The 6 Traits of Writing – A Summary of the 6+1 Trait Model

6 traits for writingAny writer can tell you that learning the craft is more than enough of a challenge. Teaching that craft to others can be that much more difficult. The 6+1 Trait Writing Model is an instruction and assessment tool designed by teachers to help teachers teach their students how to write. According to this model, there are six key traits that make up quality writing and an extra traits.

The six traits are ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions. The seventh extra trait is presentation. The seven traits are discussed in detail below. There are also some tips on how to use this model in your classroom. Brush up on your grammar skills with this course so you can teach your students too.

Trait One: Ideas

This trait makes up the bulk of the writing. It is the words on the paper, the main theme, and the details that support it. It involves showing the ideas to the reader, not telling them. An idea is only strong when the message is clear and organized well. This leads to the second key quality of quality writing, and that is organization. Learn how to diagram sentences to teach it to your students with this course.

Trait Two: Organization

This particular trait involves how you structure your piece of writing. It also involves the path guiding the central meaning, the pattern, and the sequence of a piece. Organization is only strong if it fits the ideas. The structure used can be comparison and contrast, deductive logic, analysis, central theme development, chronological history, or any other number of organizational patterns.

An organized piece will start with meaning. The events written will follow a logical sequence, and information is presented to the readers in a way that keeps their interest.  Any connections that need to be created are done so in a way that bridges ideas together, and any loose ends are resolved. All important questions are answered, but the reader is still left with something to think about. Refresh yourself on the rules of spelling with this course.

Trait Three: Voice

Whenever a writer begins a piece, they write with a particular tone. This is known as their voice. This is where a piece of writing gets its heart, that individual piece of the writer that cannot be copied. When a writer is personally engaged with the topic, he will write with his personal tone, and that piece of writing becomes a part of them. This is the third quality of quality writing, but it will differ from writer to writer.

Trait Four: Word Choice

A writer’s choice of words can make a great difference in a work. Not only does word choice show functionality and an understanding of language, but it can move and inform the reader. There are word choices that should be used in all writing, but there are also word choices specific to different types of writing. Figurative language like metaphors, analogies, and similes should be used in all types of writing amplify and improve the piece being written. Word choices for specific types of writing are listed below:

  • Imagery and sensory should be used liberally in descriptive writing. It’s also key to do plenty of showing and not telling. These word choices refine and develop a writer’s ideas.
  • When writing persuasively, the word choice should be purposeful to give the reader a new vision on whatever the idea of the piece may be.

Trait Five: Sentence Fluency

It’s important to know how the writing will sound along with how it will look. A piece without rhythm and flow can be awkward and slow a reader’s progress through the piece. Writing with cadence, rhythm, movement, and power will allow the writer to write fluidly, and the reader will be able to read the piece fluidly without pausing to say, “Wait, what was the writer just trying to say?”

When writing, the sentences of a piece should vary in structure, style, how they begin, and just how long they are. If you’re not sure if your piece has fluency, read it out loud. Use this same tip on your students so they can begin to recognize sentence fluency. The fluency is what allows the reader to travel through the piece without having to pick through your words and puzzle out what you were saying.

Trait Six: Conventions

This trait begins to deal with the mechanics of a piece. There are five elements involved with the conventions of a piece of writing: spelling, capitalization, grammar, punctuation, and paragraphing. If the piece has been proofread and edited, this shows an understanding of conventions.

When teaching the conventions of writing to students, it’s important to keep their grade level in mind. A kindergarten student will misspell plenty of simple words, but a high school student should have no problems with simple or more-complex words. Neatness and handwriting are not included in conventions; they belong with the extra trait of writing – presentation.

The Extra Trait: Presentation

In a nutshell, presentation can be seen as how the writing is viewed on paper. Someone whose handwriting is illegible can still likely have their writing rejected no matter how well constructed and vivid the writing is. There are specific guidelines that must be followed: balance of white space, neatness, handwriting or font selection, borders, graphics, and overall appearance.

People who have difficulty with presentation should examine the words and visual presentation of them that they see in their lives. Consider a billboard that catches your attention compared to one that doesn’t. What made you pick a particular book over another the last time you were in the book store? Technical writers especially pay close attention to presentation as they include plenty of visual aids and graphics along with their text.

Using This Model in Your Classroom

There is no right way to begin using this model in your classroom, but there are plenty of teachers out there that have advice and tips to offer. Education Northwest has a great collection of words of wisdom from other teachers using the 6+1 Trait Writing model. It may just be in your best interest to check out what these teachers have to pass on to you about using the 6+1 Trait Writing model.

If you plan to create your own writing prompts for your students, you’re going to want to keep a few things in mind:

  • You should try to avoid giving your students a topic to write on that would require them to do lengthy research. You want your students to be able to draw on their experiences to create their piece.
  • Give your students the freedom to choose. Open-ended prompts are good, but you can also offer two or three prompts so your students can pick whatever they feel like writing on. This is especially helpful if the particular trait your students need practice on is voice.
  • Avoid forcing your students to share personal information with the prompts you create. Even if some students don’t have a problem with it, there will likely be that one student that gets upset, and the parents will likely be making a call.
  • Don’t leave your students wondering about what you expect from their writing. If a prompt has a particular goal, be sure to state that clearly.

It’s important that you be able to track just how well your students appear to be grasping the concepts of the 6+1 Trait Model. Just as you would score their math work they did, you’re going to need to score their writing too. However, scoring doesn’t do anyone any good if the student doesn’t know what is expected of them.

Some Final Advice

Don’t expect your students to understand and do something that you yourself don’t understand or do. Education Northwest has a great resource that allows teachers and students alike to practice their own skills for the 6+1 Trait Model. You practice each of the above traits of quality writing by reading through a summary on the quality and then choosing a paper to score.

You input the score you would give the paper and include a brief explanation as to why you would score it that way. When you hit submit, you get to view the score Education Northwest experts gave the paper, and you get to see why they chose that particular score. Reading over their comments and the summary of the trait gives you a better understanding of how to use the trait and how to show it to your students.

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