In this lesson, students are given 4-5 sample essays and asked to judge the quality of the writing. Using a read-around group format, students review and rank all the essays. By the end of the lesson, the class has decided on a list of criteria for good essay writing and established a rubric.
I use the lesson at the beginning of the year to re-introduce essay writing to my students. It's a great way to assess students' background knowledge and help them understand quality writing and rubrics. The rubric is collaborative effort, giving students a stake in the writing standards set for your class.
A detailed lesson plan, the student handout, and five sample student essays are included in the file.