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6 + 1 Traits of Writing presented by: Tina Zecca

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6 + 1 Traits of Writingpresented by:

Tina Zecca

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6 + 1 Traits – the purpose

• The traits provide teachers with a shared vision and vocabulary for describing the qualities of good writing, these are: Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions & Presentation

• They give a common language for writing assessment so we can provide students with precise, complete feedback on their writing performance and needs.

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6 + 1 Traits – the purpose

• The traits are not a curriculum, but a framework for examining the curriculum.

• The traits are an assessment tool that works with the curriculum to guide instruction so all students can achieve their writing goals.

• The traits compliment Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops, and writing in all content areas.

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Role of the Teacher• To teach and assess all the traits of

writing.• To focus on individual needs of

students.• To be objective evaluators of student

writing, using the 6 + 1 traits scoring guides.

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Role of the Student

• To skillfully integrate all of the traits in their writing.

• To learn to see, hear, practice and internalize the traits so they increase their control and confidence when writing.

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Role of the Student

• To become problem solvers.• To take responsibility for their learning.• To grow in their ability to critically read

their own, and others writing.• To evaluate their own writing


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#1 IDEAS•Ideas make up the content of a writing piece, they are the heart of the message.•Strong ideas will create a clear message.•Students struggle with ideas because - writing is complex, students think faster than they can write, students often write to please others.

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IDEAS: Teachers must help students to:

Select an idea (the topic) Narrow the idea (the focus)Develop the idea (elaboration)Add information to convey the idea


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How can I teach students the ideas trait?

1. Free Ideas: Free writing, flashback, favorite places (helping students look for experiences and ideas that matter to them)

2. Picture This: Students analyze art out of context, in small pieces, then finally analyze the entire piece at once

3. It Happened to Me: Teacher modeling of a detailed oral telling, to a simple outline, to an embellished outline

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# 2 ORGANIZATION•Organization is the internal structure of the writing, the thread of central meaning, the pattern of logic.•Organization and ideas go hand in hand. Students need “meaty” ideas that can be grouped logically to form a beginning, middle and end.•.No single program will solve our organizational woes.•Students struggle with organization because rigid organization is often overvalued.

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ORGANIZATION: Teachers must help students to:

Write an inviting introduction that gets the reader started and gives clues about what is to come.

Use transitions that link the ideas.Develop sequencing and pacing.Write a satisfying conclusion.

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Organization 1 of 3

How can I teach students the organization trait?

1. Start with the Introduction: Share some examples from literature: Tuck

Everlasting, Walk Two Moons, Indian in the Cupboard

Share student leads, then chart the best ones. Use expert quotes or thought provoking

questions. Break the Rules – play with the punctuation and

capitalization. (conventions)

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Organization 2 of 3

How can I teach students the organization trait?

2. Develop the Middle: Teach organizational options, organize by: space,

time, content, or perspective Teach transitions to: show location, compare or

contrast, add information, show time, or conclude Teach sequencing: Step by Step – write directions

Mix It Up – mix up stories, poems, and sentences, cut them apart like puzzles and have students put them together again

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Organization 3 of 3

How can I teach students the organization trait?

1. Writing Conclusions: Use examples from literature –

Share a profound thought - (Roald Dahl, Matilda) Tie-Up any loose ends for the reader - (Jean Fritz,

Homesick) Use a quote - (Louis Sachar, Holes) A Question or Open-Ended Statement – (Natalie

Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting)

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#3 VOICE•Voice is the writer’s music coming out through the words.•Voice is how the reader knows it is really you speaking.•Students struggle with voice because – voice isn’t as concrete as other traits, there is a perception that “boring” is good, it’s a bit too personal.

•Some teachers think not all writing requires voice, but voice finds its way into even the simplest of communications.

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VOICE: Teachers must help students to find their voice:

Create writing that speaks directly to the reader on an emotional level.

Craft writing to match the purpose and the audience.

Take risks and reveal the person behind the words.

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How can I teach students the voice trait?

1. Introducing Voice with Song: Share different artists’ recordings of the same song over the years.

2. Introducing Voice with Art: Show four or five art prints of the same subject, or illustrate the trait.

3. Learning to hear voice in literature: My personal favorite - E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

4. Compare and Contrast: Same story, different authors

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#4 WORD CHOICE•Word choice isn’t just about the use - or misuse - of words. It’s using everyday words well. It’s rich, colorful, precise language that communicates, inspires and enlightens the reader.•Students struggle with word choice because – the language used to explain things isn’t always clear, often vocabulary

is taught in isolation, and students get

“word drunk” using words that just don’t work.

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

- Mark Twain

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must help students to use:

Striking Language: Sharpening students’ descriptive powers

Exact Language: Lively verbs, precise nouns, accurate modifiers

Natural Language: Making is sound authenticBeautiful Language: Selecting colorful words

and phrases

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1. Find key words and phrases in captivating texts2. Your Personal Top Ten: The students and you keep

an ongoing list of your top ten favorite words.3. Exact Language: Activities for using lively verbs,

precise nouns and accurate modifiers – Connotation Poems, Synonym Searches, Words, Words Everywhere

Word Choice

How can I teach students the word choice trait?

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#5 SENTENCE FLUENCY•Fluent writing is graceful, varied and rhythmic, it has a natural cadence.•Fluent writing is free of awkward word patterns.•Fluent writing has well-built sentences with varied beginnings, and lengths.•Students struggle with sentence fluency because –

there is an overemphasis on correctness, writing classrooms can be too quiet (we need to hear good writing), and it’s harder than it looks!

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SENTENCE FLUENCY: Teachers must help students to:

Establish a flow, rhythm, and cadenceVary sentence length and structureConstruct sentences that enhance the

meaning of the text

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Sentence Fluency 1 of 2

How can I teach students the sentence fluency trait?

1. Establishing Flow, Rhythm, Cadence: Students read their own writing out loud (try “phones” to encourage this behavior”, Choral Reading, Poetry, Classic Music pieces, like Peter and the Wolf

2. Varying Sentence Length and Structure: Sentence stretching (try this in teams, just pass the sentence along) Matthew snarfed the pizza. Matthew snarfed the cheesy pizza. Matthew snarfed the steamy, cheesy pizza.

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Sentence Fluency 2 of 2

How can I teach students the sentence fluency trait?

3. Constructing Sentences That Enhance Meaning: Using punctuation for emphasis - remove the punctuation from a piece of text and have pairs put it back in. Later show them the piece correctly punctuated.

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#6 CONVENTIONS 1 of 2•Conventions guide the reader through the text making the ideas readable and understandable.•Conventions are a part of editing, the other traits are revision traits.•Conventions are: spelling, punctuation, grammar and usage, capitalization, and paragraphing.

“My spelling is wobbly. It’s good spelling, but it wobbles and the letters get in the wrong places.”

- A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

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•Students struggle with conventions because – they don’t see the power of conventions as a way to make meaning, it’s a constant struggle to for teachers to find the best way to teach conventions, and we don’t encourage students to take risks.

“My spelling is wobbly. It’s good spelling, but it wobbles and the letters get in the wrong places.”

- A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

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CONVENTIONS: Teachers must help students to:

Be sure students understand that editing and revising are different.

Expect correctness, but keep the students developmental level and age in mind.

Value experimentation, but balance it with correctness.

Be patient. Learning to use conventions well takes time!

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Conventions 1 of 2

How can I teach students the conventions trait?

1. Everyday Practices: One Error at a Time, Set Aside Editing Time, Model, Keep Writing Tools Handy (dictionaries, thesaurus, grammar handbooks), Ask Why (ask students “why” they chose certain conventions, make them think!)

2. General Editing: Conventions Game, Take It Out, Error Hunt, Conventions Center (Students become the experts, others go to an expert to get help)

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Conventions 2 of 2

How can I teach students the conventions trait?

3. Editing for Spelling: Reading Backwards (this helps students focus on individual words), Practice Makes Perfect (high-frequency words)

4. Editing for Capital Letters: Bouncing Ball (bounce a rubber ball every time there should be a capital)

5. Editing Punctuation: Try Dialogue Posters for quotations.

6. Editing for Grammar: “Schoolhouse Rock”, Use Literature.

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+1 PRESENTATION•How the writing looks to the reader.•Does the writing have a finished look? •Has the student created a polished piece ready to be read and appreciated?•Presentation is part of the traits because teachers were assessing it as part of conventions; however, it is not as meaty as the other traits, so it is labeled +1.

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PRESENTATION: Teachers must help students to learn the following


Uniform spacing Legible and consistent handwriting, or appropriate

fonts and sizes Appealing use of white space When necessary, use of bullets, side headings and

other markers Effective integration of text and illustration, charts,

graphs, maps, tables.

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How can I teach students the presentation trait?

1. Sample texts: Menus, maps, handwriting samples, text with and without illustrations, advertisements, home pages

2. Compare effective pieces with ineffective pieces3. Teacher feedback

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The Big Picture – connecting to the writing processBy using the traits we show students what is working well in their writing and what needs improvement. The traits encourage them to be active learners; it encourages them to experiment, stumble and ultimately to succeed - while becoming the best writers they can be!

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Additional Information• Each trait includes Scoring Guides to help assess

student writing.• Appendix A includes a Writing Assessment Continuum

that works with the Scoring Guides. This is used to help validate the teacher’s score.

• Appendix B includes Student-Friendly Scoring Guides. These are very important! The Scoring Guides or “rubrics” are too difficult for most students to understand.

• Appendix C provides Tips on the Traits• Appendix D includes anchor papers; however, there are

anchor papers throughout the text.

see pages 261 - 302 6 + 1 Traits of Writing by Ruth Culham

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  Culham, R. (2003). 6 + 1 Traits of Writing. Portland, OR: Scholastic Inc.


• http://www.educationnorthwest.org/traits/resources/503

• http://writing.pppst.com/6traits.html• http://www.svusd.org/hp/D26270-