The No Red Lights Rubric

Have you ever played Angry Birds?

The concept is super simple: the game gives you a giant slingshot and three tries to knock down all the blocks and bad guys stacked inside of an enemy fortress. Topple the tower in one shot, and you’re rewarded with three stars. Take two tries, and you earn two stars. Use all three shots to knock down the tower, and you get one star.

But regardless of how many tries it takes you to topple the tower — so long as you manage to knock everything down, the game gives you the option to advance to the next stage (to try toppling another tower) or to replay the same level you just played (to try to earn additional stars).

Love this idea. So I adapted it into a rubric for students working on multiple stages of a PBL. Here’s what it looks like:


And here’s how it “plays” out in a classroom:

Students are given class time to work on a PBL (in the case of the assignment above, they’re building a multi-page Google Site for their midterm assignment). And students are welcome to complete any checkpoint they want in any order they choose. As soon as a student completes a checkpoint, they bring proof of their work product over to the teacher desk and you have a very quick conference (30 seconds is plenty) where they receive immediate feedback and a “star” rating of 1 to 3 for their work product.

Just like Angry Birds, students have the option to go back to that same work product and put in additional work to level up their star rating, or they can move on to another checkpoint at their discretion. Either way, the “game” will offer immediate feedback as they complete their next checkpoint, and the option to repeat the process all over again to strengthen their finished product and improve their overall score.

No red lights.

Here’s an editable variant of the same activity that uses a “GREAT,” “GOOD,” and “OK” rating instead of the three star system.

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.