My take on the Interpersonal Communication Rubric (jGR/mGR) by Brett

I was asked to share my viewpoint on using an Interpersonal Communication Rubric like Ben talks about in his The Big CI Book, so here it is.

DISCLAIMER: I don’t like using the Interpersonal Communication Rubric. It takes time and to be frank it’s hard to make sure you can envision how each student did in class that day or over a week. And I refuse to walk around with a seating chart ticking off every contribution students make! I have now gotten to the point where my behavior management practice is good enough that I only have to take the rubric out sporadically. I use it at the beginning of the year for two weeks. Then, I usually have to tamp down side conversations for one week per quarter or so. But I definitely feel free to do it as needed.

Now onto it…

Here are a couple versions of the rubric. There are even more if you go on other blogs. I know Bryce Hedstrom has a couple other versions, and I think Grant Boulanger’s is perhaps the most elaborate and eloquent.

Rubric that is found in Ben Slavic’s The Big CI Book:

Ben's Rubric

This is my 1st edition. I adapted Ben’s for the same reason everyone adapts anything: I´m peculiar, and I wanted one in my own voice. Click here for the word doc, click here

my 1st rubric version

My 2nd edition. After using my original for a while, I simplified it just to make things easier for the students and myself. I now tell them that if they have characteristics from varying columns their overall grade has to be the average of their performance—Negative, Neutral, or Postive on the day. For the word version, click here:

Here’s my 3rd edition. I took out a lot of the classroom management stuff that I didn’t feel comfortable grading anymore. Interpersonal Communication Rubric SIMPLIFIED

And finally, here’s my version of Tina Hargaden’s that I have settled on using, which is even simpler: Interpersonal Communication Rubric

  1. Implementation: I started using a rubric like this in mid-March of 2017—my first year doing CI for real. I implemented it because I had all sorts of behavior I wanted to curb that was a product of my own confusion throughout the year as to how to effectively teach with CI: side conversations in L1, bad academic focus, sourpuss students ruining my brain breaks which are supposed to be FUN!!! I also wanted to reward students who lead in idea creation and pushed conversation forward. I took up the rubric every class period for like 4 classes and slowly tapered off to the point where I only took it up as necessary. At the end of the year, I was only taking up the rubric like once every three weeks or so. And it largely worked to curb the bad behavior and incentivize leaders in L2. This upcoming year, I’m going to start it right from the beginning, which I think will be much more effective.
  2. Student self-evaluation: I have the students fill this out for two reasons: it saves me so much time and energy in not doing these from scratch for every student because I agree with their self-assessment probably 85% of the time. And when there is a difference of opinion, my overriding the student’s self-assessment sparks a needed conversation about my expectations.
  3. Devil’s Advocate: Some people/schools might say that it’s inappropriate to grade students on behavior/posture/interest level demonstrated. Some schools might even prohibit it. Here’s why you should regardless:First, class time is precious with CI. It’s not like students can get a ton of interesting input that is exactly in tune with their comprehension level outside of class in any way!!!! So the rubric helps create the best possible environment to maximize the CI if your CI isn’t supremely interesting yet. We’re already in a losing race in that it requires thousands and thousands of hours of perfect CI (Ben Slavic says 10,000 hours) to get to fall-out-of-your-mouth complete fluency. Yet, three years in school only provide about 350 hours. So, the rubric helps make sure each of those 350 hours is as great as possible.

    Second, while student output is a demonstration of learning, real L2 learning comes via the input.  So why not grade students on their effort to focus on and support the input? This references the pedagogical debate on whether you should grade only achievement (summative assessment) or whether you should also grade the process that leads to achievement (formative assessment). I think the process is really important and you should grade both, not just one or the other.

  4. Why I don’t require choral responses or hand motions anymore on my most recent rubric version.

    Short version: I no longer think it’s important for reasons I explain below, students didn’t want to do either, and I was tired of expending the energy trying to get them to.

    Long version:

    As I gained experience in CI, I found myself not needing students to show me when they are confused. I could just see it and sense it. They are usually so focused on listening intently to understand that they don’t have the awareness to tell me they’re lost. Plus, they always found the hand motions a hassle, so I just dropped them.

    For new vocabulary hand motions, they never wanted to do them. When I say hand motions for vocabulary, I mean stuff like pointing to your head for “to know” or running motions for “to run.” Now, I just do them myself and it still supports the language, so who cares about dragging yourself through the task of making them do it with you.

    I’ve also dropped the choral responses because…

    I’ve basically stopped the formal practice of Circling.

    Please don’t misunderstand me. I am very, very grateful and will forever be indebted to the pioneers of TPRS/CI who invented Circling and many of whom still hold it on high as untouchably important. I still believe in the soul of Circling, which has always been repetition. I just believe that repetition is more effective, meaningful and interesting done in less boring ways. For example, say the sentence “Jamie works at Bush Gardens” emerges during class or was a target, and “works” is new. The traditional practice of Circling would dictate that you’d ask a bunch of questions right away:

    1. Who works at BG? –Jamie
    2. Where does Jamie work? –BG
    3. Does Jamie or Jessica work at BG?–Jamie
    4. Does Jamie work at BG or Disney?–BG
    5. Does Jamie sleep or work at BG?–work
    6. And finally the ultimate: What does Jamie do at BG?–work
    7. You might even create a parallel character who works somewhere else to add even more repetitions through comparison. (Justin works at Kings Dominion.)

The problem is, students perceive that whole Circling activity as really boring and frustrating. They don’t just perceive it as boring, it IS boring. It’s too predictable, and it feels too much like an academic exercise. My students didn’t learn as well under that type of input in comparison to my current non-targeted practice because it’s not emotionally memorable due to the boredom and it sacrifices interest.

I’d rather get repetition in a more conversational manner through PQA and beyond by:

  1. Ask students where their family members and friends work.
  2. even better, where famous people like Beyoncé work
  3. even better, where they themselves work
  4. even better, where would they like to work in the future
  5. even better, or with whom they would like to work
  6. But it gets even more interesting with Ben Slavic style OWI’s or Invisibles. Say the class had just invented a mustard-flavored pretzel named “Patricia the Pretty Pretzel” who was actually allergic to gluten (that is to herself and all other pretzels). Repetition of “works” could get even more interesting by asking
    1. Where does Patricia work?
    2. And who does she work with?
  • And how does she work without any hands?
  1. And what types of pretzels does she like to work with?
  2. Or not like to work with?
  3. Or what foods would she like to work with other than pretzels?It’s so much more effective repetition of “works” because it’s so much more interesting. It opens the door for students to think creatively and to try to be funny. Fortunately, most of the time they are HILARIOUS!

And there you have it—a long answer about why I no longer include hand motions or choral responses in my interpersonal communication rubric!

  1. Makeup Grade: Different teachers require different things for absent students to make up this in-class grade. All methods revolve around the students reading for homework to make up the lost input during class. What I do is on our google classroom, I have provided a document of previous Invisibles For each rubric grade, students have to read a new story and write a handwritten summary in English.Nota Bene: To make up any other grade in class besides tests (which I almost never give), I require absent students to translate the current story we are on from our google doc. The story gets recorded live in class by a student secretary whenever we work on a story, so the absent student can access their make-up work right away.


In conclusion, the Interpersonal Communication Rubric has been useful for me both to set expectations at the beginning of the year and to retroactively curb some bad student habits in class later in the year.


  1. This was very helpful, Brett, and I very much enjoyed hearing from another teacher who has just finished their first year with CI and is so full of aspirations, as I am! I am wondering…and have been all last year…where do the numbers in your gradebook come from? I struggled a LOT with that whole aspect of CI and was hoping to buckle down on that this year and try to understand the whole grading system…how do we turn what they can do into a number?


    • My thoughts about grading have evolved this year as I’ve learned how to make class more and more interesting. I used to employ grading as a stick to motivate students to pay attention because my behavior management wasn’t excellent via CI yet and class wasn’t captivating enough to guarantee their attention. This threat grading took the form of quick quizzes after a story, or pqa, or whatever; the interpersonal rubric with all its behavior criteria; translations of stories or pqa or whatever; and story rewrites in English or Spanish to motivate them to pay attention during story creation.

      But really, none of that helps with acquisition. And now with the Invisibles and OWI’s, I think class is going to be captivating enough to not need grades to ensure focus. The only assessment I absolutely have to take up in my opinion are writing samples every month or so because it helps me reflect on how things are going in comparison to previous years and such. But I usually just give completion grades for them.

      In terms of the grade book, I do as little as possible because I just don’t think it matters to their acquisition and I think it’s more valuable to spend my planning time editing and embellishing their stories to read next class. I do short little things and grade the whole class in 2 or 3 minutes: a translation of the last paragraph of a story we spent some time in class translating aloud; an easy, quick quiz about the story we made up; a 2 or 3 sentence summary in English of something we discussed; a 2 or 3 sentence summary in Spanish of what we talked about; a 2 or 3 sentence summary of the last two or three reading sessions during SSR; completion grade of their SSR journal (where they record what they read, which pages, and how much they enjoyed it).

      I usually stop grading stuff once I have 8 or 9 grades in the quarter (whenever I see a decent chunk of columns that I think an admin or parent would be satisfied with).

      In short, basically all my grading is completion grades. I think it’s much more valuable to focus on my improvement rather than theirs, how interesting class is, how much they like being in the Spanish world you’ve created, and being comprehensible!!!


  2. Do you do categories in the gradebook or is everything worth the same amount? I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to set mine up this year (and I hate grades, so I’d like to make it simple but equitable).


    • Hey Emily. Sorry to just get back to you. I was chillin’ in Japan!

      In my public school district, we’re required to have 2 categories formative and summative. Within those categories, I can do whatever I want. To keep things simple, I don’t have sub-categories of formative assessments. So all the little grades I take up (see my previous comment on July 12th) just go into the formative category–things like translations, summaries in L1, listen and draws, and such. To fill up the summative category with enough grades to look legit, I just put some more official sounding quick assignments in. For example, the interpersonal communication rubric grade sounds pretty legit, so I put some of those in summative. You can dress freewrite assignments up to sound more legit by calling them “written proficiency evaluations.” You can dress up a quick listening assessment after a story or a one-word-image by calling it a “listening proficiency assessment.”

      The point is, even with summative grades, I do the minimum possible both in frequency and time spent giving the assessment and grading the assessment because in my experience, the assessments don’t motivate intrinsic interest in the L2. And I think with the Invisibles and OWI’s and Story Listening, we now have the tools to actually develop intrinsic interest via using the language, which is the best possible scenario in the world!!! So, I just make grading work for my class, not the other way around.

      My district does have standardized midterms and finals that I have to give despite me doing non-targeted instruction. Fortunately, they are IPA assessments, so they don’t use grammatical terminology or target grammatical elements of the language explicitly. For levels 1 and 2, in my experience, I haven’t had to do anything different to prepare my students for those assessments. Non-targeted covers pretty much everything they need to know for the exam in a way better way than anything else. Every once in awhile, I have to spend a couple days of class before the exam getting my kids prepared for some of the vocab on the exam that we haven’t gotten yet. But it only imposes on my non-targeted style a bit. For level 3, the only other level I teach, the IPA’s have required more attention. For example, the final was all about recycling heavy metals and outdated technology hardware like old computers and radios (because that vocab is super important, of course :/ ) But even for that, I don’t spend more than a class or two familiarizing them with some new vocab. What I’ve found is that they massive amount of input gives them such a facility to decode at a higher level that they are more successful given lots of unknown words and structures than I would have thought.

      Hope that helps!

      Liked by 1 person

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