Six Traits of Writing Presented by Leslie Terry Why Should I care? Because 6 - Trait writing providesâ€¦ Common language Consistency in assessment The â€œhow toâ€ students need to revise To Teach the Traitsâ€¦ Teach the concept first Surround students with writerâ€™s language
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Because 6 - Trait writing provides…
Consistency in assessment
The “how to” students need to
This trait is the HEART of the message;
the central idea and support.
How does it look at intermediate grades?
Adapted from 6+1 Traits of Writing, Ruth Culham
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?
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.
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.
How does it look at intermediate?
• 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.
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.”
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…
How does it look at intermediate?
• Individuality • Sparkle
• Exuberance • Humor
• Love of writing • Playfulness
• Appropriate for type of writing
words rate high scores.
How does it look at intermediate?• Correct word use without overuse of thesaurus
• 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!
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.
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.
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.
How does this look at intermediate?
Are they beginning to:
preceding sentences (transitions)
will become smooth. (adjective)
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.
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.
This trait reflects the general
correctness of the piece. Has it been
How does this look likeat intermediate?
- 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.
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
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?
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
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
what’s-going-to-happen-next kind of feeling
that happened to you that day; only tell what
your paper with things everyone knows
bored - make it lively
to tell everything
they get it
change sides halfway through your paper
the consequences if people do not agree with you!
facts, examples, or experience to support your
argument is not as strong as yours
smells, feelings, taste
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.
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
You’re teaching organization!
already knows? Wants to know? Adjust the voice/tone
for the audience? Help students find their individual voice?
Leave their personal mark on a piece of writing? Make sure voice/tone matches purpose? (e.g., business letter vs.
You’re teaching voice!
Stretch your students; knowledge of word meanings?
Explore how words are used in the literature you read?
Keep lists of favorite and least favorite words? Brainstorm alternatives for “tired” words? Encourage students to define specialized terminology (e.g., for math or science)?
students to teach YOU new words?
You’re teaching word choice!
Read aloud to students? Read often - and from a variety of
written sources (tech writing, poetry, business writing, novels, etc.)? Encourage students to read their own work aloud? Check sentence beginnings for variety? Show students how to vary sentence length by sentence combining and detangling? Work on tips for good sentences (e.g., avoiding “There is” or “There are” beginnings; avoiding run-ons)? Keep informational/technical pieces short, crisp, and to the point?
You’re teaching sentence fluency!
spell checkers or other resources? Teach students to use
copy editors’ symbols? Provide opportunities for students
to practice editing on text that is not their own? Model
editing using your own writing? Ask students to be editors for
YOU? Post copy editors’ symbols on the wall for quick
reference? Practice editing daily - if only for a few minutes?
Post the 100 most frequently used words for easy spelling
reference? Model use of dictionaries, handbooks, and other
You’re teaching conventions!