6 trait overview - Center for the Education and Study of Diverse

6 Trait Writing Assessment
Presented by: Center for the
Education and Study of Diverse
Tell me about 6
Began in the early 1980’s with
teachers and professional writers.
Teachers wanted a better way to
get accurate, reliable, useable
information about student
Teachers wanted a shared
academic vocabulary about
How Did It
• Teachers and writers read stacks of
essays, sorted them into categories of
what they liked, looked for specifics
of why they placed the papers into
each pile, compiled descriptors and
characteristics of good writing.
• 6 Traits emerged!
6 Traits was built upon the
Writing process:
Prewriting (purpose, audience, form, ideas, voice)
Revising (organization, word choice, sentence
• Drafting
• Editing (conventions, presentation)
What are the 6
Shared Characteristics of
Student Writing
• Ideas/Content: details, development,
• Organization: internal structure
• Voice: tone, style, purpose
• Word Choice: precise language and
• Sentence Fluency: correctness, rhythm,
and cadence
• Conventions: mechanical correctness
More about 6 Trait Writing
• Used by teachers, primary through
• Used by all content teachers
• Used by teachers in every US state
• Used by teachers in Europe, South
America, China, Australia, and the
Middle East
In the 6 Trait Process we:
Focus in on the assessment piece the rubric
Model samples of writing - good and
Read literature focusing on samples
of traits to the students
Always review rubric of trait you
are teaching
What’s Really Important?
• It’s a common assessment tool (and it’s
already done for you.)
• Traits are the language we use to help
students work more effectively with the
revision and editing process.
• 6 Trait writing is part of the writing
process (in the revision and editing
Where do you
• The topic is narrow and manageable.
• A clear, central theme drives the writing.
• Reader’s questions are anticipated &
• Lots of showing (specifics) rather than
telling (generalities).
• Quality of details matters more than
quantity--accuracy counts!
Key Question about
Did the writer stay focused
and share original and
fresh information and
perspective about the
Student Writing:
Strolling past rows and rows of
books, I remember how, after the
cancer struck, he came less and
less and read fewer and fewer
books. The books became just
part of the scenery, collecting
only dust and memories.
Reader feels a strong connection to the
writer connecting to emotion, energy,
Reader wants to read this piece (or parts
of it) aloud to someone else.
Voice takes on a different form as the
purpose and audience for writing
No matter what, without voice, it’s
Key Question about Voice:
• Would you keep reading
this piece if it were
longer? MUCH
Student Writing:
What I wont most is strong
verbs. Teachers all say I got
weak verbs. I got no strong
verbs. I always have a tuff time
in school cause of that. I been
pushed around and hounded to
much about them verbs. Always
them verbs!
Sentence Fluency
Listen for the rhythm and
cadence - even if the
punctuation is not yet present
or correct.
Sentences begin in different
ways and often end in a noun
or verb.
Creative and varied use of
sentence length and structure.
Fragments are deliberate
and add style and flair as
suited to the topic and
Key Question about
Sentence Fluency:
Can you FEEL the
words and phrases
flow together as you
read it aloud?
Student Writing:
In my old battered black wallet I carry
many things: A letter from a friend, my
lunch ticket, my social security card,
many other tidbits and items as well.
There is one thing, however, which I
prize above all my possessions. It’s a
photograph. It’s small and the
photographer wasn’t great. That doesn’t
matter. What matters is the person in
the photograph. His name is Brian
Sizemore, the love of my life.
Word Choice
Lively, active verbs are a top
Correct words are good - precise
words are spectacular!
Precision demonstrated in
choosing words and phrases to
match the purpose for writing.
Well-crafted natural language is
more effective than the thesaurus
Variety and originality over
redundancy, jargon and slang.
Key Question About Word
Does the variety of words keep the
reader interested in wanting to find
out the writer’s purpose?
Student Writing:
• The black asphalt was crumbling off
at the sides, and the paint on the
court was chipping and wearing out,
proof that there wasn’t a day this
court didn’t go unused. The hoops
were almost opposite. One was
older, bent, the backboard slightly
cracked, and leaning a hair to the
Inviting introduction gets you
started & allows the writer to
drive from there.
Thoughtful transitions link key
points & ideas.
Sequencing is logical,
purposeful, and effective.
Pacing - speeding up for wide
angle/slowing down for close-ups
is under control.
Conclusion wraps it all up and
leaves reader thinking.
Key Question about
• Does the organizational
structure enhance the ideas
and make the writing easier
to understand?
Student Writing:
• Above all, I show my
grandfather that I love him and
care what happens to him. This
is the most important thing to
remember when caring for the
elderly, especially if you are
related to them. They need your
love and even if you don’t want
to admit it, you need theirs.
Consider All the key
components: spelling,
punctuation, capitalization,
grammar and usage, and
paragraphing (indenting).
The text should look clean,
edited, polished.
Conventions should be under
control and enhance the
Conventional style guidelines
change over time and may vary
by topic and audience.
Key Question about
How much editing is
needed to make the writing
understandable for an
outside audience?
A whole lot? (Score in the “1-2”
A moderate amount? A little of
this, a little of that. (Score in the
“3” range.)
Very little - just a touch-up here
or there? (Score in the “4-5”
What Do the Rubric Numbers
Score of 5: A very strong and controlled
(though not necessarily perfect)
performance with respect to the trait at
hand. Clearly meets the criteria.
Score of 4: A fairly controlled
performance with strengths definitely
outweighing need for revision. One more
draft will make it sing.
Score of 3: A balance between strengths
and a need for revision on this trait. A
good first draft attempt with more work
intended. Writer is beginning to take
control of the piece.
Score of 2: A hint of things to come.
Shows promise, but the writer is not in
control yet. Need for revision definitely
outweighs strengths on this trait.
Score of 1: Just a beginning point with
great need for revision. Writer is still
exploring and not feeling comfortable
with the topic yet. May want to start
The Traits Are Not New:
They are simply a convenient way of
talking and thinking about writing and
have been used by good writers
throughout history. What the traits
provide is an “academic language” for
describing the qualities that most readers
think are important in good writing!
In Closing:
We don’t want the writer to describe
every ride at Disneyland or tell us that
the Grand Canyon is “awesome”. If one
of the rides at Disneyland got stuck or if
somebody fell into the Grand Canyon,
now that would be worth hearing about!
» William Zinsser - “On Writing Well”
 I always did well on essay tests. Just write
everything you know and maybe you’ll hit it.
Then you get the paper back from the teacher
and she’s written just one word across the
entire page, “vague”. I thought vague was
kind of vague. I’d write underneath it
“unclear,” and send it back. She’d return it to
me, “ambiguous.” I’d send it back to her,
“cloudy.” We’re still corresponding to this
day: “hazy, muddy, murky, foggy…”
 Jerry Seinfeld
• The key to assessment is the word
itself. It comes from the Latin verb
“assidire” meaning “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 qualities.
• Barry Lane, “Quality in Writing”
The End!

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