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Using the 6+1 Traits of Writing

Today I'm talking about using the 6+1 Traits of Writing.  Why do I teach with the Traits?

  • It works perfectly with the B.C. Curriculum.  
  • Students get it.  
  • It breaks the writing process down into steps we can layer up all year.  

That means writing doesn't seem like such a large task.  And that means, kids will usually write more because they feel a whole lot less overwhelmed.  Sounds pretty good to me!

Here is the writing board in my classroom.  A large portion of it is taken up by my 6 Traits checklist.  As the year goes on, and we introduce new pieces, it fills up and serves as a giant criteria list.  The blank space to the left is where I add pieces specific to a current focus (figurative language, punctuation, etc.)

You don't need to have a board dedicated to the Traits if you teach with the Traits.  I do for two reasons:
1) I have the space.
2) It serves a giant checklist students can self assess their writing on that builds through the year as we learn new elements.
You'll often hear me say "just because we are working on -----, don't forget all the other pieces we already know".  A quick scan of the board and students know exactly what I'm looking for in their writing.


Why does it say "Use your writing VOICES?".  Well, VOICES is an acronym for the Traits.
V- Voice
O- Organization
I - Ideas
C- Conventions
E- Excellent Word Choice
S- Sentence Fluency
They are now promoting 6+1 Traits and the +1 is Presentation.  That didn't make it to my board.... but we do discuss it often.

When I was starting out with the Traits, I wasn't sure where to go for resources.  Here are some of my favourites to help you out:

"Using Picture Books to Teach Writing With the Traits" is an excellent resource.  Even though I teach grade 4, I still use it.  They give you a scripted lesson plan for every trait as well as several other picture books that fit the trait and how you could use them to inspire writing.  I use their examples and then extend on it for my bigger kids.
Here are my favourite picture book for for each trait:


The story of the 3 Little Pigs told through the Wolf's perspective.  Gives students a chance to think about the other side of things, and, it's funny.


Or any of the "If you Give a..." books.  I love how they are cyclic.  You really have to think ahead to write one of these stories.  Good cause and effect too.

Okay, I picked two for organization.  Scaredy books are organized in a different way.  I love all the charts and diagrams.  


This book is a favourite for many reasons.  It is so touching.  The boy in this story is searching for the answer to what a memory is.  So many beautiful answers are given to him.



This book uses two words.  Yo! and Yes?  You can talk about how the punctuation helps imply more language than is given.  I also like to teach inferring with this book.

Excellent Word Choice

Max collects words.  Although some of his words are basic, he collects some powerful ones as well.  The author uses descriptive language throughout this book.

Sentence Fluency

I like to teach sentence fluency with poetry, because Jack's poems have such a good flow.  They just roll off your tongue when you read them.  And, they are hilarious.

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Helping to inspire,

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