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K. Douglass

English 1A Honors

General Grading Rubric for Formal Paper Assignments

This rubric provides a general description of papers that fall in each of the five grade categories.  You should use it to prepare your papers, and to understand your grades once papers have been returned.

A level paper (Final Grade Range: 100-90%) (Actual Paper Grades: A+ 100-98; A 95; A- 92): This paper is outstanding; that is, it “stands out” in relation to other papers responding to the assignment.  It is clear, original, and insightful and addresses the topic fully and explores the issue(s) thoughtfully.  The thesis is compelling and distinctive, and the essay features clear, focused, coherent organization.  The essay uses appropriate and extensive detail in a clear, interesting manner.  Each part of the essay moves logically to the next part.  It is nearly free from errors in mechanics, usage and sentence structure, and there is evidence of the student's intelligent and stylistic use of language.  In all regards, this paper is an excellent response to the assignment and has a consistent, authoritative "voice."

B level paper (Final Grade Range: 89-80%) (Actual Paper Grades: B+ 88; B 85; B- 82): In a (B) paper, the writer has in some way moved beyond the basics of the assignment expectations, offering some thoughtful observations and insights.  The writer will demonstrate a clear understanding of their writing task and material.  Although the paper may have minor weaknesses in paragraphing, it will contain evidence of the writer's ability to organize information into coherent and unified paragraphs that display specific and detailed development.  This essay will be largely free from serious errors and will be generally clear and well written and will have a clear, supported thesis.

C level paper (Final Grade Range: 79-70%) (Actual Paper Grades: C+ 78; C 75; C- 72): A paper in this category will have a discernible plan with a beginning, middle, and end and will complete at least the basic tasks of the assignment – it is competent, adequate, and satisfactory.  There may be somewhat ambiguous and imperfect reasoning and ideas may be repeated rather than developed.  May fail to show a strong connection between thesis statement and examples used. Thesis may be only vaguely stated, though it is implied throughout. It may rely on unsupported generalizations or undeveloped ideas in places. But it will be organized and paragraphed well enough to allow the reader to understand the point of the discussion.  It may contain errors, but not enough to continually distract the reader from the content. You must satisfactorily complete the basic requirements of the assignment to receive a C grade on your papers, and your final grade must be a 70% (no less) to receive a C in the course.

D level paper (Final Grade Range: 69-60%) (Actual Paper Grades: D 65): A paper will fall into this category if it shows serious difficulty completing or satisfying the tasks of the assignment; if it lacks an overall plan with a beginning, middle, and end; if key ideas in paragraphs lack development or illustration; or if errors in word choice, sentence structure, and mechanics seriously interfere with readability.  It may fail to clearly introduce or define its central thesis.  Transitions between points are awkward or non-existent.  Paragraphs may be somewhat disorganized; though the total effect will not necessarily be chaotic.  The writer's control of language may be uncertain and there may be many unsupported generalizations. The paper may contain one or more of the following defects: serious errors in reasoning; little or no development or support of ideas; few or no connections between ideas.  Paper substitutes summary of reading for expository discussion.

F level paper and no credit grades (59-0%): An F (usually 55%-50%) would be assigned to a paper if it simply does not exhibit any of the basic requirements of composition writing: it has no clear thesis, or thesis does not respond to question asked in prompt; the organization is unclear or non-existent to the point that the logic and/or argument of the paper are unknowable. Serious and frequent errors in word choice, sentence structure, or mechanics interfere with basic readability. Papers that are well-written, but of incomplete length will also receive this grade. A O% F is given for any paper not turned in, turned in late, or if it is an unapproved essay on entirely other subject matter than what was assigned.

The Assignment:

Review your notes and freewriting from class on Sept. 3 and then read the critical excerpts that follow below. Then write 2 pages that assert your interpretation or evaluation of what Ken Burns is saying about America or American identity. You can approach this from any angle that you want, but you need to do more than just describe or paraphrase what the documentary clips show and say. What does it mean to make the Civil War, Baseball, and Jazz the subjects of such documentary attention and explicitly link each with the idea of America. You must read between the lines and consider what he is implying, and interpret, question, modify, and/or challenge his argument with your own ideas and interpretations. [Of course you can only base your ideas on the clips you saw – I do not expect you to really have a full sense of Burns’s project, and I will read your responses remembering that you haven’t seen any of the full documentaries.]

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