How to Get From a Rubric to Scaffolding

So you’ve got a great rubric (maybe one of the New Tech rubrics?).  Hopefully it embodies the characteristics of good rubrics I described here.  But now what? How do you get from a killer rubric- to some really killer scaffolding that will help students meet the demands of said rubric?

I like to follow a three step process.

Step 1: Find, or create, models of each step in the learning progression for a particular indicator (row of bullets on the rubric).

Here’s an example I did for one row of indicators from New Tech Network’s Science Argumentation or Explanation rubric:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 10.05.21 PM

Step 2: Consider how you might move students the next step up in the learning progression described by the rubric.  What scaffolding would allow them to move from one score level to the next?

Here’s some scaffolding I created to help students move from developing to proficient.


  1. Good thesis statements make a clear argument. What are some things you could argue about this topic, based on your research? Be ready to share with the class- we’ll make a class list of arguments in a moment.
  2. Pick the argument that you think you can best support based on what you’ve researched. Write a clear and specific thesis statement below.


Step 3: Reflect on your scaffolding, and revise as needed.  Is your scaffolding:

  • Structured to help students do something they can’t yet do on their own?
  • Temporary- removed as students appropriate skills?
  • Interactive, generating discourse, requiring active sense-making?
  • Agency activating- building students’ metacognitive reflection abilities, helping students grow in response to feedback, building a social culture of learning?

As I reflected on my thesis scaffolding, I decided it would be great if students could do some active sense-making and discussion at the very beginning, so I added a sort and the creation of an anchor chart with student-generated characteristics of effective thesis statements. I also thought I needed to add something so that my scaffolding would activate students’ agency.  As a result, I added a short peer revision checklist to help students get metacognitive about their thesis statements and, possibly, grow in response to feedback.  Here’s the last question:

Based on your elbow buddy’s critique, what changes will you make to your thesis, if any?

And finally, I thought I’d plan some supports I could add in case students were ready to be pushed OR needed more support. You can see the entire scaffolding experience from start to finish here, including additional moves for students depending on where they might be.

What do you think? Do you have exemplars for a rubric dimension? How do you go from a rubric indicator to scaffolding that supports student growth? Share your exemplars and scaffolding around rubric indicators so we can grow our collection of crowdsourced rubric exemplars and scaffolding for the NTN Knowledge and Thinking Rubrics!

You can submit this form:


Or, if that isn’t working for you, click on this link.

Can’t wait to see your exemplars and scaffolding!



Literacy Coach for New Tech Network

Posted in Instruction, Rubrics
One comment on “How to Get From a Rubric to Scaffolding
  1. […] recently read an amazing blog post from New Tech Network literacy coach Alix Horton titled, “How to Get From a Rubric to Scaffolding“.  She outlines a very simple process to take a rubric indicator and transform it into an […]

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