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Six Trait Writing Tips and Tricks

Compiled By: mein10

This will be a collection of wonderful teaching ideas to use when teaching the Six Traits Plus One of Writing. These will be teacher favorites!

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Posted by: Joanna123

The 6+1 Trait Writing "framework" is a way to learn and use a "common language" to refer to the characteristics of writing and to create a common vision of what 'good' writing looks like. Basically, all writing can be scored using an analytical rubric based on the six traits plus 1. The traits are the qualities of writing. All students at all levels can talk about their writing using this language. If you do writers workshop, you use the traits in prewrite (ideas, organization), draft (all the others), revise (improve fluency, word choice, voice), editing (conventions), publish (presentation). They go hand in hand!

Most state writing tests use rubrics based on the six traits.

What are the Six Traits + 1?

Ideas: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.
Organization is the internal structure of a piece of writing, the thread of central meaning, the logical and sometimes intriguing pattern of the ideas.
The voice is the heart and soul, the magic, the will, along with the feeling and conviction of the individual writer coming out through the words.
Word Choice:
Word choice is the use of rich, colorful, precise language that moves and enlightens the reader.
Sentence fluency is the rhythm and flow of the language, the sound of work patterns, the way in which the writing plays to the ear - not just to the eye.
Conventions are the mechanical correctness of the piece - spelling, grammar and usage, paragraphing, use of capitals, and punctuation.

+1 Presentation:

Presentation zeros in on the form and layout of the text and its readability: the piece should be pleasing to the eye.

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Where to start?
Posted by: beachmom

Okay, lets say I buy the Ruth C. book will it be easy to use? I would like to introduce it in September. Does anyone have lets say a unit of study for each trait? I have heard of Units of Study on this board and want to set up a binder of what to teach, when and how so that I am not all over the place year after year. I would like some sort of organization. How does everyone start and what beside the book should I invest in? I don't want to spend a lot of money, however, would like stronger writers in my class. Thanks in advance!

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Posted by: Joanna123

That is the best book to really get a handle on the traits with. Once you read it, and it is an easy read, truly, you'll have a better understanding of how to teach to the traits. You'll begin to see that it is a language----you use it all the time---you introduce the traits then do mini lessons on them depending on what traits your students seem to be having trouble with. I suggest you buy the book and then start planning. Just remember, the whole point is to teach what your students need at the's not like unit a month type of thing. You will be able to make a collection of great lessons though for each trait. I suggest you get a three ring binder and section it off into 7 sections. Begin collecting picture books, lessons, and ideas in each section according to trait---not month.

Have fun. I do different things all the time depending on where my kids are struggling. Learn to have kids grade themselves and the work of others (no names). The books will give you samples to score and I love having my students tell us all why one got a 1, or a 4 or whatever. It's a great learning tool.

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Word Choice
Posted by: angel77

I really enjoy getting the kids to use "million dollar" words and add greater description of characters and setting to their stories.
I usually do a big push at Hallowe'en - so many words to brainstorm and so many characters to describe.
We do a lot of synonyms/antonyms work as well.

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Posted by: imalith

My favorite trait to teach is word choice and it seems to go along with the elaboration part of the idea trait.

I guess it is my favorite because I have some cool activities and it also seems to be the writing stage that my sixth graders are in when they arrive in the fall.

Voice is the most challenging. At the beginning of the year I get kids thinks voice is, "Hey dude, did you know that Hatshepsut was the first female pharoah?" Uck! Teaching proper tone and refined words for the audience is more challenging.

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Posted by: Joanna123

There a lots of ways to teach voice. I like to begin by having each student create their own "journal". They learn that they all have a different voice and when the journals all look different they can't wait to write in them. My kids say, "I'd know it was **** by the tone in the paper!" Also, the voice needs to mathc the audience. Have you heard of RAFT? It is a great way to get kids to think about who they are addressing and the "tone" or "voice" they'll need to use. Then, we read books that have strong "voice" like:

Two Bad Ants or Horrible Harry and the Horrible Rotten No Good Day.

Look up lesson on line, or pick up one of the great resources we are all sharing on the favorite resources post. If lots of us suggest them, they are probably worth your time!

Here is a site with books listed by trait: READ them you kids!! Talk traits all the time!!!

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word choice
Posted by: teamteacher

This year my class has enjoyed using "sizzling vocabulary." They have also become adept at pointing our sizzling vocab in our read alouds and in their library books!!! A co-teacher uses this same idea in her class. When she is introducing this concept, she passes out pop-rocks to students who use "sizzling vocabulary." I plan to do this next year.

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Favorite Resources
Posted by: Joanna123

Please list your favorite resources for teaching the traits. This can include books, rubrics, and even brief lessons. Have fun!

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Posted by: happycat

6 + 1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide by Ruth Culham (the blue cover is for grades 3 and up, the yellow cover is for primary grades--the blue one is how I got started in teaching the traits, but now I also have and use the yellow one)

Picture Books from NWREL

Creating Young Writers by Spandel

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Posted by: n2n2n2n

I also like the Scholastic orange covered book -- 6 Traits Lessons for Grade 2 -4.

Wee Can Write is also a good resource.

Oh -- I almost forgot --- I also got to spend an entire day at a workshop with Ruth Culham. There were about 40 of us there. It was great. She is so approachable.

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Choose the highlighted trait to score
Posted by: Joanna123

If you are doing a mini lesson on voice let's say, you grade on voice. If you take a piece all the way to publish---you'd grade on all of them. For a really great explanation go to the MCREL web site. That is where the top writers on Six Traits are and they have all the scoring rubrics, papers to practice scoring, etc. You'll learn a lot there. I started by researching----then bought books, then more....the book Complete Guide is truly "complete".

Keep reading books to your class and stopping to point out a trait. Like talk about Word Choice and keep a list of Strong Verbs going on a wall chart. The kids need to be infused with it. Talk it, talk it, talk it.

I begin the year with a Six Trait Writing Sundae party. We study all 7 of the traits all week--maybe two and then have a Six Trait Sundae party...we color in sundaes first, then I give them a "test"...real ice cream...

whipped cream--voice
hot fudge--sentence fluency
ice cream--ideas
sprinkles--word choice

It's a kickoff to my whole writing program and it "sticks". I can't take all the credit for the idea though. I got it from a booklet a presenter gave us about five years ago.

AshelyMarie---thank you so much for the bookmarks!!! I am going to print them tomorrow and have the kids keep them in their journals to mark the page they are on!!! What a fantastic idea!!!!

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Depends a bit on grade level
Posted by: Joanna123

I like to begin the year with a kickoff of Six Traits. We review them all week---not in depth---but touch on each one. We begin to use the language and then we have a Six Trait SUndae Kickoff party. After that, it's a part of our daily language....everything we read we mention traits. We also do mini lessons on traits--some we publish and some we just put away for later. I teach third grade so maybe people do it differently at the younger grades. Ruth Culham does not advise that traits be split up by grade level though---you need to be talking about them all----all year IMO.

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Start by
Posted by: Joanna123

explaining that all good writing has six "traits". Explain each trait--go on line, get definitions if you need to or if you don't have your book yet. I use an ice cream sundae to illustrate the traits...we learn the words---the names of the traits-----that's what you need to do the first few weeks. Don't get too specific about "one".

Spend a few weeks that way. As you are reading anything---even a science book---you can stop and say, "wow, listen to that word choice!" Keep a list of "strong verbs" on your wall. Kids can watch for words that they think illustrate word much fun. Keep it simple-----just familiarize yourself and the kids with the traits and what they are called. It all flows from there. Before you know it you'll be reading a Roald Dahl books and stopping to say, "Can you believe that VOICE"? Or, "The word choice is amazing, let's write it on our favorite words chart".

Read the book---it is a very easy read and you'll have an "ahaa". Then grow and grow and grow.

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Great time to start
Posted by: luvmycat

You have chosen a great time to get started! Such a perfect amount of time left in the year for you to explore the traits and to focus your students' writing on these qualities of writing. Like a pp mentioned, try to introduce all of them through quality literature, really hanging on to definition and examples of each of the traits. In one of the staff developments that I presented years ago we had an anchor or 'thing' for each one. I gave partners a bag of these things and we used metaphors to explain each of the traits. I will try to find this list.

After you have shared some literature to present each of the traits, I would begin a poetry study! I love Georgia Heards', Awakening the Heart. Poetry is a wonderful way to allow the students a chance to explore Ideas, Voice, Word Choice, and Fluency (not necessarily sentence fluency). Remind them that while you looked at examples of Organization, Sentence Fluency, and Conventions, the beauty of poetry is that these traits are not always obvious. If you want you can introduce organization here through some of the poetry patterns (I would hold off on the temptation).

During independent reading (or any interaction with quality text), give students post-it notes to find examples of the traits, have them share with a partner. They can write the examples down on their post-it note, siting book and page number and add to a bulletin board with each of the traits posted ( I am sure by now somebody has created an icon type graphic to enlarge and make colorful for a bboard.) If you start to have fewer examples of one, challenge them to look for more examples of the elusive trait. It is so powerful to have them share their findings by reading directly from a book!

I have found Ralph Fletchers' books to be very helpful for mini lessons, however, these are rather dated and newer examples of literature are probably available.

If I get out to school this week, I will try to make a list of my favorite picture books. What grade level??

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Here are two books that may help you NOW
Posted by: Joanna123

Beachmom (and others trying to start) here is a book that is very simple to use for teaching traits....

Time for Kids 6 + 1 Traits of Good Writing
Publisher: Teacher Created Materials

You can get it for grades 1-2, or 3-4

It is kind of a easy way to do traits but it will get you started until you can branch off and be more creative!!

ALso, someone was asking what books are good for each traits. Try
Scholastics (actually written by Ruth Culham), Using Picture Books to Teach Writing--with the Traits. It is a bibliography of over 200 books and which traits they are best suited for.

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Posted by: Joanna123

I posted this on another board, a thank you actually. I decided to put it here also because it was an easy way to teach Word Choice.

Using Figurative Language is one way to really help kids "beef up" their writing.

Teaching the traits is truly easier than you think. Once you, yourself, know what they are, why they are important, and how to recognize them, you will naturally begin to talk/teach traits! It just becomes part of discussions, read alouds, and writing throughout the day. Kids begin to recognize the traits as they read and hopefully it transfers into their writing.

Here is an example. I wanted my students to use more figurative speech in their writing. I knew it would improve word choice and sentence fluency. I had to read many "anchor" texts to them and point out examples. We created a list of similies, onomotopia, and flashy vocubulary used by authors as we read for a week or two.

This past week, low and behold---even my most struggling reader and writer used onomotopia and the simile, "BAM!" and then, "He fell to the ground like a bag of rocks", in his writing !! I almost cried I was so happy. He GOT it. He then set off to write a small chapter book with more excitement!

I didn't spend two weeks going lesson by lesson. I didn't have detailed plans down to the minute. I just selected books that were rich in examples (Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox) and read them. I read to the class anyway!!! I just stopped more frequently, kept a list on the wall--chart paper-- of what we were looking for, and modeled. I printed a list of similes I had found on the web, too. Now, no matter what book we are reading, the kids are looking for onomotopia and similes!

Have fun. Don't be afraid. Learn the traits and start, "Talking Traits". You can do it!!

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Posted by: icare

First on an overhead whole class, then with partners, and finally individually I give students text I've copied from various books. They use highlighters to identify sentences that begin interestingly. I also show them examples of pieces where all the sentence begin the same.

We also take sample sentences and write them 3 different ways to show the differences.
I'd love to have some more ideas!

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Posted by: Joanna123

The point of the Six Traits isn't that you teach one for a month and don't mention the others. You do mini lessons on them but you are always talking the the others. Kids need to see that they are doing some of the traits very well, but need work on the others. That's powerful. It's so much better than red marks all over a page marking capitals and missing punctuation! Yes, those are important, but they can be caught in the editing stage. That's when a child sees that they do well on the other traits and a goal is to improve conventions. I use the DLR (Daily Language Review) every day all year. It takes about 10 minutes and is a spiral approach to grammar. I LOVE it. The kids do that for bellwork then we quickly check it together on the document camera. Conventions--taught! Then in the editing stage I am able to say, "Pretend your paper is your DLR, what do you need to fix here?"

It's helped.

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Read it.
Posted by: Joanna123

Read the book before you read it to your class. You'll be so much more prepared to discuss it. However, as you read it watch for great word choice, fluency, and voice. Have the kids watch for tools of organization such as transition words. How does the author move the story from time to time, or place to place. What is the IDEA that flows through the story?

Do you have a list of traits up in your classroom? Have the kids tell you what traits THEY find as you read. That's the key. They need to start to find examples of the traits. Try making a huge poster on chart paper. Write the six traits as headings. Have the kids record examples of them as they read. You'll be shocked once they get started. This would be great way to use sticky notes! Make a big chart and lable it "Powerful Vocabulary". Have kids record strong verbs, figurative language, adjectives, etc. That is an easy way to teach Word Choice through read alouds or independent reading.

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Great Resource!
Posted by: Joanna123

I happened to find a great resource today. I've been reading lots of the articles and really wanted to share them with you. What I like about the way this author has presented the material on traits, is that he has actually provided reading passages and supplied which traits apply and why. Some of you who are new to traits may find it very helpful. All "articles" are available to download in PDF. I really like the article called, "Read like a Reader, Read like a Writer". There is also a fabulous resource called, "What is good writing". It has great posters and handouts. You may really find them helpful.

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Posted by: icare

I love Razzle Dazzle, 6 Traits + 1 ...also Reggie Routeman's Writing Essentials, and Ralph Flectcher's Writing Crafts.
I love teaching 3rd graders to write.
The best approach (I've found) is to model the idea you're teaching by reading many books to them that have that idea...great beginnnings, endings, word choice, etc. Bring the great examples to their attention. Then have them read their books marking examples with post its and come back and share them and make charts.
They begn to use many of these ideas and then create their own.

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Posted by: Joanna123

if it's Six Traits, then by all means BUY Ruth Culhams, The Complete Guide to Six Traits (for your grade level). It's worth its weight in gold.

I just bought a wonderful book last week called, Making Revision Matter, by Janet Angelillo. I LOVE IT. I needed something that gave me better strategies during revision. It talks about Six Traits, Caulkins, and WW. I love the ideas for giving kids specifics for revision. Check it out!!

Also, for someone just getting started in Six Traits who needs easy to follow mini lessons try this:

Time for Kids 6 + 1 Traits of Good Writing
Publisher: Teacher Created Materials
You can get it for grades 1-2, or 3-4

And of course, keep reading this board! We hope to help lots of people!

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