6 trait writing instruction an overview
1 / 53

6-Trait Writing Instruction An Overview… - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on
  • Presentation posted in: General

6-Trait Writing Instruction An Overview…. Lakenheath Elementary School October 11, 2013. Isn’t reading student writing fun?.

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.

Download Presentation

6-Trait Writing Instruction An Overview…

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Presentation Transcript

6-Trait Writing InstructionAn Overview…

Lakenheath Elementary School

October 11, 2013

Isn’t reading student writing fun?

  • Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were singers of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin discovered electricity by rubbing cats backwards and declared, “A horse divided against itself cannot stand alone. Franklin died and is still dead.

What about these gems?

  • Miguel Cervantes wrote Donkey Hote. The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died. And he wrote Paradise Regained.

  • Voltaire invented electricity. Gravity was invented by him. It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.

  • Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis.

  • Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the Organ of Species.

  • Madman Curie discovered radio.

  • Karl Marx became one of the Marx brothers.

How Did You Learn to Write?

I always did well on essay tests. Just put everything you know on there, maybe you’ll hit it. And then you get the paper back from the teacher and she’s written just one word across the top of the page, “vague.” I thought “vague” was kind of vague. I’d write underneath it “unclear,” and send it back. She’d return it to me, “ambiguous.” I’d send it back to her, “cloudy.” We’re still corresponding to this day . . . “hazy” . . . “muddy” . . .

~Jerry Seinfeld, SeinLanguage

“Nothing frustrates a young writer – or an older writer – more than looking at a finished piece and knowing it isn’t very good, but not knowing what to do about it.”

~ Tommy Thomason

Questions to Consider

  • How do we teach students—and how do students learn—to write well?

  • What do we look for when grading students’ writing, and how do we explain those grades to students?

  • How do we teach students to revise their own writing? How do we show them specific ways to improve?

What do we value in writing?

  • Read “Ruder”

  • Ruder

  • If I had to choose something I would like to keep forever I would choose my dog Ruder. Ruder is a German Shepherd. His eyes are green and his tail is long. Ruder is a beautifil dog. Ruder is kind of a brown black gray color. Ruder is an excellent watchdog. Ruder plays with me when I'm bored, he's fun. I like Ruder better than my stuffed animals, my dolls and all that kind of stuff. Ruder can be bad and make mistakes but he's still the best dog in the world to me. Ruder is fun to play catch and stuff like that. Ruder likes to lay right by your bed at night, sometimes it makes me to go sleep just thinking he's there. If I didn't have Ruder I wouldn't die or anything I'd just be lonely. I have friends but Ruder is better than all of them.

What do we value in writing?

  • Read “Ruder”

    • What do you notice about this student’s writing?

    • Identify its major strengths and weaknesses.

    • Share your observations with a partner.

    • Discuss what advice you would give this writer.

    • What grade level is this writer? What was the prompt?

    • Write a persuasive essay – education.

    • Early elementary /Grades 1-3

What do we value in writing?

  • Read “ My Trip To The River”

  • My Trip to the River:This story happened a few years ago, when I was smaller. It was a cold day, so my mom bundled up my brother and I. That was usual. My family (including me), and some of my mom's friends went on a trip to the river. I can't remember what my mom's friends name's were. Malcolm, my brother, was bored, so he decided to pick on me. You know how brothers are. We road in a boat. It was my first time riding in a boat. I didn't get to ride in boat's that often. Malcolm was teasing me about the boat tipping. Then, my mom dropped the paddle. She got it back though. We ate, and then headed on up the trail that led to the truck. Malcolm reached out for my hat and missed. It fell in the river. He reached out to pick it up as it started to drift away. He reached a little further. Malcolm got ahold of it. Splash! He fell in. My brother started to panic. Help I'm drowning! he said. Everyone just stood there. One of my mom's friends told him to stand up if he wanted to live. He found out the water was only up to his knees. I lauged. He didn't think it was funny!

After reading…

“ My Trip To The River”

  • What do you notice about this student’s writing?

  • Identify its major strengths and weaknesses.

  • Share your observations with a partner.

  • Discuss what advice you would give this writer.

  • What grade level is this writer? What was the prompt?

  • 4th-5th Grade

  • Topic – Personal Narrative


  • Learn the language of the six traits

  • Learn how focus lessons can be used to help students improve their writing trait by trait

  • Understand how the six traits relate to the writing process

The Six Traits: A Brief History

  • Originated in Oregon in the 1980s

  • Vicki Spandel, NWREL researchers, and 17 teachers

  • Purpose: to develop a consistent vocabulary for defining good writing/writing instruction; to create an assessment rubric to be used across all grade levels

  • Evaluated thousands of papers (all grade levels) and identified “common characteristics of good writing”

  • Those qualities became the “six traits”

The Six Traits of Good Writing




Word Choice

Sentence Fluency


(+1) Presentation

Defining Ideas

  • Ideas make up the content of the piece of writing—the heart of the message. (Culham)

  • The ideas are the heart of the message, the content of the piece, the main theme, together with the details that enrich and develop that theme. (NWREL)

“When I was in school I thought details were just extra words to add in a story to make it better. I thought detail was decoration or wallpaper . . . Details are not wallpaper; they are walls.”

~Barry Lane

Defining Organization

  • Organization is the internal structure of the piece, the thread of meaning, the logical pattern of the ideas. (Culham)

  • Organization is the internal structure of a piece of writing, the thread of central meaning, the logical and sometimes intriguing pattern of the ideas. (NWREL)

“Good prose is architecture.”

~Ernest Hemingway

Defining Voice

  • Voice is the soul of the piece. It’s what makes the writer’s style singular, as his or her feelings and convictions come out through the words. (Culham)

  • The voice is the heart and soul, the magic, the wit, along with the feeling and conviction of the individual writer coming out through the words. (NWREL)

“We must teach ourselves to recognize our own voice. We want to write in a way that is natural for us, that grows out of the way we think, the way we see, the way we care. But to make that voice effective we must develop it, extending our natural voice through the experience of writing on different subjects for different audiences, of using our voice as we perform many writing tasks.”

~Donald Murray, Write to Learn

Teaching Voice

  • Voice emerges when the writer:

    • Allows the writing to sound like him/herself

    • Shows that he/she really cares about the idea

    • Writes with energy and enthusiasm

    • Writes with the reader in mind

    • Takes risks to make the writing memorable

    • Matches the writing to its audience and purpose

More Ideas for Teaching Voice

  • Greeting Cards: Collect a variety of birthday cards, and have students sort them: romantic, sarcastic, sincere, cute, sentimental, etc.

  • Voice In, Voice Out: Give students a piece of text that lacks voice (instruction manual, textbook, memo, etc.) and invite them to add as much voice as possible. Read the two versions aloud and discuss the differences. Try it the other way, too—have students remove the voice from a strong piece of writing.

  • New Voices, New Choices: Have students write the first sentence of a letter (on the same topic) for five different audiences.

Defining Word Choice

  • Word choice is at its best when it includes the use of rich, colorful, precise language that moves and enlightens the reader. (Culham)

  • Word choice is the use of rich, colorful, precise language that moves and enlightens the reader. (NWREL)

Teaching Word Choice

  • Teaching word choice involves:

    • Striking Language: Sharpening students’ descriptive powers

    • Exact Language: Using lively verbs, precise nouns, and accurate modifiers

    • Natural Language: Making it sound authentic

    • Beautiful Language: Choosing colorful words and phrases

      ~Ruth Culham, 6+1 Traits of Writing

Sample Strategies for Teaching Word Choice

  • Use cartoon bubbles.

  • Peer edits– circle 5 words in your partner’s paper that could be stronger.

  • During teacher read-alouds point out concrete examples of strong language. (Toad) Post word lists around the room. Use specific parts of speech.

  • Encourage use of a Thesaurus. (How many words for “blue” are there?)

  • Encourage students to use senses to describe an object. Use colored pencils to underline sensory words.

~ adapted from http://6traits.cyberspace.net/strat6.html

“The difference between the almost-right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream!”

~Mark Twain

Defining Sentence Fluency

  • Sentence fluency is the flow of the language, the sound of word patterns—the way the writing plays to the ear, not just to the eye. (Culham)

  • Sentence fluency is the rhythm and flow of the language, the sound of word patterns, the way in which the writing plays to the ear—not just to the eye. (NWREL)

  • Fluent writing is graceful, varied, rhythmic, and powerful.

End With a Noun

  • Experiment with one of your sentences.

  • Try ending it with different parts of speech.

  • Decide which is the most effective.

    • A rolling stone gathers no moss. (noun)

    • If a stone rolls, hardly any moss with be gathered. (verb)

    • If you are concerned about moss gathering on a stone, roll it. (pronoun)

    • When trying to rid yourself of moss, roll the stone quickly. (adverb)

    • If you roll the stone, the moss will become smooth. (adjective)

Defining Conventions

  • Conventions represent the piece’s level of correctness—the extent to which the writer uses grammar and mechanics with precision. (Culham)

  • Conventions are the mechanical correctness of the piece—spelling, grammar and usage, paragraphing, use of capitals, and punctuation. (NWREL)

  • Conventions include anything a copy editor might deal with.

  • The whole purpose of this trait is to enhance readability—to make the writing enticing and accessible to the reader.

“Editing is easy, all you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”

~Mark Twain

Tips for Teaching Conventions

  • Get a good sense of what students know and what they still need to learn.

  • Teach the skills that are developmentally appropriate for students to add to their repertoire of conventions.

  • Allow for plenty of practice, time to experiment, and opportunities to apply the new skills in their writing.

  • Hold students accountable for the specific skills for which they have an understanding.

  • Use wall charts and mentor texts.

  • Collaborate with colleagues regarding student skills.

Presentation (the + 1)

  • Presentation zeros in on the form and layout—how pleasing the piece is to the eye. (Culham)

  • Presentation makes the piece easy to read:

    • Margins are even; layout is effective.

    • Handwriting or font is legible and clear.

    • Illustrations are appropriate and well-placed.

    • Everything contributes to the effectiveness of the writing.

Lessons for the Trait of Presentation

Design writing tasks that mirror real life. Involve students in creating classroom newspapers, pamphlets, websites, books of their own, brochures, newsletters, and flyers.

Have students create works for a variety of audiences. Ask them to explain how the presentation changes depending on the audience.

Ask students to present their work, especially research projects. Include lessons using technology and other presentation tools to allow them to share their ideas with others.

These suggestions use higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy; they are also meaningful and engaging.

Why Use the Six Traits?

  • It provides a common language for teachers and students to use in teaching and learning about the craft of writing.

  • It provides consistency in writing assessment and a shared vocabulary for giving feedback to students.

  • It provides a guiding focus for writing instruction and the tools students need to revise their own writing.

  • Content area teachers can use some of the traits to score their student’s work. (art, music.etc.)

Why is the 6+1Trait Model an Effective Teaching Tool for Writing Instruction?

  • Defines good writing in a specific way for the teacher and the student

  • Provides a way to delineate areas of individual strengths and areas of challenge

  • Allows for greater consistency and accuracy in assessment

  • Provides a common vocabulary for vertical and horizontal alignment of instruction

  • Develops all of the traits evaluated in state assessment

  • Provides a clear link between reading and writing

  • Enables students to become self-assessors

  • Offers teachers a means to collaborate and communicate regarding their students.

“The writing process is a means to an end and not an end in itself.”

~Ruth Culham

Bringing new voices into the classroom..

  • Solomom had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.

  • Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After that his career suffered a dramatic decline.

  • Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies and they all wrote in hydraulics. They lived in the Sarah Dessert. The climate of Sarah is such that inhabitants have to live elsewhere.

The Traits and the Writing Process

  • PrewritingIdeas, Organization, Voice

  • DraftingIdeas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency

  • RevisingAll traits except conventions

  • EditingConventions

  • PublishingPresentation

Sounds right = Prewriting, Drafting Revising

Looks right = Editing and presentation

Two Groups of Traits

  • Revision Traits:

    • Individual, creative, complex, and messy

    • Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency

  • Editing Traits:

    • Predetermined, correct, and exacting

    • Conventions, Presentation

  • Coach students to keep conscious editing out of the prewriting and drafting process; most editing should occur after revision of ideas occurs.

  • Emphasize that revision and editing are not the same.

“Good assessment always begins with a vision of success.”

~Richard Stiggins,

Student-Centered Classroom Assessment

“We must constantly remind ourselves that the ultimate purpose of evaluation is to enable students to evaluate themselves.”

~Arthur Costa

The Traits and Assessment

  • The 6-Trait rubrics can be used by:

    • Self, peer, teacher

  • To assess:

    • A single trait, a group of traits, all the traits

  • The 6-Trait rubrics can also be used as:

    • A tool for vertical and horizontal curriculum alignment

    • An instrument for grade-level, school, or district measurement

  • Assessment is not the end of the writing process.

    • It is the bridge to revision.

    • 6-Trait Writing is all about revision!

“Assessment is not the private property of teachers. Kids can learn to evaluate their own writing. They must take part in this . . . it is central to the growth of writing. Even before they write, they need to know about what makes writing strong or effective. And they need to know the criteria by which their own writing will be judged.”

~ Marjorie Frank

Where do I begin?

  • Establish a writing community in your classroom based on the whole writing process.

  • Focus your mini-lessons, assessment, and revision on the traits, preferably one at a time.

  • Use the vocabulary of the traits when reading and discussing texts.

  • “We’re teaching our students to write, not to trait.” (Ruth Culham, 6+1 Traits of Writing)

The Traits and Instruction

  • Introduce the concept of the writing traits. Collaborate!

  • Immerse students in writers’ language.

  • Teach students to be assessors of their own and others’ work: guide them through analysis of anonymous sample papers; use self-assessment in revising and goal setting. Communicate!

  • Share strong and weak examples from many different sources (including literature and student writing) to illustrate each trait.

  • Use focused lessons that target each trait; include hands-on activities to help students develop skills and deepen their understanding.

  • Provide numerous opportunities for students to practice focused revision and editing of their own work as well as the work of others; model writing and let students coach you.

Key to Higher Writing Scores…..

  • Write daily.

  • Integrate writing with content areas.

  • Require students to do more than one draft.

  • Model writing.

  • Save student work in portfolio or folder.

  • Strive for school-wide continuity of instruction.

  • Follow a checklist for best practices.

CSI is a process not a product. LES is in the “process” of fully integrating 6+1 as an intervention strategy for a CSI goal.

Advertise 6+1 to your stakeholders. Ensure your students know the traits. (posters, newsletters home, etc.)

Teachers and students use the language of the traits.

Link the traits to literature and writing.

Share your successes with each other.

Engage your students in scoring when possible.

Where – from here…


“Think of how many teachers you had who actually helped you with your writing. Most people can name one or two. I say to teachers, ‘Be that one teacher for a child.’”

~Donald Graves


  • Culham, Ruth. 6+1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide. New York: Scholastic, 2003.

  • Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. http://www.nwrel.org/assessment/

  • Spandel, Vicki. Creating Writers Through 6-Trait Writing Assessment and Instruction. 3rd ed. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 2001.

  • Spandel, Vicki. “Write Traits: 6-Trait Instruction and Assessment.” San Antonio. 24-26 Oct. 2005.

  • Login