Six Traits of Writing Presented by Leslie Terry
Why Should I care? Because 6 - Trait writing provides… Common language Consistency in assessment The “how to” students need to revise
To Teach the Traits… • Teach the concept first • Surround students with writer’s language • Share strong and weak examples from written works • Write - and link writing activities to the traits • Practice revision and editing on the text of OTHERS
Six Traits of Writing • Ideas & Content • Organization • Voice • Word Choice • Sentence Fluency • Conventions
Ideas and Content This trait is the HEART of the message; the central idea and support. • CLARITY - makes sense. • FOCUS - narrow and manageable size • QUALITY DETAILS - noticing little things that others might not notice. How does it look at intermediate grades? • Writing has a clear, direct message that is focused.
Ideas and ContentLinks to Instruction • Prewriting • Keeping Journals • Moving from broad topic to focused and narrow ideas • Learning to observe carefully • Borrowing ideas from other writers • Knowing the purpose for writing
Activities to Help Students Select Ideas Adapted from 6+1 Traits of Writing, Ruth Culham • Free Writing - Ask students to write what’s on their minds or what they’re feeling right now or what they’ve been thinking about lately. • Flashback- Look through journal entries or family photos, personal mementos that stimulate memories. • Favorite places- think about a place they love to go and make a class list of favorite places. • I Remember Poem -Create this poem as a list of possible personal narrative stories. • Call It Out- Pick a category from an appropriate content area. Call out questions & encourage students to chime in with different answers. Go from general questions to narrow ones, developing narrow topics. Record topics on chart and let students do a quick write on one of them. • String-Along- Bring some string or any item to class. Divide students into groups and ask them to generate as many ideas as they can about the possible use of the item. Create a class list, dividing ideas into categories. Write a short focused paper about the uses of item being discussed.
It Happened to Me- Tell a story that that has happened to you to your students, embellishing for dramatic effect. When finished, let them ask you questions. Ask if it would make an interesting idea for a story. Next, create a poor chronological outline of what happened- a hodgepodge of major & minor details. Then have students give you advise for making it less bland by deciding which details to keep, delete, and elaborate. Finally, read the entire story to them. • Ask Me a Question- Divide students into groups of 3. Each student tells a story of a memorable event that has happened to him or her. The listeners can’t interrupt. Instead they write 3 questions so that the storyteller becomes aware of details he may have left out which can be included in the final story. This can also be used to prepare for persuasive text. Have each student tell their opinion about a controversial topic to the listeners. Then the listeners write 3 questions for the opinion. • Leave It Out- Read a familiar story leaving out important or “juicy” details. Ask students what it missing. Read the original story. Discuss the importance that elaborating and filling in blanks for the reader is an important step in making ideas clear. • Show, Not Tell- Make a list of telling sentences. In small groups, have students brainstorm as many details as they can about the general idea they’ve selected. Ask students to rewrite the general statement (telling) into one that is more focused, interesting, detailed (showing).
Adding Details / Show, Not Tell Example #1: Silkworms are interesting bugs. They make silk. They hatch from eggs and then they eat a lot. Later they go into a cocoon. When they come out, they turn into moths. Next, the female lays eggs and it starts all over again. The Japanese have been using their silk for 4000 years! They take the silk from the cocoon. Then they make silk for you and me. They’re pretty cool bugs, aren’t they?
Adding Details / Show, Not Tell Example #2 Did you know that the beautiful, fine silk that feels tingly against your skin is actually produced by two glands on a silkworm’s head? That’s right, you may have worn something from a bug! Hey, but don’t worry, this is a cool bug. these interesting caterpillars start from a small, in fact tiny, gray egg. It takes fourteen days for the eggs to hatch. The eggs will hatch within an hour of each other. Instantly, they start eating mulberry leaves. Mulberry leaves are the silkworm’s main diet. Silkworms eat constantly! In three weeks, the silkworm
will weigh five grams. when they reach this point, theyare ready to spin cocoons and they weigh 12,000 times more than when they were born. It takes 24 days to reach this point. When they get sluggish, stop eating, and look waxy, that means they are getting ready to start spinning their cocoons. To start, they spin a line to anchor the cocoon to a tree branch. It takes three days to spin a complete cocoon. During this time, silkworms have to rotate once every three seconds. In three days the silkworm will rotate 75,000 times. Even though most of the silkworms are not allowed to hatch, some are. When they are ready and formed, an enzyme is produced to soften the cocoon. when they come out, they’ve turned into moths. Next, the females produce pheromones to attract males. Soon after the female lays small gray eggs, the process starts over again.
The Japanese have been rearing silkworms for 4,000 years. The inner layer of silk within the cocoon is what is used. This stand of silk is a mile long and transparent. There is no substitute for this silk. One farm usually has 2,000 cocoons. Raw silk is purchased from the farm in the form of thread. As you can see, the silkworm is a special bug, and is very important to the clothing industry. Grade 8, expository based on research. From the collection of the Oregon Department of Education, 1999.
OrganizationThis trait is the internal structure • Inviting Opening • Sequencing - logical and effective • Linking words/phrases • Pacing • Effective Ending How does it look at intermediate? • Create organizational structures that balance all aspects of the composition • Use effective transitions • Support all statements and claims with anecdotes, descriptions, facts, statistics, and specific examples.
OrganizationLinks to instruction… • Strong leads that exhibit students’ awareness of the audience and purpose • Essays that are clear, coherent, and focused • Writing that contains formal introductions, supporting evidence, and conclusions.
Activities to Help Students With OrganizationAdapted from 6+1 Traits of Writing, Ruth Culham • Share Student Leads- Ask students to share leads from their work and have classmates offer ideas of different ways to begin their work. • Share Examples from Literature- Read excerpts from a variety of sources to show how professional writers choose to begin their work: • Teach Organizational Options: • Organize by space- Begin with big impression, then move to smaller details • Organize by Time- Organize chronologically. • Organize by Content- Categorize information into categories and write paragraphs developing them.
Teach Transitions- Connecting words and phrases help readers see how one idea ties to another. Read a passage omitting the transitions. Then read it again with the transitions so students can see how transitions add clarity to a piece. • Mix It Up- Reorder a poem, story, recipe, etc. and ask students to reassemble it in the correct order. Cut the text into pieces so students can play with it like a puzzle. Ask them to look for transition words, lead sentence, then the conclusion. • Putting it in Order- Read aloud a familiar story. Have one student stand up and retell the beginning and another child to tell the ending. Next, have different children tell the middle of the story while arranging themselves logically between the beginning and the end. • Step by Step-Have student write directions for an activity such as making a sandwich. Next, have classmates follow the written directions in order to illustrate the importance of order. • Pacing- On an overhead, create an outline of a story that treats all details with the same importance. Ask students to help you revise the piece for organization, noticing that some details are very important and need elaboration, while others aren’t important or can be combined with other small details. • Brainstorm the Possibilities- Make a list of techniques authors use to conclude their work. Hang the list in the room: (profound thought, a surprise, a quote, a tie-up, a question or open ended statement, a summary, a laugh)
Choose Strong LeadsIn any kind of writing, leads are critical. Read each lead and have students explain why one is better than the other. Read aloud different leads from children’s literature and let them tell you why the lead was strong or not. 1a. “This will be a story aboutpicnics on our apartment roof. Ready? Here goes.” 1b. “I will always remember when the stars fell down around me and lifted me above the George Washington Bridge.” 2a. “The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him, “WILD THING!” and Max said, “I’LL EAT YOU UP!” so he was sent to bed without eating anything.” 2b. “In this story, I will tell you about Max, a boy who acts wild sometimes.”
Staying On Topic / Maintaining Focus Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a huge castle. She loved her home with the tranquil lagoon and lovely flower garden. On her 18th birthday, her father told her that he was venturing off to a new land to look for a prince for her to marry. Weddings are fun. I was a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding. The princess begged to go with her father to find her prince, but her father refused. She was so angry! Why couldn’t she get married to someone that she loved? That night she ran away from home in search of her prince…
Voice • This is the personal quality of the piece - the sense of the writer behind the words. • “Flavor” or tone appropriate to the purpose of the audience. • Commitment to topic. • Involvement, enthusiasm, integrity. How does it look at intermediate? • Individuality • Sparkle • Exuberance • Humor • Love of writing • Playfulness • Appropriate for type of writing
VoiceLinks to instruction • Helps writers feel safe/accepted • Point out voice in books • Reward risk --even over success • Provide opportunities to hear voice of others • Writing TO someone
Activities to Help Students With VoiceAdapted from 6+1 Traits of Writing, Ruth Culham • Voice in Art- Gather 4 - 5 art prints that depict the same subject. Choose artists whose styles differ significantly. Ask students to compare prints and make lists of the ways they are alike and how they are different. Help students see that each artist develops his or her voice through their work, and over time, it becomes recognizable to others. • Make a Book of Books- Keep a class book of favorite passages to show how good writing affects us. • Greeting Cards With Voice- Gather samples of birthday cards and categorize them: romantic, sarcastic, sincere, cute, sentimental, and so forth. • Compare and Contrast- Find two or three books on the same topic, but by authors with different styles. (The Three Little Pigs and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs) Discuss the different ways the author of each piece writes using a different voice. • The Old Switcheroo- Ask students to think of a favorite story that they could tell to a partner. Next, ask them to change their story by telling it from a the point of view of one of the other characters. Ask them how the voice changed.
Voice in, Voice Out- Find a sample of writing where no voice is used; manuals, textbooks are often a good source. Have students rewrite the piece, trying to put in as much voice as possible. Try this activity in reverse, too. Taking voice out is a good activity for building awareness of this trait, since to remove it, they must understand it! • New Voices, New Choices- Have students write the first sentence of a letter to 5 different audiences. For instance, if you are studying ways to keep our environment clean, have them write to the local newspaper, their grandmother, an anti-environmentalist, a friend, or the president of a local consumer-rights group. Discuss how the voice in the writing will change depending on the intended audience. Describe appropriate voices for each of the audiences.
Word Choice • Correct, accurate use of language. • Vivid, precise, memorable, noteworthy • Effective - original use of everyday words rate high scores. How does it look at intermediate?• Correct word use without overuse of thesaurus • Originality • Experiment with use of idioms, analogies, metaphors, and similes. • Images, pictures, and ideas that evoke particular words or phrases. • Verbs, unusual or well-used adjectives and adverbs. *Misuse of language or over-reliance on the Thesaurus tends to hurt scores!
Word ChoiceLinks to instruction • Verbs, verbs, verbs!! • Building vocabularythrough reading • Brainstorming - How else could you say it? • Put “tired” words to rest • Eliminate redundancy • List words you love
Activities to Help Students With Word ChoiceAdapted from 6+1 Traits of Writing, Ruth Culham • Painting With Words- Create a bare-bones description of a person, place, or object. Next, focus on what you are describing. At the overhead, think aloud all your associations with the topic. Then show students the description after you have painted a picture for the reader by focusing on interesting details. • The More Detail, the Better- Have students study the same inanimate or live object to see who can observe the most details and the most unusual details. Allow them one minute to observe and take object away. Then give them one minute to write down everything they can remember about the objects. • Describe It, Then Build It- Create 2 identical collects of building materials (blocks, sticks, cardboard, paper, pipe cleaners corks, buttons, and so forth). Have one student build something from the collection while a 2nd student is not looking. A 3rd student observes the construction, then describes it in detail to the 2nd builder who must work only from the description. As a class, discuss the role of specific and accurate details. • Active and Passive Verbs- Create lists of alternative verbs that show rather than tell, (said, run, walked, laughed, cried, etc.) • Word Jar- Collect precise, descriptive words and revisit them often.
Find That Word- Read a story or poem with excellent words and have students jot down any words, phrases, or images that stick in their minds. Then have students talk about why they chose particular words and why they worked so well in creating mind pictures. • Expanding Small Phrases to Bigger Ones- Give pairs of students simple sentences and ask them to enhance meaning by punching up the verbs and throwing in a few colorful adjectives and precise nouns. • Rice Cakes or Salsa? As students discover some bland words in their writing, teach them to ask, “Is this a ‘rice cake’ word or a ‘salsa’ word?” Every paper should have salsa words! • Act it Out- Make lists of verbs - some active, some passive. Ask students to act out the verbs, noticing that passive verbs are more difficult or impossible to demonstrate. (eat vs. nibble, gobble, munch, scarf, pick at, etc.)
Eliminating Excessive Adjectives/Selecting Exact Word Choice Magic Mountain is a very cool place to go. Viper is awesome! I liked it a lot. It was fun. Batman is cool, but I liked some other rides better. Some of them made me very, very, very dizzy. I felt like I was going to get sick so I took my little sister to the kid’s section for a while. It made me feel better. I liked the rids as Magic Mountain because they all went really, really, fast. We had to wait a really long, long time and my mom almost made up give up and leave some of the long lines. I am so very happy that I got to go to the very best amusement park in the world.
Writing With Details/ Creating “ Mind Pictures”Vote: Story #1 versus Story #2… Story #1 Billy came toward me. He was mean. He was riding his bike toward me. His bike stopped. He looked really, really mad! He walked close to me. I was scared that he might hurt me. “Who are you?” he asked. “I’m Jose”, I said.
Mind Picture Story #2 Traveling at lightening speed, Billy drove his bike wildly down the steep hill. I began to tremble. After moving in only the day before, I had already learned that Billy was the town bully. Even the grown-up were terrified of him! He was headed straight for ME! His tires screeched as he slammed down his sneakers to stop. I think I even saw smoke rising from the asphalt street. His beady eyes squinted, his nostrils flared, his mouth was drawn tight as he glared at me. Wild red hair stood straight up from his freckled face. My life flashed before me. I gasped. I could almost picture his dirt filled nails going right into my neck as he strangled me slowly. “Would it hurt?”, I wondered. “Who are you, Geek?”, he growled through a space between his two front teeth. “Uh - uh, I’m Bobby and I just moved in yesterday,” I whispered under my breath. I prayed it was not my last breath.
Sentence Fluency • This trait focuses on the rhythm and cadence of the piece. How does it sound to the ear? • Listen for smoothness & flow • Variety of sentence beginning • Differences in sentence lengths • Variations in general patterning How does this look at intermediate? Are they beginning to: • Use rhythmic language • Vary sentence beginnings, lengths, and structures • Begin sentences in ways that hook them to the preceding sentences (transitions)
Sentence FluencyLinks to instruction • Pointing out fluency when reading good literature • Writing and listening to poetry • Combining/detangling sentences • Wordiness and parallel construction • Sentence fragments & variety
Activities to Help Students With Sentence FluencyAdapted from 6+1 Traits of Writing, Ruth Culham • Twisted Twister- Have students participate in a tongue twister contest to build up their oral fluency. This helps them focus on the way language sounds. Purchase: A Twister of Twists, a Tangler of Tongues- Alvin Schwartz or find some on the Internet. Invite students to create their own. • Reading Aloud to Yourself-Have students read aloud to practice fluency and to experience writing that is easy to read aloud. • I’ve Got Rhythm- Read aloud poetry that has natural language, not poetry that works so hard at rhyming that the natural flow is lost. • Music to Our Ears- Listen to classical music like Peter and the Wolf and Circus of the Animals to develop fluency. Let them listen as they close their eyes. Then have them listen a 2nd time, inviting them to pick a section and write a description of what they think is happening.
Slinky City- Divide students into groups of 5 and give each group a slinky. As you read a piece aloud that has little variety, have students stretch their Slinky to match the length of each sentence. After reading quite a few sentences, ask them to stop and discuss what they noticed. Were all sentences the same length or were some short and snappy while other were long and languid? Next, read a piece that does have variety in sentence length and structure. Decide which piece was more fluent, held their attention, and had variety in length and structure. Create a class chart that establishes criteria for what good sentences should look like. • Choral Reading- Nothing helps students see the difference a pause or inflection can make more than trying to read a passage or poem aloud with other people simultaneously. They need to plan where to breathe, stop & start, and raise & lower voices. • End With a Noun- Sentences are more powerful when ended with a noun:
A rolling stone gathers no moss. (noun) If a stone rolls, hardly any moss with be gathered. (verb) If you don’t want moss to gather on a stone, roll it. (pronoun) When trying to rid a stone of moss, roll it quickly. (adverb) If you roll the stone, the moss will become smooth. (adjective) • Flipping sentences- Write several sentences on sentence strips, cutting apart each word. Divide students into groups of 3 and have them assemble the sentence. Once completed, ask them to rearrange the sentence using the same words. On the reverse of some words, there will be capital letters or punctuation marks so that the 2nd sentence will be correct. • Sentence & Fragments Bee- Ask one student at a time, “Is this a sentence or a fragment?” as you give them an example written on an overhead. To remain standing, the student must give the correct answer. The last student standing is the winner. • Which Is Better? Share 2 versions of a piece of writing. They will have the same content, but very different sounds. Example: We went to the beach. It was sunny. It was warm. We had fun. We flew kites. We ate hot dogs. We spent a warm, sunny day at the beach eating snacks and flying kites. Next, let students practice sentence combining.
Omitting Too Many “ands” or “thens” I have a little sister and her name is Ashley. She is so cute. And she knows it! She is only two years old and she smiles all the time. And sometimes she gets mad at me. I don’t like it when she plays with my dolls and stuffed animals and games and books. I tell her to stop and she always screams and then I get in trouble. And my mom always thinks I am the one who started it and then Ashley just smiles. One day, maybe my mom will think it is Ashley’s fault and then I will smile and smile and smile and then I will think she is cute again.
Getting Kids to Vary SentencesWrite one of each of the following sentence on sentence strips. On the reverse side of the two words that can start each sentence, write a capital letter. Cut up each sentence and have the students construct the sentences in two ways. This will strengthen sentence fluency. •The boy rushed to school as he ate his breakfast. As he ate his breakfast, the boy rushed to school. • The team went out for pizza after winning the game. After winning the game, the team went out for pizza. • The shy boy raised his hand, even though he was scared. Even though he was scared, the shy boy raised his hand. • The young child refused to admit she was sleepy although it was midnight. Although it was midnight, the young child refused to admit she was sleepy. • The boy wondered what the scratching noise at his window was long into the night. Long into the night, the boy wondered what the scratching noise at his window was. • He realized how cold the water was after jumping into the pool. After jumping into the pool, he realized how cold the water was.
Practice Sentence Building • The girl walked. • The boy ran. • The dog barked. • The tree grew. • The father picked up the child. • The car groaned. • The teacher taught. • The bird flew. • The children worked.
Conventions This trait reflects the general correctness of the piece. Has it been edited/proofread? • Spelling • Punctuation • Grammar & Usage • Paragraphing • Capital Letters How does this look likeat intermediate? • Proper use ofinfinitives, participles, clear pronouns and antecedents • Correct use of hyphens, dashes, brackets, and semicolons • Applying the spelling of bases and affixes to derivatives
ConventionsLinks to instruction • Difference between editing and revising • Learning and using symbols • Model using clear examples in simplified contexts • Provide extensive opportunities to receive instruction and feedback.
Activities to Help Students With ConventionsAdapted from 6+1 Traits of Writing, Ruth Culham • The Conventions of Conventions- Examine the word “conventions” itself. Discuss, “What are the conventions of… - a holiday dinner? - a baseball game? - the school lunchroom? - a typical day at school? Ask what conventions help traffic flow. What would happen if we didn’t have traffic conventions? Relate their responses to writing and what happens when we don’t have conventions or use them correctly. • Conventions Game- Go over basic conventions that you know your students can handle on their own. Now, tell them you want them to follow some new directions such as putting commas where semicolons should be, spelling every 3rd word incorrectly, capitalizing only words that shouldn’t be etc. Then give students the opportunity to read their pieces aloud and ask them if it was difficult to read. Make a list of reasons for having rules.
Take it Out- Rewrite a short story or passage by omitting all punctuation, capitalization, and indentation, if appropriate. Group students together and ask them to put all conventions back in. Have them share and compare their edited versions with the original and note any differences. • Be Accountable- At the beginning of the year, ask students to decide for which types of errors they should be held accountable. Be realistic and don’t let them overdo their list! Throughout the year, add conventions to the list when new skills have been mastered. • Reading Backwards- To check for spelling errors, have students read their pieces backwards. That way, they focus on each word and don’t get caught up in the meaning of the words.
Silent Interview- Ask a student to come to the board. Each of you should have a different color marker or chalk. Start by writing a question. Have the student answer the question on the next line. Continue in this fashion until you have several sentences. Next, discuss what would be needed if this dialogue was written in a story where they couldn’t ‘see’ the speakers. • Dialogue Posters- Have students examine dialogue from writing pieces and have them create a list of “Rules for Writing Dialogue”.
Name that trait…. Who is your audience? What do they need to know? What is the MAIN thing you want to tell our readers? Do you have enough information on your topic? What is the purpose of this paper? Do you think the that purpose would be clear to a reader? Do you have a favorite part? Why is it your favorite? Are there any unneeded details you could cut? Let’s read just your lead. Will it grab the reader’s attention? 8. Did you tell things in a logical order? 9. Let’s just read your conclusion. Does it leave your reader thinking? Hungry for more?
Describe the voice of this piece in just one word. Is Is it the right voice for this kind of writing? 11. did you use strong verbs? Words like squash, linger, lunge, rush, fume, gallop, provoke, zoom, pummel? 12. Do you know the meanings of the words you used? 13. Did you stretch a little to try a new word? 14. Do your sentences begin in different ways to add interest? 15. Are some sentences long and some short so the paper does not get monotonous? Is it easy to read your paper aloud? 17. Circle all the words you think might not be spelled right. Look at each place you began a new paragraph. Do you think they’re in the right spots? Did you leave out any punctuation marks? 20. Write down what you think is the strongest trait in this paper.
Keys to Success in Modes • Narrative • Write a story - Don’t make a list • Remember that a good story makes a point • Create some tension - a problem to solve, a what’s-going-to-happen-next kind of feeling • Do NOT write a bed-to-bed story of everything that happened to you that day; only tell what matters
Informational • Be clear • Teach your reader something new - do not fill your paper with things everyone knows • Imagine you are writing to someone who is bored - make it lively • Explain one, two, or three key points; don’t try to tell everything • Write as if you find your topic very interesting
Persuasive • Outline the issue(s) or problem clearly for readers so they get it • Choose ONE positionand stick with it - do NOT change sides halfway through your paper • Give reasons for believing what you do - think of the consequences if people do not agree with you! • Your personal opinion is not a reason - you need facts, examples, or experience to support your argument • Consider the other side - show how or why their argument is not as strong as yours
Descriptive • Paint a picture for the reader • Put the reader right at the scene • Appeal to ALL senses - sight, sound, smells, feelings, taste
10 Things you can do now: Emphasize process over product. Encourage multiple forms of writing. Encourage personal revision/editing. Encourage teaming among students. Provide multiple opportunities for students to be assessors. Provide resources - let students help! Use the print all around us. Involve parents as coaches. Encourage students to create their own checklists, posters, etc. 10. Talk “trait language” in all content areas.
You’re Probably Teaching the 6 Traits Now! Do you…. Brainstorm? Do research? Make lists? Do interviews? Ask readers; questions? Use sensory details? Pick out favorite details? Work on making the main message crystal clear? You’re teaching ideas! Organize information? Group things together that go together? Look for patterns? Write more than one lead? More than one conclusion? Work on transition words like next, therefore, after a while? Think how order helps make information interesting? You’re teaching organization!