by Ginny Hoover
The Six Traits Writing Model
(A Writing Model for K-12)
Ideas and Content, Organization, Word Choice, Voice, Sentence Fluency, and Conventions
The Six Traits Writing Model, designed to guide instruction and to help in objective scoring of writing, is unlike many writing programs. It does not provide an inflexible pattern that children must follow often stifling their creativity. Instead, the Six Traits Model provides a description for each characteristic of quality writing, defined further by bulleted explanations. The process for achieving those qualities is left to the writer.
Many advantages are gained from its use. First, Six Traits provides a common language. As an instructor of language arts, the problem of multiple names often arises. When teaching "a, an, and the," what should they be called? Noun markers? Adjectives? Articles? When a district adopts the Six Traits, it is a given that students will learn to recognize the terminology used with the model. This is helpful in the discourse between teacher-student and student-student. The common language becomes a useful tool for revision and editing. When someone notes that the piece lacks Voice, it would be understood that the uniqueness of the writer is missing.
Another advantage is that the instruction is directly related to evaluation (as should be in all instruction-but doesn't always happen). The rubrics of Six Traits are also the instructional topics. The rubrics therefore are guidelines for quality writing as well as scoring descriptors. The teacher evaluates exactly what has been taught.
Because the descriptors are comprehensive and easy to understand, scoring writing becomes a simple task. State scorers, for instance, are expected to read and score 12-15 papers per hour. The rubrics are constantly in front of the scorers for reference, and papers are assigned the points earned by the student's performance as a writer according to the descriptors. The rubrics are based on a five-point system (only 1, 3, and 5 are defined). This point system has been criticized by some because scorers move toward the "3" rating as average instead of reading the descriptors. There are states that use the Six Traits for state assessment who have changed to a six-point system to avoid this tendency.
Although many teachers do it, it is not recommended that percentages be used with rubrics. If the purpose of the writing lesson was to teach about quality thesis statements, then the grade should be based on the success of the lesson. Secondly, a scoring should be done with the Six Traits rubrics. This is the next advantage that is gained through the use of Six Traits. The scores throughout the year can be plotted on a graph and growth of the writer can be observed. The comparison of the beginning of the year-end of year samples is not valid proof of growth. Two writing samples are of little value. The graph with regular plotting of scores throughout the year will show weaknesses, strengths, and growth or lack of growth. This valuable information can drive instruction.
Using the Six Traits Model does not mean that previously created writing assignments will be discarded. Instead, those assignments can be reviewed and then categorized as to how they would fit into teaching the different traits. When teaching the five-step writing process, all the traits will fit eventually into the different steps. For instance, Organization is being taught when addressing lead, thesis statement, and conclusions.
When faculties have been trained in the Six Traits model, it can be used in Writing Across the Curriculum activities. Posters regarding the traits can be place in all rooms as a reminder to the students that writing standards will be upheld. The model works well with all classes and writing assignments. The advantages of the knowing Six Traits will then apply across the curriculum. For instance, a history teacher might give a research assignment and ask that Voice be used only in the summary of the research, and teachers who give essay tests will benefit from the Organization taught with the model. Students will learn that quality writing is not reserved to the English room.
More information pertaining to the Six Traits Writing Model can be found at NWREL at http://www.nwrel.org/eval/writing/. In addition, instructional suggestions and an extensive listing of Internet sites are available at my webpages, Ginny's Educational WebPages http://www.geocities.com/ginnyks/communications.html. Currently, I am organizing a book of teaching ideas for Six Traits. If you'd like to donate a lesson, information is available at my publishing site, Ginny's Eclectic Middle School http://communities.iuniverse.com/gems. Look in the "File Cabinet" at the lower right.
About Ginny Hoover...
Ginny Hoover took an early retirement after 31 years of teaching in Kansas public schools. Her experience spans the 5th through 8th grades, although she does admit to teaching 2nd grade once for summer school. During the last ten years she has functioned as a trainer of teachers in a variety of areas in her district, surrounding districts, professional organizations, and teacher service centers. At the state level Ginny is a state trainer and a writing assessment grader for the KS State Writing Assessment (based on the Six Traits Writing Model), a member of the Kansas Social Studies Committee for writing the social studies standards, benchmarks, and indicators, and the lead trainer for the state in government and civics.
Recently, Teacher TimeSavers has published a variety teaching units and tutoring hookups that Ginny wrote and designed. These include a literary unit for Taming the Star Runner, Hookups for Language Arts, Transcripts of Trials for Goldilocks, The Wolf, and Mr. Dad, and Tactile/Kinesthetic Activity Patterns.
The Gifts of Children by Hoover and Carroll Killingsworth, a book about recognizing, acknowledging, and refining the gifts of children, is scheduled to be published some time this year. Visit Teachers Helping Children--The Gifts Project for additional information.
Ginny was selected by iUniverse.com personnel to develop their middle school site for teachers who wish to be published. On this site, teachers can publish articles expressing their ideas and opinions on education. In addition, iUniverse.com is a print on demand site that will publish books for teachers.
Ginny's Eclectic Middle School pages