below to check for your understanding.  Give yourself the points shown in the parentheses.

Advanced ideas on how to incorporate rubrics in your lesson (3)
Proficient ideas that are well focused and guide the students throughout the assignment (2)
Simple ideas that have some focus but lack depth and direction (1)

Advanced ideas that provide a clear path for student success (3)
Proficient sequencing of criteria for evaluating the lesson (2)
Basic organization that shows some sequencing but is not evident throughout the lesson (1)

Clear alignment of tasks and scoring to objectives of the lesson (3)
Acceptable use of most of the lesson objectives in evaluating student performance (2)
Marginal use of the lesson objectives in evaluating student performance (1)

Expectations and scoring criteria are written in simple language and presented for maximum understanding (3)
Expectations and scoring criteria are confusing and not presented in an organized fashion (2)
Expectations and scoring criteria are written but never shared with the students (1)

If you scored a 12, you are on target for student success.  Congratulations, for we know you and your students are working hard and accomplishing much in the classroom.

If you scored fewer than 12 points, watch for our December/January column where we will “reteach” rubrics and give you more concrete examples of how they are written.  Then try your hand at using a rubric and come back to this column and evaluate yourself once more.

Best wishes as you work to achieve maximum student success in your classroom!

For a printable version of this article click here.

Harry & Rosemary Wong products:
Email Harry Wong:

Gazette Articles by Harry & Rosemary Wong:

Browse through the latest posts from the Classroom Management Chatboard...

  Site Map: Home Search Teaching Jobs Classifieds Lesson Plans Contacts PR Advertise
  © 1996 - 2013. All Rights Reserved. Please review our Terms of Use, Mission Statement, and Privacy Policy.