February 2024
Vol 21 No 2

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About Harry and Rosemary Wong...

Special Request

Do you teach to lesson objectives and/or assess your students for learning using a rubric?  If so and you have an example to share, please send it to Harry and Rosemary Wong by October 31 at  Thank you for sharing.

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 2.7 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)
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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
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New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers
by Annette L. Breaux, Harry K. Wong

$23.07 from
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Pathways: A Guide for Energizing & Enriching Band, Orchestra, & Choral Programs
by Joseph Alsobrook

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Results : The Key to Continuous School Improvement
by Mike Schmoker

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

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

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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

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

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

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Effective Teaching...
by Harry and Rosemary Wong

October 2006

Assessing Student Progress with a Rubric

Colette Cornatzer, a student in Norm Dannen’s class at Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin, New Jersey, says, “A rubric is a scale that teachers may use to grade an article of writing from their students.  Because the student knows the stipulations of the rubric, the student knows how to write the paper.  I like rubrics because they make the student aware of exactly how to answer the questions or write the assigned article, and it plots a very fair and easy–to-understand grading system.  A rubric creates a backbone for your paper.”

We began the story of Norm Dannen in our May 2006 column, “Hitting the Bulls Eye as a Beginning Teacher.”

In that column, we focused on how Norm Dannen used objectives to communicate to his students what they are to learn.  In this column, we will share with you how Norm Dannen assesses and tests his students on that learning.

Students get more done when they see where they are going and what they are doing.

Just think what would happen to student learning if the students knew
what they were to learn and thus knew they could not fail.

To do this, effective teachers have objectives for each lesson.  These objectives govern what the students are to learn and what the teacher, concomitantly, is to teach.

Objectives are classroom learning targets.  The students know what they are aiming for, thus, they know what they are responsible for learning.

Thus, when both the student and teacher are moving towards the same goal, that’s when learning takes place.

Telling a student to read a chapter, story, or book involves no learning, because the student does not know what he or she is to accomplish by the reading.  The teacher, likewise, does not know what he or she is to teach; the teacher is merely filling time and covering the material.

The students must be given a set of objectives at the beginning
of their assignment telling them what they
are responsible for accomplishing.

(The First Days of School, p. 229)

Assessment for Learning

Students like to have lesson objectives because it tells them what they are to learn.  They also like objectives because they know how they will be evaluated, because the test is aligned to the objectives.

Thus, effective teachers give their students a scoring guide that spells out how they can earn points or a grade for accomplishing a lesson.  A scoring guide helps a student to determine what is expected of an assignment.

Sometimes these scoring guides are called scoring rubrics or just plain rubric.

Don’t worry if you do not know what a rubric is, even though you hear it bantered around in educational circles.  Don’t bother looking it up in the dictionary either as the dictionary’s definition has nothing to do with what educators call a rubric.  The word was coined in 2001 by a group called the Assessment Reform Group in England, but that does not make it correct.

Some educators delight in picking up words and making a cottage industry out of them, never realizing that the educator in the trench has no clue as to the invented word.

What’s interesting is that if you go to the Assessment Reform Group’s web site, you never see the word “rubric” used.  Rather, the group advocates “Assessment for Learning,” which they define as the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go, and how best to get there.

To help students reach the highest possible level of achievement, the
effective teacher is constantly assessing for student learning
to help students go where they need to go and help them to best get there.

This is done by assessing student work and comparing it with the scoring guide or rubric.

Give the Students a Scoring Guide

There is no need to confuse the students with jargon.  At the beginning of a lesson, give the students a scoring guide and call it a “scoring guide.” A scoring guide is a clear, simple, understandable term as it tells the students what is expected of them and how they can earn a score.

But, amongst us educators, let’s agree that a scoring guide, a scoring rubric, and a rubric are all the same and move on.

Look at a rubric in the same way as scoring guides that are used in gymnastics and ice skating.  The judges are not grading the contestants.  Rather, they have a predetermined guide that governs how points are earned when skaters complete certain spins, jumps, turns, and steps.  The skaters know the scoring format and practice and practice to improve their scoring.

Helping Students Make Progress to Improve

If you wonder how ice skaters perfect their jumps and spins, there is a system of cables and pulleys installed in the ice rink.  The cable is attached to the ice skater with a harness (with butt buds and crash pads to cushion the falls).

The coach pulls the cable to control the lifts while assessing and teaching at the same time—over and over again, working towards PROGESS and ACCOMPLISHMENT.

Likewise, when the students are given a scoring guide or rubric ahead of time, they can see how they will be scored and can earn better scores by doing better work.  All the while, the teacher is involved in helping the student progress and improve his or her score.

The role of a teacher is not to grade a student. The teacher’s main
role is to help every student reach the highest possible level of achievement.
(The First Days of School, p. 237)

The purpose of giving a student a test is not necessarily to grade a student.  The purpose of a test should be to assess what the student has learned so that further learning can be planned.

And that’s the purpose of education, to make sure the student is making progress toward some predetermined learning goal.

For instance, when a doctor runs a test on you, such as a blood test, a blood pressure test, a mammogram, or a colonoscopy (ouch), the purpose is not to grade you. Rather, the doctor assesses the results of the test so that he or she can prescribe the proper medicine or treatment to progress toward the goal of enhancing your health.

And, should you ever visit a family member or friend in a hospital, you may ask the doctor how the patient is doing.  What you want to hear is, “The patient is making progress.”

Similarly, that’s the purpose of education, to make sure the student is making progress.

To do this, there must be constant assessment for learning.

The Great Gatsby

In our May 2006 column we shared how Norm Dannen created a lesson to teach the New Jersey reading standard:

All students will understand and apply the knowledge of sounds, letters, and words in written English to become independent and fluent readers, and will read a variety of materials and texts with fluency and comprehension.

He created a lesson to teach this standard using the novel, The Great Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby was published in 1925 and is regarded as one of the foremost pieces of American literature.  It was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald—yes—a direct descendent of the Francis Scott Key who wrote The Star-Spangled Banner.

The setting of the book was a period in America called the Roaring Twenties, a period of great wealth.  The theme of the book is how unbridled materialism was threatening to destroy the great American dream.  Sound familiar today?

The novel centers on a man, Jay Gatsby, his friend, and his girlfriend, Daisy Buchanan.

In 1974 Hollywood made a movie of the novel and Robert Redford played Jay Gatsby and Mia Farrow played Daisy Buchanan.

The Great Gatsby Rubric

At the end of the lesson, Norm used a scoring guide or rubric to assess his students for their learning.

Click here to see his Great Gatsby Rubric (in PDF).

You might want to print off our May 2006 column and have it readily available as we explain his rubric.

Note that the rubric or scoring guide consists of a series of columns and rows, yes, like a spreadsheet.

The rows each represent a characteristic, such as reading, compare and contrast, and research/resource skills.

The columns are each headed with a point value that the students can earn, such as 4, 3, 2, 1, and 0 or NS (no score).

Each box represents the intersection of a characteristic and a point value, just as you would have two points meet on a graph.

Look at the first box after “reading” and under “4” and follow along under 3, 2, 1, and 0.

4 The student can earn four points by easily relating Fitzgerald’s idea of “The American Dream” to Jay Gatsby’s actions and give three specific written or verbal examples.
3 The student can earn three points by relating Fitzgerald’s idea of “The American Dream” to Jay Gatsby’s actions and give two specific written or verbal examples.
2 The student can earn two points by relating Fitzgerald’s idea of “The American Dream” to Jay Gatsby’s actions, but has trouble giving written or verbal examples.
1 The student can earn one point but has trouble relating Fitzgerald’s idea of “The American Dream” to Jay Gatsby’s actions and cannot give any examples.
0 The student earns no points by being unable to relate Fitzgerald’s idea of “The American Dream” to Jay Gatsby’s actions or give any examples of same.






Engaging Students

Just as the word, “rubric” is bantered around today, the other currently fashionable word is “engaged.” Thirty years ago the same term was “relevance.” That is, make the lesson related to the student’s own life.

Thus, students learn best when they can make connections between the lesson and their interest and life experiences.  That’s how we “engage” students.

Norm engages his students by asking them to compare their life today to the life of the people who lived during the time of Jay Gatsby, in the 1920s.

To do this, Norm began with the following objective:

Draw parallels between their own lives in the context of the Jazz Age,
the Lost Generation, Prohibition, and the Great Depression.

You can use a rubric in your classroom as a formative or a summative instrument.  For a complete explanation of these two terms, please read pages 240 to 242 in The First Days of School.

Very simply, formative tells you what the student IS learning and summative tells you what the student HAS learned.

Helping a Student Who Does Not Score Well

Using The Great Gatsby rubric as a formative instrument, let’s say you have a student who earns a zero.  That is, the student cannot relate his or her life to the lives of the people who lived in the 1920s.

This does not mean the student is dumb, lazy, or failing.  It just means the student cannot see the relationship of life today and life that existed over 80 years ago.  Maybe your great Aunt Mabel can, but that can be difficult for a young person who is 15 years old and hasn’t even figured out life today.

So, that’s what makes life challenging and exciting for teachers.

To illustrate, we (Harry and Rosemary) went to an Off-Broadway show in New York City of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.  You see, most of you can’t relate already.

Jacques Brel was a Belgian song writer and troubadour who wrote about life in Belgium and France of his time, the 1940s to 1960s.  He sang his own songs and was quite popular in New York’s Greenwich Village where he sang until the mid-1960s.

The show, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, consists of 34 songs, no dialogue (no explanation), and sung one after another by a cast of four people.

Sitting very close to us was a young lady easily in her early 20s.  At the end of the show, we overheard her say to one of the cast members, “I don’t get it.” Does she get a zero or an “F” on the rubric?  Not really, if you are using the rubric as a formative instrument.

It’s very possible that this young lady had no context of life in the 1940s to 1960s in Europe.  If so, this would make it difficult for her to relate her life of today to the life of the people who lived over 50 years ago in Belgium and France.

We wanted to get a hold of her and do our teacher thing on her and say, “Young lady, please sit down.  Let’s take one of Jacques Brel’s songs and read it line by line for meaning,”—just as you would do with Shakespeare.

In time she would say, “Oh, I see what he was talking about.” We would then say, “Now, name or describe something that is happening in your life today that is similar to what was happening to the people who lived during the 1940s to 1960s.”

To help a student see what life was like in America in the 1920s, go to the Library of Congress web site,  There are over 10 million digital images that you can download showing life in the 1920s, such as pictures of the great jazz singers.

With an approach of assessment for learning, we can help students who have scored NS/0 on the scoring guide to score higher and make progress.

Our Role as Teachers

Our major role as teachers is to help students to learn the subject of the lesson or the course we are teaching.

Objectives are classroom learning targets.  The students know what they are aiming for, thus, they know what they are responsible for learning.

The students must be given a set of objectives at the beginning of their assignment telling them what they are responsible for accomplishing.

Students like to have lesson objectives because it tells them what they are to learn.  They also like objectives because they know how they will be evaluated, because the test is aligned to the objectives.

The purpose of giving a student a test is not necessarily to grade a student.  The purpose of a test should be to assess what the student has learned so that further learning can be planned.

It’s as Simple as 1-2-3

The May column focused on how Norm Dannen uses objectives to communicate to his students WHAT they are to learn.  This column focuses on HOW he assesses for the WHAT.

Unless you know where you are going, you will never hit the bull’s eye with your students.

As you develop your lessons for the year, always ask WHAT and HOW.  But don’t stop there.  The most important part of the entire process is sharing the WHAT and HOW with your students.  Education is not trickery and clever tactics to stump students.  Our goal is to open the wonderment of the world and help students discover the joy and fulfillment associated with learning.

Learning is a definable process and one that all students can experience.  It is our charge to articulate that process to students in very concrete terms.

Look at the lesson you are going to deliver tomorrow and ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Do the students know WHAT they are to learn as a result of experiencing the lesson?
  2. Do you know HOW you are going to help the students accomplish the goal of the lesson?
  3. Do the students know HOW you are going to assess their learning of the lesson?

If you cannot clearly answer these questions, you are not ready to teach your lesson.  You will only frustrate the students as well as yourself in trying to figure out what went wrong.

The tone of your classroom will change when the students see that you are there to help them progress through the year.  Parents can see the direction and accomplishment of their children as well.

Hitting the bull’s eye is not difficult, but it does require skill and dedication to clearly understanding the WHATs and HOWs of learning and communicating that to your students.  The more practice you get at the skill, the greater your precision will be in delivering a lesson to your students that is right on target.

Start practicing the process and become a Grand Master Archer.  Your students will be the ultimate winners!

For a printable version of this article click here.

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