6 Traits + 1 - San Marcos Writing Project

6 + 1 Traits
San Marcos Unified School District
Laurie Stowell
Cal State San Marcos
San Marcos Writing Project
[email protected]
6 + 1 Traits
* Gives teachers,
students and parents a
common language to talk
about writing
Advantages of Analytic Scoring
• Offers broad perspective
• Challenges us to think of writing in new ways
• Gives us a model for responding to students’
• Provides vocabulary for talking with students
about writing
• Provides a solid foundation for revision and
• Allows students to become evaluators
Assessment for writing
Assessment of writing
Brief history
* K-16 teachers read and sorted stacks and
stacks of papers
* After sorting, they extrapolated what the
specifics of the papers were that caused
teachers to put them in different piles.
* Lists were compiled, descriptors created,
and common characteristics or TRAITS
•“Assessment should be
used as feedback only
and not as reward or
-Jerome Bruner
6 + 1 traits are used:
* In all 50 states, Great Britain, France,
South America, China and the Middle
*By teachers primary through college
*By teachers in language arts, math,
science, social studies, foreign
language and special education.
The 6 traits + 1
* Ideas (details, development, focus)
* Organization (internal structure)
* Voice (tone, style, purpose and audience)
* Sentence fluency (correctness, rhythm and
* Word choice (precise language and phrasing)
* Conventions (mechanical correctness)
* And now they also look at Presentation
(handwriting, formatting, layout)
Writing is like a guitar
Guitars generally have 6 strings. Each string has
a different note or tone. Some are high and some
are low. If you were to play a song with one
string, the song would be rather dull, boring and
monotonous. However if the six strings are
played together and they are given an interesting
rhythm, the gorgeous melody floats across the
room and stirs the soul.
Writing is the same in many ways. Without
all the elements, the writing is lacking. With all
the elements, the writing can stir the soul.
Another way to look at the traits:
• Ideas
• Organization
• Voice
• Word choice
• Sentence Fluency
(creating meaning)
(getting things right)
The six traits are not a writing
They are a way to link
effective classroom centered
writing assessment with
revision and editing processes.
Performance Assessment
“Teachers ask the wrong question first…
“What do we do?” -- putting the focus
immediately on designing tasks - when
they need to ask “What do we want kids to
know and be able to do? How well? What
does quality look like?” [We] need to ask
these questions very clearly first.”
Mike Hibbard, Education Update, 38(4), p.
5, ASCD, June, 1996
“We must change from a model that
picks winners to one that will create
-Harold Hodgkinson
Michigan: The state and its educational system
Scoring the 6 traits way:
The Redwoods
Why a 5 point scale?
• Origin of and research on the trait
model is 5 points
• Analytic, not holistic
• Classroom assessment, not large scale
• Are we ranking and sorting?
(summative) Or leading students to
revise and edit? (formative)
Tips on Scoring:
• Use the complete scoring guide – not a shortened
• Read the scoring guide at the “5” level as a
definition of the trait
• Read the paper
• Ask yourself, “Generally stronger or weaker on
this trait?”
• Work from the “5” down, or the “1” up
• Use the full range of scores – “5” is not perfect and
“1” is not an “F”
Score for:
The Core Standards never mention voice
outright, But they do mention style (See writing
standard 4). Style is an umbrella term that in
trait language encompasses voice, word choice,
and sentence fluency. They all work together.
Notice that standard 4 also suggests that the
style should be appropriate to “task, purpose,
and audience.” This ability to adjust style to fit
context–and to write in a way that reaches an
audience–is definitely a component of voice.
•Word Choice
• Sentence fluency
“The key to assessment is the word itself.
It comes from the Latin verb assidire: to
sit beside. We are not ranking here. We
are sitting beside a piece of writing and
observing its qualities. We are finding a
common language to talk about those
-Barry Lane
Study finds use of 6+1 traits
produces higher scores
• A scientific study conducted by REL
Northwest in 74 Oregon elementary schools
showed that the 6+1 Trait Writing model
caused a statistically significant increase in
student writing scores during the year in
which it was studied.
Scoring with traits
Start with what is working
What traits does this child have in this piece?
What traits need work in this piece?
Know the student and what he or she is capable of
and can handle in a conference
• Choose one or two things to work on in a
particular paper
How to teach the traits
• How students learn the traits: Introduce 1 trait
at a time: ideas, organization, voice, word
choice sentence fluency, conventions.
• Help students keep the big picture in mind
• 10 things to do your first week back
• Getting started with the traits
• Top 10 tips for teaching writing assessment
• Use the website as a resource
Traits can be used with
information writing
Frogs are amphibians. They spend most of
their life in the water but sometimes they live on
land. They don’t have tales, they are pretty smooth
and have bulging eyes. Frogs have long back legs
so they can jump. There are many kinds of frogs,
but they all have the same basic body structure.
The largest frog is from Africa…
Tree frogs live on all continents accept Antartica…
-7th grade
A revised piece
A sticky pink tongue darts out to grab a small
unsuspecting bug and- ZAP! It slurps it down for a
mid-morning snack. Such is a moment in the life
of the frog, a common amphibian found in all
shapes, sizes and colors and in many places around
the world. In fact, about the only place you won’t
find some kind of frog is in the coldest parts of the
world like Antarctica. As a cold-blooded
amphibian, the frog cannot adapt to the year round
freezing temperature of the air and water.
From the largest African Goliath frog
measuring about one foot long to the
smallest tree frog which is only 1/2 inch, the
daily struggle for survival is great…
Did you know that many common
frogs… are in danger of becoming extinct?
It may not see important to make sure
that frogs have a safe and clean place to
breed and grow, but people need frogs for
many more things than you may think…
Adapting the traits to fit you
• Just because there are six traits in the
model, this does not mean that you have to
give every paper six scores every time.
• For example: a particular writing
assignment on how species adapt to
environmental factors, you might want to
emphasize clear ideas, good organization,
appropriate scientific terms and perhaps,
conventional correctness.
Suppose you ask students to determine how
many different ways rectangular shapes can
be combined to create a design for a one
story building. You want them to write an
explanation of each step in their thinking.
You might choose to primarily on ideas
(clarity), organization (steps in order), word
choice (correct mathematics terminology)
and conventions (including mathematical
If you do not feel comfortable letting go
of any trait altogether, try what many
teachers have done: Weight the traits
according to emphasis.
For example if students in a group design a
newspaper that might have sold in London
in the 1800s, what is important?
Weight the traits
Let’s say the assignment is worth 100 points:
• Ideas 25
• Organization 10
• Voice 10
• Word choice 20
Sentence fluency 10
Conventions and presentation 25
Weight them however you want: just give
students a clear picture of what is critical.
Guiding Principles
• When you write every day, you improve.
• Paint-by-number isn’t art; writing to
prompts with formulas isn’t real writing,
• If you have some choice in the task, you
work harder and enjoy it more.
• No one fails at writing or teaching writing.
• We’re all learning.
The Power of Metaphor
• Robert Marzano's research stresses the
importance of making meaning through
comparison and contrast thinking.
• Create a metaphor for a good piece of
writing using the traits as a guide.
Human Body:
The Important Book:
• Using The Important book by Margaret Wise
Brown create and important book about the
traits including icons to remember them
• “The important thing about ideas is they are
they heart of the message…”
Publishers materials:
– Write Source
– Carson Dellosa
– Scholastic
Research and resources:
Creating Writers (5th edition)
by Vicki Spandel
6+1 Traits of writing: The complete guide
grades 3 and up by Ruth Culham (Scholastic)
6+1 traits of writing: The complete guide
grades K-2 by Ruth Culham
6+1 traits of writing: The complete guide for
middle grades by Ruth Culham
• http://educationnorthwest.org/traits
• http://writingfix.com/index.htm
• http://corbettharrison.com/lessons.html
• http://denaharrison.com/Traits.htm
• M.S. Teacher:
Elementary Teacher:
• H.S. Teachers:
Common Core & 6 traits:
• Color coded:
• samples of scored papers:
• http://sixtraitgurus.wordpress.com/
• http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/commoncore-state-standards/english-language-artsalignments.htm

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