Friday, June 24, 2016

Introducing the 6 Traits of Writing

I absolutely love teaching with the 6 Traits.  It is a framework that works from kindergarten to high school.  Learning to teach with the traits has also helped me become a better writer.  I can identify what's strong or weak in my own writing and work to improve it.  This is my hope for my students.

So how do you get started with the traits?  On the first day of school, I tell my students that I am going to share a piece of writing about me.  It's kind of an introduction or getting to know you piece.  (I actually have 3 pieces that I share on the smart board.)

The first piece that I show and read to the class is very simple and full of convention errors.  It is really short and pretty boring.  The students listen and usually don't say much about this piece.  When I finish reading it I tell them that I actually have another piece that I should read.  (This one is a little better than the first.  I have a few more details and a few less convention errors.)  After reading this one, they usually start saying things like, "That one is a lot better.  You told us more."

Then I read one more piece which is my best effort.  I start with a bold beginning and give lots of great details.  I have spectacular words that help the students visualize and connect.  I use everything I know about the traits to really captivate my audience.  This final piece is polished and pleasing.  When I read this piece, the students are visibly moved.  I can see it on their faces while I am reading it.

After reading this one, I ask them which piece of writing they liked best and why.  They start noticing and naming the different beginning, the descriptive details, the consistent use of conventions, the transition words…

They don't know it yet but they are naming many of the features of the 6 traits.  At the end of our comparison and discussion, I explain that we are going to learn something called "The 6 Traits of Writing."  I explain that the traits help us identify what makes a piece of writing "great."  I tell them that they were already able to notice many things that makes one piece of writing better than another.  In the writings that I shared, the overall messages were pretty much the same.  They received the same information about me in each piece, but HOW I said it was different.

I briefly name the traits and explain that we will learn them one at a time.  In a few months they will know and be able to use all of these tools.  I then invite them to write an introductory letter to me.  I tell them that this is a way they can share information with me much as I did in my piece.  I also tell them to think about the things they noticed in my best writing and try to do the same.  This first piece of writing not only lets me get to know my students' interests and background, it also serves as a baseline writing piece.  I keep this first piece of writing so that we can compare future writings to it.  It's so exciting to be able to see growth as the year progresses.

Do you use The 6 Traits of Writing in your classroom or school?  How do you get started?

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