Teaching Tuesday: The Benefits of Rubrics for Early Childhood Education

Female teacher showing children the benefits of rubrics

Teaching self-monitoring and self-assessment strategies to students at a young age is vital. Young students should participate in how they may be evaluated and learn to use tools to set goals. This process of modeling students’ self-monitoring can occur at a young age.

In "Building Basic Vocabulary: Tracking My Progress," author Robert J. Marzano asserts that teachers need to communicate clear expectations, offer explicit and timely feedback, and implement rubrics so students can analyze their progress and reflect on their learning.1 Rubrics can help guide students’ focus through an understanding of expectations. They can be represented in symbols, charts or faces which young children can more easily understand. Hence, rubric use has many benefits in early childhood education.

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A rubric is a visual tool that shows students, parents and teachers the expectations the students need to meet. To aid educators in discipline and classroom management, charts and rubrics, which are expectations with rules, are reviewed and adhered to by all students. They can show character faces or symbols for students to better connect to for understanding expectations and setting goals. Thus, the chart allows students to communicate, seek clarity, look at expectations, self-monitor and self-assess their behavior and academic progress.

Rubrics can provide student progress for students and parents to view. Teachers use these tools to monitor students’ growth, offer feedback and modify instruction to fit students’ needs. So, students and teachers can develop or choose the rubrics together for learning stations and small groups or evaluate skills students need to master, including academic, social or emotional skills.

Rubric Symbols

A rubric that presents a symbol, color or other artifacts can be visual to help students and parents understand the expectations and what students have mastered or need to master. A symbol, for example, can have a checkmark or a grid with numbers indicating "5" for mastery, for example, showing what a student has learned. Thus, parents and students have a visual tool to monitor mastery. The same would be for math, for example, learning numbers 1 through 10. The student can circle a checkmark for each number the student can identify and name.

Parents and students visually understand the expectations and whether the student mastered the skill or concept. Rubrics can be helpful for parents whose first language is not English. Visual aids can help parents participate in student learning. In short, the benefit is that a symbol can show what is expected and what was learned or what still needs to be mastered.

Rubric Faces

In early childhood education, character faces or faces are used for young children to describe certain feelings they may not be able to verbalize. At a young age, students learn to keep their hands to themselves, coping mechanisms, and sharing techniques, to name a few. These elements of early childhood learning are part of discipline and support student learning. These rubric faces can help teachers modify instruction based on student feedback. Comprehension is critical, so these faces can also help teachers know what students understand, and a happy face can be circled after the students count from 1 to 10.

In this way, students understand a smiley face to understand that they comprehend counting from 1 to 10. However, character faces are generally used for social and emotional learning with a focus on the domains to maintain discipline by using the rubric to inform instruction and modeling students’ appropriate behavior, but also letting young students express themselves using a character face when they may not verbally know how to communicate sadness, frustration or anger, for example.

In short, rubrics can be a quick and informative way to evaluate students’ progress in many domains. Students can benefit from various uses of these tools to manage their social and emotional temperament and to understand and show their mastery of content. Furthermore, rubrics encourage students to set goals and reflect on their progress.2

Early childhood education is an environment where foundational skills are procured. So, students need to learn content but also build self-awareness of their learning. Self-efficacy is crucial, and rubrics can help build that confidence at a young age. Clear learning targets are necessary to effectively teach and develop students' metacognitive skills.3 Students learn to set goals, and rubrics can be a visual and tangible tool to accomplish these goals.

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Retrieved from:

Marzano, R. J. (2017). Building Basic Vocabulary: Tracking My Progress (A companion resource to help students learn new vocabulary words and build their literacy skills). Solution Tree Press.

Andrade, H., & Valtcheva, A. (2009). Promoting learning and achievement through self-assessment. Theory into Practice, 48:1, 12-19.

White, J. (2020). Using Rubrics and Self-Monitoring with Young Children.


Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Education on Feb. 1, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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