The One-Stop Yearbook Rubric Shop: Grading Tools for Design & Copywriting

one-stop shop for yearbook rubric

A yearbook rubric is the perfect way for teachers to give students the grades they deserve and the feedback they need to make a better yearbook.

Heck, even if you’re working with a bunch of volunteers and want to formalize your process around feedback, a rubric is pretty much the way to go: it’s the most holistic way for you, the advisor, to provide critical feedback to your staff. For the younger students you’re working with, this will lead to growth; by their senior year, these kids will be ready to skip right over college and head straight to Sterling Cooper.

To help give your grading and feedback game a jump start, we’ve developed two free yearbook rubric templates that you can use for your class or club. One’s focused on yearbook copy, the other’s focused on yearbook design.

Before we jump into the templates themselves, though, we’ll break down why we’ve structured the rubrics the way we did and what you can gain from using them. So, read on.

Anatomy of a Yearbook Rubric

If you’re a teacher, you’re probably familiar with rubrics. (In fact, if you’re a teacher who uses rubrics, you’re probably more familiar with them than we are; you’re also probably able to skip this section.)

If you don’t know rubrics, though, this section here is a short crash-course for you. I’ll be helpful for understanding the templates we’ve put together for you.

Generally speaking (and specifically speaking in terms of our yearbook rubric templates), a rubric consists of four core areas: Scale, criterion, and performance level descriptions. Let’s break each of them down.

Scale

The scale represents the total number of points available in each category as well as the aggregated total (the final grade). Instead of just applying numerical values to each level of performance, pair each possible point on the scale with a narrative equivalent. For example, if the maximum number of points that can be earned in a given criterion is 4, then 4 = Exceeds Expectations. Conversely, in the same scenario, a 1 would be equivalent to “Does Not Meet Expectations.” You can play around with the actual wording in the scale you choose.

Criterion

Where the scale represents the number of points, criterion are the categories by which a piece of student work is assessed. They can be altered , as long as you can clearly distinguish between the levels of accomplishment on your chosen scale. For example, if we’re assessing a student’s ability to write a headline for a page, there should be a way to objectively measure what an “A” headline looks like versus what a “C” headline looks like. If there isn’t, reconsider including it as a criterion (perhaps it can be combined with one or more other facets of the page instead).

Performance Level Descriptions

A rubric is broken into quadrants. In the examples we’ve provided, the vertical headers represent the criterion and the horizontal headers represent the scale. The points of intersection are the Performance Level Descriptions, or PLDs. These are the characteristics that make up a grade. Try to use highly-specific language so that students are clear on what separates good work from work that will truly blow you away.

If your PLDs are fully fleshed out, we suggest giving your students your yearbook rubrics in advance. This gives them an idea of what they need to do in order to earn the grade of their choosing, which can positively impact the quality of their work.

Miscellany

Don’t forget to include:

  • The student’s name
  • Page numbers, or spread, being assessed
  • Total points

With that quick review out of the way, let’s dive into the actual yearbook rubrics.

Yearbook Rubric For Grading Copywriting

When it comes to yearbook copy, striking a balance between originality and uniformity is key: Too rigid and your yearbook won’t engage. Too much creativity expression, and it could end up looking like an anthology of erasure poems.

In the downloadable template we’ve created, the categories for assessing yearbook writing are: headlines and subheads, body copy, captions, adherence to style guide, and originality. Let’s take a closer look:

yearbook rubric for grading copywriting

Get the TreeRing Yearbook Copy Grading Rubric here.

By assessing the writing on each page, you achieve two things. First, you give your students a tangible grade for their hard work. Second, you can vet the copy on every page of the book, which gives you an idea as to how everything fits together tonally and whether the book as a whole adheres to your established style guide.

Yearbook Rubric For Grading Design

While assessing writing is straightforward, design can feel subjective; we can’t all be trained art critics, creative directors or teachers, after all.

In the downloadable template we’ve created, the categories for assessing yearbook page design elements are: typography, color, photographs, adherence to style guide, and cohesiveness. Let’s take a closer look:

yearbook rubric for grading design

Get the TreeRing Yearbook Design Grading Rubric here.

As a result, you might be tempted to break the elements of design into a handful of granular rubrics (one for photography, another for layout: you get the picture). While there’s nothing wrong with doing this, developing a rubric that takes everything into account is a better approach.

Here’s why:

Ensuring that the individual elements work in concert is as important as the quality of those elements in their own right. For those for those classes where the principles of design are just beginning to be explored, this is important. Focus on the whole first, then the specifics later.

If you’re teaching a yearbook course and need to grade your staff on their work, rubrics are the perfect way to do it. If your staff is composed of after-school volunteers who won’t be graded on their work, rubrics like the one’s we’ve included above can be a fantastic way to provide actionable feedback and ensure high quality design and copy on every page.

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