January 11, 2015

Primary Sentence Fluency & Reader's Theater

Class comments from Kathy:

I was excited to see the example in the book that described a good way to begin teaching varying sentences was to model. That is exactly what I did with my class last year when I dabbled in teaching sentence fluency. I wrote a story similar to the boring beach story in the book. Mine was about playing at the park. I started every sentence with we and the sentences were short and simple. Then next to it I had a story with descriptive words, varied sentence lengths and different words starting the sentences. I started by asking which one was more enjoyable to listen to. They were able to respond correctly and talk about what made it more interesting to listen to. We then focused on the poorly written park story and how we could rewrite it to make it have more sentence fluency. We never got past the modeling and shared writing portion of this because the school year ended. I am excited to try some more of the ideas in Spandels's book this year.

Three times a week we work on fluency in our reading. A lot of this is done with reader's theater. This is a great way for students to work on their fluency and expression. Tying some of these writing ideas to their reading fluency will truly help them make the connection between reading and writing. Might be fun to give them a reader's theater written simply with no sentence fluency. Then with their partners or groups, have them rewrite their parts with sentence fluency. Then they can present the revised reader's theater to the class.

I think I will bundle this trait with word choice. Part of what makes a sentence fluent is choosing the right words.

Internet Resources for Conducting Readers Theater
(From the International Reading Association.)

Reader’s Theater from the ProTeacher’s Archive
Lots of lesson plans and links to materials.

Reader's Theater Lesson Plans (Grades 3-5)
4 60 minute lessons by Laurie A. Henry, Ph.D.
Lexington, Kentucky

Reader's Theater Scripts

January 6, 2015

Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits: Syllabus

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EDUC 653 Middle School through Adult 6-Traits Writing Instruction
3 credits
Course Author: Dennis O'Connor
NCATE logo
Renee Williams
Instructor:Renee Williams
Telephone: 971-4504572474
Office appointment calls available via Skype: renwill11 in Dubai, U.A.E.

Course Description

Concepts, instructional methods and assessment strategies for improving writing instruction, middle school through post-secondary. Self-assessment strategies, application of 6-traits, technology and software applications, and writing across the curriculum.
This class will focus on how to apply the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory's 6+1 Traits™ model to the process of teaching and evaluating writing.
The course activities will investigate the vocabulary, concepts, and application of writing traits to classroom instruction and student assessment. Take a few moments to review the class objectives.
Each module is structured around an Introduction, Readings, Lecture, Activities, an Activity Checklist, and Discussion Forum.
You will work individually and as part of a community to practice and refine your assessment skills. You will score a variety of demonstration papers, discuss your rationale with online colleagues, discover a variety of classroom strategies for teaching the traits, and share your own teaching methods.
While online education is highly flexible and designed to meet your schedule, you will need to set and meet deadlines as part of your weekly assignments and collaborative work. Additionally, your colleagues will depend on you for timely feedback as you work together to deepen and clarify essential concepts.

Free e-Textbook

Spandel, Vicki. (2012). Creating Writers: 6 Traits, Process, Workshop, and      Literature (6th Edition). Pearson. ISBN: 978-0132944106
Additional reading materials will be included as e-mail mini lectures or references on the WWW.
When you log in to the course, you will access the e-textbook to read online from your tablet, laptop or desktop. The e-textbook software is compatible with an iPad, Kindle Fire or fully Internet-capable device. It is not compatible with a Kindle Reader.
You can highlight info and organize info in the e-book (i.e. adding a note stating something like "reference in my discussion posting") and print only what you want for use as a study guide. You may share notes and highlighting with peers in the class. Printing of the entire textbook is allowed for your personal professional use.
e-Textbook Tutorialhttp://www.uwstout.edu/textbooks/upload/engage-help.pdf

University Email

Checking your university email daily is recommended.
Mobile Phone Access to Your EmailYou may configure your mobile device to receive your university email automatically. Directions are provided at:http://helpdesk.uwstout.edu/kb/resolution.asp?q_id=262
Click on the appropriate link for directions that match your device.
If you need assistance, please call 715-232-5000.


  1. Articulate an understanding of the historical foundations of the 6-traits writing movement and its relevance to classroom instruction.
  2. Analyze writing samples based on the critical attributes of each trait.
  3. Apply a variety of composing and revision techniques used in the writing process.
  4. Apply the 6-traits rubrics to analytically score writing samples and describe reasoning behind scoring decisions based on the point scale rubrics of the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL) and the Oregon Public Education Network (O.P.E.N.).
  5. Utilize online databases to practice analytical scoring for each of the 6-traits.
  6. Demonstrate effective strategies for teaching writing and differentiate 6-traits instruction based on a wide range of academic diversity including English language learners and special needs students.
  7. Redesign current writing lessons and integrate the 6-traits approach with developmentally appropriate learning activities.
  8. Analyze the impact of standardized testing on writing instruction and how 6-traits assessments prepare students for Common Core state and national writing tests.
  9. Apply collaborative learning theory, model the technique with writing classes, and demonstrate use of technology such as discussion forums, online writing centers, blogs and wikis for writing assignments.
  10. Increase the frequency of student writing and strategic integration of carefully designed writing tasks in different subject area curriculum.
  11. Write reflectively about the themes, topics, and issues involved in teaching with the 6-traits.
  12. Synthesize current research, contemporary theories, teaching strategies, and instructional technology to teach writing in content areas.
By the end of the course participants will be able to efficiently assess student writing using the 6+1 Traits™ model. Participants will have shared effective methods for teaching each trait. Finally, participants will publish an original student sample, complete with 6-traits scores and rationales.

Assignment Due Dates

Review the Course Calendar.  A link is available on each course content page.

Instructor-Student Communication

The primary methods for communicating with students with be via...
  • Course NewsUpdates, instructions, advice and tips will be posted in the Course News. Remember to check it each time you login to your course. Please log in at least four times a week.
  • DiscussionCheck the Discussion Board posts and responses regularly and remember that your level of Discussion Board participation and your discussion summary will be factored into your grade.
  • Your UW-Stout Email Account
    Check the university email at least every other day. Daily is better. No course communication will be sent to your home/work personal email accounts.
As we complete each activity, you are encouraged to share your discoveries and successes with other participants and collaborate during team problem-solving. Participants may share drafts of works-in-progress for peer feedback and discuss ideas and suggestions before submitting the final project.
Each participant brings unique needs and resources to the group. Our sharing will provide a broader base of experience as we discover the solutions to each other's design needs and challenges.
Since our diverse groups are usually in many different time zones feel free to use the following aids to determine what time it is in your classmates' countries and/or cities. This will help when setting up real-time chats with your learning partner during collaborative projects.
The World Clock - Time Zones


Your final grade will be based on:
40% - Satisfactory completion of module activities20% - Final Project
20% - Online Discussion (postings to Discussion Forum)
20% - Self-reflection
Your projects will be evaluated using standards listed on the module rubrics or checklists.
A -- Exceeds the standardB -- Proficient demonstration of the standard
I -- Incomplete demonstration of the standard (Work must be resubmitted.)
Discussion Board Etiquette (Please Read!)
Evaluation of your Discussion Forum participation is cumulative and subjective based on notes that the facilitator records each week. Always feel free to e-mail your facilitator for help in upgrading your participation in the Discussion Forum.
Exemplary indicates you participated above the minimum level in both quantity and clarity of communication in your Discussion Forum postings.
Proficient indicates you met the minimum requirement. Discussion postings are timely, relevant and include some feedback about the readings and responds to others' comments in the discussions
Partially Proficient Discussion postings are too few in number, or too trivial to fully meet the requirement. For example, most of the postings are "I think so too" or "I disagree", but lack any argument that adds to the discussion or includes excessive quoting from the material without any real supporting evidence of how the topic might integrate with their classroom teaching.
Incomplete indicates you consistently contributed below the minimum two messages per week or contributions were merely perfunctory ("I agree with so and so.") or unclear.
Discussion Rubric
Reflections will be evaluated for clarity and your understanding of the readings and activities.
Any time that you want to ask about your progress, send an email directly to your facilitator.

Grading Scale

F73 or below
To maintain Full Academic Standing, a cumulative GPA of 3.0 is required for graduate students.

Course Outline

  1. Getting Started With TraitsIntroductions, Community, The 6-Traits Theory, Historical Foundations, The Writing Process, Coaching Students Trait by Trait
  2. Trait: Voice
    Finding the Courage to Speak from the Heart, Teaching students to be assessors, Composing and revision in the writing process, Teaching strategies, Voice and informational writing, Books for teaching Voice, Six point writing guide
  3. Trait: Ideas and Content
    Generating Great Ideas, Ideas defined, Lessons and strategies for Ideas, Practice papers for Ideas, Ideas sample rubrics, Three level writing guide, Timeline/revision checklist for Ideas, Ideas and informational writing, Prewriting activities, Ideas as a foundation for meaning, Books for teaching Ideas
  4. Trait: Organization
    Techniques and Tips for Structuring Student Writing, Organization defined, Timeline/checklist for Organization, Teaching of Organization, Books for teaching Organization, Practice papers for Organization, Focused lessons for Organization, Three level writing guide, Six point writing guide
  5. Trait: Word Choice
    Developing Descriptive Vocabulary to 'Show' What You Know, Word choice defined, Timeline/checklist for Word Choice, Teaching Word Choice, Books for Teaching Word Choice, Six point writing guide, Practice papers for Word Choice, Focused lessons for Word Choice, Informational writing guide
  6. Trait: Sentence Fluency
    Developing Rhythm, Sentence Fluency defined, Teaching strategies, Teaching Sentence Fluency, Books for Teaching Sentence Fluency, Practice papers for Sentence Fluency, Focused lessons for Sentence Fluency
  7. Trait: Conventions
    Conventions - Editing, Not Correcting / Assessments & Grading, Conventions defined, Timeline/checklist for Conventions, Books for teaching Conventions, Teaching Conventions, Scoring for Conventions, Practice papers for Conventions, Focused lessons for Conventions, Six-trait rubric
  8. Practical Applications of the 6-Traits in Writing Across the Curriculum
    Use of technology for collaborative writing and editing in the classroom, Writers workshops in the disciplines and across the curriculum, Writing and the discipline areas, Understanding the role of audience, Modes of writing and the content areas
  9. The Assessment RoundtableBringing It All Together
    Assessing middle school, high school and community college writers, Communicating with students, Expanding the vision of 6-traits and the writing process in the classroom

Participation and Collaboration

Participants will:
  • Exchange posts with their colleagues and participate in discussions using a Discussion Forum
  • Review and discuss online and text based reading materials
  • Use online examples to practice score each trait
  • Score demonstration papers using the rubric and discuss assessment rationale
  • Develop and score an original student sample for all traits.
You will be able to customize activities to your specific teaching responsibilities and needs.
No more that 10% of a discussion posting or paper may be directly quoted.
Tips for documenting direct quotes in a discussion posting or paper:http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/02/
See: "short quotations" and "long quotations" and "summary or paraphrase."

Late Work

Regular, timely feedback to classmates via the Discussion Board makes this class vital, and prompt submission of assignments for assessment allows the instructor to give you the guidance you deserve to receive. Due dates for each module are published on the course calendar at the start of the class. Work turned in by midnight on the due date will be considered on time and will receive full credit.
Life can bring emergencies which may prevent timely submission of assignments. If you have an emergency which interferes with your coursework contact the instructor as soon as possible. Emergencies are defined as serious events which are not planned. Emergencies cannot be written on the calendar in advance. Examples of emergencies are heart attacks, car accidents, serious health crises of the student or in the student's immediate family. Examples of non-emergencies are family weddings, vacations, or any other event which can be planned around. If the family calendar looks busy at a particular time, plan to work ahead on your coursework.
Excused Makeup Work - If the late submission has been requested and approved in advance of the due date, there will be no deduction of points from the grade. An email to the instructor requesting an extension of the due date must be sent. The instructor will inform you if late submission will be allowed.
Unless previously excused by the instructor, work that is submitted after the close of a module will be penalized 10%. In other words, you need to be on time to earn 100%. You will only one week to make up late work. Late work will not be accepted after one week unless previously approved by the instructor.
Please contact the instructor if you have any questions about the late policy.


If you believe the course requirements create a conflict with your observance of religious holidays, please notify the instructor within the first two weeks of the semester so that appropriate alternative options can be arranged.


UW-Stout strives for an inclusive learning environment. If you anticipate or experience any barriers related to the format or requirements of this course please contact the instructor to discuss ways to ensure full access. If you determine that additional disability-related accommodations are necessary please contact the Disability Services office for assistance 715-232-2995 or contact the staff via email at this website:http://www.uwstout.edu/services/disability/contact.cfm

Academic Dishonesty

"Students are responsible for the honest completion and representation of their work, for the appropriate citation of sources, and for respect of others' academic endeavors. Students who violate these standards must be confronted and must accept the consequences of their actions."
Definitions of academic dishonesty as provided by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators include:
  • Cheating — The use or attempted use of unauthorized materials, information, or study aids in any academic exercise.
  • Plagiarism — The use of others' ideas and words without a clear acknowledgement of the source.
  • Fabrication — The intentional and unauthorized falsification or invention of any information or citation in any academic exercise.
  • Assisting — The facilitation or assistance in academic dishonesty.
UW-Stout also considers academic dishonesty to include forgery of academic documents, or intentionally impeding or damaging the academic work of others.
Academic misconduct in the University of Wisconsin System is defined by UWS Chapter 14. "Student Academic Misconduct / Disciplinary Procedures - UWS," Ch. 14.Â

Technology Requirements and Assistance

Complete the system checkup on this website  –https://uwstout.courses.wisconsin.edu/ – by clicking on the link that says:Check your system.
For help with your university email account, password, and login process:http://helpdesk.uwstout.edu
Madison Help DeskIf you have any questions about these preferences, please call the Madison Help Desk at one of the numbers listed below and indicate that you are a UW-Stout student needing help with Learn@UW-Stout. Help is available 7 days a week.
  • 1-888-435-7589 select option 3

  • 1-608-264-4357 select option 3

Problems with Email

Ask5000 Help Desk
Call 715-232-5000 for technical assistance such as forgotten passwords, email, storage, and problems logging in to Access Stout to view tuition billing or final grades.

Library Services

To access UW - Stout's Library Services visit http://www.uwstout.edu/lib/. In addition to traditional and online services, the library maintains many helpful videos on searching and use of the online research tools.

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Last Updated: Friday, September 26, 2014

January 2, 2015

Cynthia Rice on Voice

Final Reflection for Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits by Cynthia Rice

As a reluctant yet aspiring writer, I approached this course with some ambivalent anticipation. My position as resource teacher requires me to know something about all academic areas, maybe quite a lot actually. My lack of experience in teaching writing with the 6-traits propelled me to take this course. My own schooling did not provide any inspiration for how writing could be taught so that students could discover their own creativity. I did have an excellent model, however, when I supported a child in the grade 2 class last year. The teacher implemented Writers’ Workshop with astounding results. This model gave me a vision of how writing could be taught and illuminated some excitement in me.

Our first trait, voice, was total immersion. Voice is the trait that I understood least. I was delighted to read Spandel’s chapter on voice. Her writing is a demonstration of how voice can be heard even in a textbook. Reading the chapters on voice was a refreshing change from texts that present material with a distinct lack of voice. I enjoyed reading her material; the examples illustrated clearly what she was conveying. Her writing drew me in and the pages seemed to turn themselves as I read. The quality of her writing did not diminish for me over the course and I now own three of her textbooks.

As the course progressed I realized that voice is supported by all of the other traits. The choice of ideas, the organization, the construction of sentences, the effectiveness of word choice, and the use of conventions all work to either produce and highlight the author’s voice or disguise voice. Even very young writers who have not mastered the alphabetic principle can write with strong voice. Indeed, their early voice is usually very loud and the distinct job of the educator is to nurture voice as the child grows. Struggling readers and children with limited skills with the mechanics of manipulating a pencil can have voice represented through the 6-traits. I work with a boy in grade 3 who has only begun to master the very basics of reading and writing. When he has authored a piece he writes his by-line “by Joey!” Nothing could be more demonstrative of Joey’s voice. He has to work ten times harder than any of his peers to write even one word. I smile everytime I see this exclamation.

The course as a whole has made me intensely aware of voice in all kinds of literature. On PEI our phone book is an excellent example. How could a phone book have voice? Well, ours did. All Islanders eagerly awaited the delivery of the newly published phone book each May. The cover was a main attraction. A particular aspect of Island life was always portrayed. One year there were images of about 50 kids engaged in various activities. People took great delight in trying to identify how many of the kids they knew and where they lived. In one community there are so many people with the same names that most people go by their nicknames. The nickname often pointed to an idiosyncrasy of the person. A phone book was published using nicknames so people could find them more easily. Eventually, the Island Telephone Company was swallowed by a larger company and then as the fish in the sea do, the larger was again swallowed by an ever-larger company. No one takes notice anymore of the publication of the phone book. Someone in Toronto designs it. Voiceless…

The other traits are tools to communicate what the author has to say. Rating each trait was an adventure in itself. I enjoyed discovering how each trait has potential to enhance or deaden the message. Through the reading and even more so through the ratings I found myself discovering the potential of each trait. The author has the power to shape the reader’s experience and perception through the traits. An artist uses form, color, composition, light, and line to communicate in a similar way that the writer uses ideas, sentence fluency, word choice, conventions and organization. Or the musician can use tempo, dynamics, phrasing, melody choice, instrumentation, and vocals to speak through music. The artist can vary brush strokes, use line in novel and unexpected ways to provide a visual experience. So the writer can use word choice and sentence fluency to take the reader on a journey. These tools have so much potential as part of a whole effect.

It was through rating students’ pieces that I gained the most insight into how these traits can be effectively used. When reading a master’s piece the elements are not as obvious to me. I experience the whole piece and its aftermath as a whole. When looking at developing writers it was easier to see how the individual traits can be used, sometimes when the young author neglected to use them. In examining how a piece could be improved, I was able to focus on the impact of a trait. I had never thought of the effects of sentence length on the attention and feelings of the reader. An abrupt change in sentence length can act to alert the reader, make them more attentive. Using long, descriptive sentences can lull the reader into feeling complacent. As for convention, I was aware of the effect of using proper conventions but now I am aware of how conventions can be used to make a piece explode with voice.

Last summer, I traveled to Toronto with 2 boys who happen to have autism to pick up 2 of my grandsons and drive back to Prince Edward Island to spend the summer together. We stopped in Kingston, a city known for its university and maximum-security prison. We stopped to meet up for the afternoon with one of my Canada World Youth participants whom we all knew and loved. He attends university in Kingston and had planned activities for us. To my surprise, he had planned to take us to the prison museum. We all approached with caution. The tour of the museum turned out to be one of the most meaningful events of a densely packed summer. In the museum there was a gallery displaying work of the inmates, mostly visual art. There was one piece of writing displayed. All of the traits carried a voice that pierced me. It was a full biography. Presentation, conventions, sentence fluency, idea, organization, and word choice combined to bear the weight of a powerful voice. The piece was displayed with dignity beside a wonderfully rendered drawing of birds in flight. The piece was written on a broken hunk of Styrofoam with paint that had dripped down the sides.  It read “I wish al parints had to aksept there children the way thay ar..”

The course has given me the tools to teach writing effectively and to evaluate students’ writing so that they grow as writers. No doubt, the main objectives of the course have been achieved. In addition, my desire to write has been awakened and now I am working writing into my day. Writing can give me moments of reflection within the current, even the rapids, of my life. The question was posed for discussion consideration: Must a teacher be a writer to be effective at teaching writing? Perhaps not. However, I think that any teacher who is truly inspired by teaching through the 6-traits will be compelled to be a writer.

Spandel, Vicki. (2012). Creating young writers. Boston: Pearson.

December 28, 2014

Color Coordinated Traits! by LaRae Kendrick

Color Connections with Revising & Editing

"At what point in the writing process do you work on correcting & editing?"

After a student has written their rough draft on a big assignment, I ask them to use the first five traits to revise (less than 5 traits for smaller assignments).

My characters, "Our Six Writing Friends," are color-coded and organized by the colors of the rainbow, ROYGBV. To begin the revising process, I ask students to use crayons, pens or digital highlighting and read through their work 5 times.

Ideas-Red: Circle sentences that go off topic.

Organization-Orange: Draw an arrow that moves a sentence to a better place.

Voice-Yellow: Highlight a sentence that shows good voice or the author's personality.

Word Choice-Green: Draw a box around words that are used repeatedly.

Sentence Fluency-Blue: Read to a partner and have them mark a sentence that flowed well.

Once they have gone through the revision steps then they can start editing. Conventions-Purple.

Conventions is always checked in 4 separate steps.

  1. Capitalization
  2. Punctuation
  3. Spelling
  4. Grammar

Now they are ready to take the colorful draft and create a clean and polished final draft. "Polished, not Perfect!"

This step-by-step revising is best for assignments that the students have spent a fair amount of time on, usually the types of writing required by the grade-level standards.

For example, my 3rd grade class was required write research reports. When they had already spent up to two weeks researching and writing their first drafts, it made sense to spend extra time revising and editing.

When they were done with their rough draft, they would start with the first color, ideas/red, and read through their paper looking for details that didn't fit. When they were done, they would move on to the next trait/color. Sometimes a student might take one writing period just to check their ideas and organization.

At the beginning of our writing time together, we would review each color and what the students should be looking for. They knew that their peers may be ahead or behind them. Some may even still be writing! No one seemed to mind reading their stories more than once, because they knew they were looking for something new each time.


The sample displayed is the appearance paragraph of a rough draft from a report about chameleons. Notice how the student sees that he repeated chameleon, green/word choice, so he changes the second occurrence to "lizard." (This is all resulting from a mini-lesson that was taught before one of the writing periods.)

He also used orange/organization to draw an arrow moving the first sentence about the lizard's skin next to the other sentences about its skin. Again, this is not something that he naturally knew, but that he learned from a mini-lesson.

Because "Our Six Writing Friends" visual aids are color-coded on the bottom, students are quickly able to refer to which color to use.

Whichever visuals you use, I suggest color-coding them for quick reference. It could be as simple as attaching pieces of construction paper to the back.
LaRae Kendrick, M. Ed., is a native of San Jose, CA who now lives in Gilbert, AZ. She is an experienced writer and educator specializing in language arts education. She was the director of curriculum development for A Plus Educators and has presented teacher workshops on a variety of topics nationwide. LaRae has served as a leader for numerous state and district writing committees and as a former classroom teacher, she understands the need to master state standards while being realistic about life in the classroom. As the author and creator of Our Six Writing Friends™, she is dedicated to the goal of helping all students become better writers. Her areas of expertise are Six Traits Writing, writing assessment, utilizing interactive whiteboards and the writing/technology connection.

LaRae is a teacher’s teacher who energizes and inspires her fellow educators. A participant in one of her professional development sessions recently stated, "Your workshop was so motivating for me… I couldn't even sleep last night because I could not wait to get back in the classroom and start teaching writing. You have inspired me."

Visit LaRae at HelpKidsWrite.com to find out more!

December 21, 2014

Turning Criticisms to 'I" Comments

I am using Spandel's Creating Writers 6 Traits, Process, Workshop, and Literature 6th Edition in my upcoming online class: Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6th Traits.  This is a graduate course offered by the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Part of our time is spent assessing sample papers and writing feedback. I'll use this chart to emphasize the need to convert criticism to "I" comments.

Posted by Picasa

December 19, 2014

6-Traits and the Common Core

How the Traits relate to Common Core Language.

page 26

Creating Writers 6th Edition, Creating Writers

Clearly students who are taught to assess their own writing using the 6-traits approach will be be doing the kind of thinking, reading and writing promoted by the Common Core Writing Standards.

December 14, 2014

Modes of Writing

"Modes of writing, forms of writing, types of writing, domains of writing. Whatever you want to call them, there are different categories for writing. Each mode has a specific purpose. There are four basic modes, descriptive, narrative, expository, and persuasive. For the intent of this page, I have added a fifth mode for creative writing. These basic modes can then be broken down into subcategories. I have tried to list subcategories here as well, but I am still in the process of collecting them. If you have some ideas or suggestions, please send me an email message." ~ Kim's Korner

December 12, 2014

A Reflective Journal Margaret McKanna

Margaret McKanna
Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6 Traits
Reflective Journal Summary
August 9, 2013

At the heart of Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6 Traits, is a vision of students as assessors of their own writing. This approach is designed to maintain student control at every stage of the writing process. Teachers champion clarity of thought and celebrate the individuality of voice. This approach keeps the writing process whole while also enriching student writing with attention to the 6 Traits.

Teachers trained in 6 Traits writing have a genuine appreciation of student writing at all levels of development. They can clearly identify the qualities of strong writing as they emerge and move toward proficiency. Teachers use the language of the 6 Traits to explore and discuss authentic student writing with students and their parents. This language is used to establish a system of self- monitoring and personal goal setting that strengthen the quality of each trait in student writing. Teachers use the touchstones of the 6 Traits to create their own assessments that will determine what students already know, what they want them to learn and how they will know when students have learned.

Teaching the criteria and language of the 6 Traits to students creates opportunities for young authors to deepen their understanding of what gives writing its clarity and strength. Although the 6 Traits support a unified message, each trait is introduced in a separate lesson. Teachers build an understanding by relating the concepts of a trait in a way that is meaningful and age appropriate. The use of authentic writing samples gives students practice in hearing, identifying and discussing the strength of each trait in context. Mini lessons and strategies help students to identify each trait within their own writing. Teachers model ways to strengthen a specific trait in student writing. Reading aloud helps students to hear each trait in a variety of mentor text.

The practice of students reading their own writing aloud supports the integrity of the writer and ultimately the internal strength of the writing. Students hear their message the way other readers will hear it. They can determine for themselves if the message was accurately delivered. When students read their work aloud to their peers, they invite feedback to determine how the message was received. This focus on the clarity of the message, the way it was delivered and received, lends purpose to the effort of revision.

When teachers listen to students read their writing aloud, they share honest reactions that re-enforce the strengths in the writing while also making suggestions that will move the writing forward. Teachers can help students to hear the way one trait supports another. Sharing the tools of good writing in this context, contributes to writing growth in a way that following the revisions made by teachers does not. Students and teachers work together to define personal writing goals using the language of the 6 Traits.

6 Traits writing is not a formula to follow. It is an approach to writing that demands the full engagement of teachers within the writing process. Teachers must be writers themselves in order to fully appreciate and communicate the essential qualities of each trait. The most effective teachers of 6 Traits writing are seen as writers by their students. They demonstrate the safety of the space by sharing their honest efforts and by inviting student feedback. Teachers make the work of writing visible when they share their ideas aloud and model the thinking behind the decisions they make to support those ideas in their writing. When teachers model revisions of their own work based on student feedback, students realize that all authors must work to improve the organization, sentence fluency and word choices of their writing.   Teachers as writers model self-editing of conventions with regard to clarity of the ideas and integrity of voice or offer their writing to students as a sample for editing practice.

A strong writing program based on the writing process and including the criteria and language of the 6 Traits is the best preparation for success on standardized writing assessments. Students learn to write by writing. When teachers at every grade level build an appreciation of the 6 traits based on the common language of the traits, students deepen their understanding and develop their writing potential at every grade level. The support of student control of the writing process, honors individual voice, develops writer confidence and independence. Students see themselves as writers capable of making choices about their writing based on self-assessment. When teachers promote the integrity of the author, and the strength of written expression, they raise the human capital of their classrooms and prepare students to meet the challenges of outside assessments.

Erik Erickson used the term “generativity” to describe the mid-life choices we make to move forward in new direction, to connect in new ways; the opposite is stagnation. Generativity is a form of renewal based on “creativity in service to the young”. Generativity is a way elders serve not only the young, but also their own well being. As a member of this class, I have learned the importance of listening to the voices of children in their writing and honoring the thoughts they share on paper. I have also learned to trust young authors to control their own writing.  Guidance from that place of integrity will support writing growth at every stage of development. Eight weeks ago, Dennis suggested that I would find this class to be the right place at the right time. This class has generated waves of fresh ideas. More importantly, it has caused me to make meaningful connections to those ideas in a refreshing and invigorating way. I have grown as a writer and teacher as well.

December 10, 2014

Synesthesia, Painting, Poetry, Sentence Fluency, Rhythm with Toby Lurie

Poetry - Painting - Song 

Later in my teaching practice I started writing grants to bring writers and illustrators to my school district. This helped me build a relationship with painter, musician and poet, Toby Lurie: http://www.tobypoet.com.

Toby is an amazing, creative, and unpredictable guy. (The link to his site will introduce you to his work. He shares many QuickTime audio clips of his work that trigger creativity.) It is fun to find him on the Internet after all these years.

I recall meeting him for the first time. Toby was wild white bearded poet with a dangerous gleam in his eye. One look at him and I realized that he was going to draw some lightening.  I was the language arts coordinator for a conservative Nevada school district. I knew Toby was going to make waves and I was glad to aide and abet in a little artistic subversion.  We were at the district's biggest high school.  I'd planned a full school assembly, but an uptight vice principal sand bagged me and side tracked us to a remote spot in the school where they kept the 'tough' kids.

As I was about to introduce Toby to a huge high school class of alternative ed kids.  I didn't have a clue what he was going to do. The rowdy with the bored vibe of caged cats.  I was sure this crowd of edgy and angry high schoolers would tear him apart. 

Just as I introduced Toby, he whispered in my ear, "Tell them I don't speak any English."  I followed his lead and got out of the way.

Toby proceed to emote with sounds and facial gestures and within seconds he captured everyone's attention. He spoke gibberish but it didn't matter. This guy knew how to communicate with sound alone, words were an afterthought. The kids were riveted by the odd man capering and grunting in front of them.

By the end of the assembly everyone was up moving and chanting,  found poetry echoed off the walls and we were all swimming in Toby's unique tone patterns.  Sometimes it's good to be in alternative ed!

To really appreciate Toby's work you need to hear and see him. This new video Synesthesia Part 1 will give you a taste. 

Synesthesia part 1 from Terrence Vaughn on Vimeo.

Choral Reading, Toby Style

Several years later on one of his return visits, Toby taught me a great method that ties perfectly into the concepts of rhythm and sentence fluency. After a writing session, Toby had each student pick a single line from their work. Then he called 6-8 volunteers to come to the front of the room. They lined up shoulder to shoulder and started to read their lines in order from left to right. The first boy read. Then the second. Suddenly Toby would point back to the first and have him repeat the line. Toby would  would mug and gesture and flail his arms all to draw more emotion and voice from the reader.

We soon understood that Toby was conducting a word orchestra.

They began reading their lines louder or lower, deadpan or angry, happy or weeping. Once the whole line had read once, Toby layered together a sound poem based on the melodies of repeated lines and varied voice.

Sometimes Toby had the same student read two or three times in a row or come back to one particularly powerful line repeatedly. No one in the chorus knew when they'd be called on and everyone was amazed at the nuances and lunacies that spilled out of it all.

Toby created a wild reader's theater display of word choice, sentence fluency, voice, organization, and ideas all wrapped in a spontaneously generated poem. It was hilarious, energizing and fun. Everyone loved it.

All of this points to the powerful mix of music, performance, and poetry that supports sentence fluency (and all the other traits as well).

I  used this method myself two or three times a year for the rest of my classroom teaching career. I got so I could conduct a pretty good sound/word poem, but I could never top the Maestro!

Synesthesia part 2 from Terrence Vaughn on Vimeo.

December 7, 2014

Nora Carpon's writing prompt suggestion

Nora Capron, a graduate student in the summer 2012 session of Teaching and Assessing Writing with the Six-Traits posted the following.

With regard to this week's readings, I really liked Donald Murray’s questions to help uncover possible topics on page 172:

What surprised me lately? What’s bugging me? What is changing? What did I expect to happen that didn’t? Why did something make me so mad? What do I keep remembering? What have I learned?

These would be fabulous to use in my Creative Writing class! Sometimes it’s tough for kids to “get the wheels greased” with their basic ideas. I agree with the point Dennis made in his lecture when he said people write best when they write what they know, and I think Murray’s prompts would serve as a very comfortable starting point to get the pens moving. I plan to use these prompts next year in the first few classes when we are generating ideas for our writing.

One idea I have to share is a free writing exercise I recently did as a student in a creative writing course I am taking this summer. The professor passed out a bunch of books to the class. Once each student had a book on his/her desk, the professor instructed us to open our book to a random page, close our eyes, point to a random line of text, read the line, write it at the top of our page and use this as our writing prompt. The sentence at the top of my page was “How embarrassing for him, some stoner overhearing.” Needless to say, this got the creative juices flowing very quickly!

I went from feeling overwhelmed with the pressure of generating a new idea to writing something original that flowed really easily. All I needed was a little inspiration, and it came from a source that I had all around me all the time—books! This exercise was a lot of fun and very useful. I will definitely use this exercise in my own Creative Writing class this year. Has anyone done a similar activity with their students? How would you describe this experience? What variations of this activity could also be done?

December 5, 2014

Reading aloud to model voice by Margaret McKanna

Making great children's literature come alive through highly charged read alouds is a wonderful way to model voice. Read alouds are a gift that broadens language experiences in sentence structure, vocabulary, sense of story and character development, and deepens meaningful connections to literature.

Vicki Spandel is a great advocate for the voices of emergent writers. Drawings are full of voice: the size, color, juxtaposition of people and objects tell the "reader" how students feel about a topic. I also think that story telling and story dictating is a wonderful way to capture voice. Spandel also suggests celebrating the collective voice of a class by writing a whole group story, each student adding a new detail and illustrating a page of the book. These books are placed on classroom shelves with other picture books.

Occasionally, I have the privilege of working 1:1 with students who struggle with print. We have a lot of fun rereading passages with different voices, pretending to be a baby or an old man, someone who is very sleepy, a kid who can't stop laughing or can't stop crying, a very serious adult, or the all-time favorite pretending to be someone from Texas or a country western star.

I know a now retired 2nd grade teacher who did dozens of short plays throughout the year. Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock comes to mind. There are so many great trickster tales with surprise twists, fables that teach lessons and really come alive in a student play.These plays were more Readers Theater than staged play. Students practiced the voices of different characters; they also experienced reading fluency and connections with text.

These literary engagements are a great way to build a sense of voice and the emotions and personalities behind a variety of voices. ~ Margaret

(Based on a discussion reply by Margaret McKanna Summer 2013.)

December 2, 2014

OWLs Online Writing Labs

College and high school writing teachers might want to Online Writing Labs: bookmark these sources! 
owl online writing lab
owl.english.purdue.edu   Purdue's online writing lab is one of the best.

These writing resources carry some extra clout with students since the come from main line colleges. 

November 30, 2014

Six Traits Songs

Here's the YouTube playlist for Six Traits Songs. Thanks to Elizabeth Werner & her 4th grade class!

"Elizabeth Werner, 4th grade teacher at Reagan Elementary Elizabeth Werner(Brownsburg, IN), initially used Ruth Culham's 6-Traits songs to introduce the writing traits to her students. But her students wanted something more modern. http://www.smekenseducation.com/6-traits-songs-upgrade.html "

November 29, 2014

Vicky Spandel & Jeff Hicks explain the 6-Traits

From our Facebook page!  6-Traits Resources.

November 16, 2014

Online Class: Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits

EDUC 744 3 ONLINE graduate credits 

100% Online: Enroll Today! 

EDUC 654 Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits Elementary (PK-4)  - 3 graduate credits 

EDUC 653 Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits Middle School-Adult - 3 graduate credits 

Learn to teach and assess writing with the 6-Traits of writing
(voice, ideas, word choice, organization, sentence fluency and conventions). Learn to use the 6-Traits with the writing process to teach revision strategies. Help learners meet higher standards and improve test scores.

What students are saying:

 "I began this course thinking of myself as something of a blank slate with regards to the teaching of writing. I felt that writing was often a hit or miss proposition in my classroom. Today I see that while there are certainly holes in my second grade writing instruction, I'm actually doing more then I thought. I'm not starting from square #1. Today I'm able to categorize and organize what I'm already doing, plus add new things, using the framework of the 6 traits."

"I feel very fortunate to be taking a course like this so early in my teaching career. Someone mentioned to me recently that while there are many great ideas within the 6 trait model, it's easy to slip back into one's old ways of doing things. Perhaps I'm lucky in that I have no old ways to slip back into."

"I've had several important realizations as a result of work we've done these past weeks. The first is the specific connections that I now make between reading and writing. Naturally I was always aware that a connection existed. I knew on some level that reading to my kids was beneficial to their writing development. But too often the reading was undirected and without a plan. Today I have an arsenal of literature with which I can model, discuss, and teach specific traits in a focused way. And I don't have to teach writing alone. I now have the great authors of the world to help me. I can point to a piece of literature and say to my kids, "Take a look at what this author has done. We can do something similar in our own writing."

Your Instructor:

Renee Williams
School of Education
Email: williamsr@uwstout.edu
Office appointment calls available via Skype: renwill11 in Dubai

August 30, 2014

Tired of Being a Red Ink Slave to Corrections?

Editing, Not Correcting

How do you respond to the statement: Correcting isn't teaching!

Think about it: all correcting does is make you a better proofreader. Students more often than not ignore your hard work. You as a teacher feel obligated to take out the red pen, while in your heart you know this just isn't working. Don't you see the same errors over and over again? How many times can you check, highlight, underline and explain in the margins that a lot is two words? What else can you do? Isn't every English teacher obliged to correct the work of their students? Isn't that the expectation of parents and administration?

What if you shift the burden of correcting to the student where it belongs? You can do this by integrating editing skills into the writing process from day one. If you establish simple routines by editing every day you can chip a way at the persistent problems without bleeding red ink after school and every weekend.

Many teachers use a daily oral language approach. Let's make it a daily integrated editing exploration approach and stop correcting for our students!
  • Encourage students to re-read their work at every stage of the writing process.
  • Be sure students read their own work aloud.
  • Introduce and use the basic proofreading symbols
  • Start each class with a brief editing sponge or transitional activity.
  • Periodically assemble a list of Editing Essentials to tally the collective skills of the group
  • Collect and organize mentor sentences for modeling usage and grammar concepts
  • Throughout the year, have your students choose e-portfolio samples that document student progress

Edit Anonymous Authentic Samples

Practice editing skills with a variety of anonymous sample sentences or paragraphs in need of specific corrections. Toss the work sheets and find samples from the real world.
  • Use student papers that display the most persistent problems.
  • Find samples in online student publications like KMSoul .
  • Use the NWREL 6-Traits database of student work.
Better yet, use the Notable Sentences Blog a treasure chest of well organized examples. Self proclaimed "sentence stalker" Loren Wolter maintains this remarkable resource. Her blog is a collaboratively build collection of sample sentences organized to address editing essentials like grammar, syntax, figurative language and many other aspects of writing. These model sentences provide powerful teaching examples and pave the way for meaningful, traits inspired, writing process oriented grammar explorations.

Remember: It is far easier to work on a sample than to edit your own work. Provide process practice before you move to self-editing.

Fresh Eyes = Edit Better

When it does come time for your students to edit their important pieces, be sure the writing has time to cool.
  • Waiting a few days allows a writer to edit with fresh eyes.
  • Try reading the text backwards to discover invisible errors like repeated articles.
  • Zoom word processed text or switch to a larger font to see the words in a different way.

Focus on One Type of Error at a Time

Here's a professional proofreader's trick: focus on a single specific issue to keep things manageable. If you try to edit for capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and grammar at the same time you overwhelm your weaker editors, causing them to shut down. For younger students, this may mean starting with just end punctuation or capitalization. For older students, the focus may be the rules of dialog or the use of quotation marks.

Integrate Editing into the Writing Process

Students who can revise and edit their own work are on the way to becoming independent writers. Editing helps writers understand their own voice. I'm not advocating a close spell check and punctuation drill early in the process. Too much focus on correctness can stunt fluency. Instead encourage re-reading and reading aloud as part of the writing/editing process. This habit will provide opportunities for students to experiment with usage as they go.

Model by Thinking Out Loud

Often we expect students to 'hear' or 'see' grammatical problems by applying a mental filter based on their previous exposure to language. Not all students have this filter. This is especially true for English language learners or students with learning disabilities. This is why it is so important to model the editing process using the think aloud method.

Put up an sample of your own weak first draft writing on an overhead projector or computer screen. Talk your way through a quick editing process. Broadcast your inner monologue as you tear into the typical problems you want to address. Modeling your own process shows students how important writing is to you and creates a safer learning atmosphere.

Where Will I Find the Time?

If you find yourself saying, I don't have time for one more thing in my curriculum, you'll love Jeff Anderson's insightful article Express Lane Editing Techniques. His field tested methods for modeling editing and re-reading throughout the writing process are practical and effective. Anderson suggests we approach grammar as.."something to be explored, not just corrected".

Anderson is also the author of the books: Mechanically Inclined and Everyday Editing. His books provide a road map for integrating powerful editing practices into the writing process. This isn't dry academic writing. Anderson comes from the classroom and has a voice and outlook are seasoned by the realities we all face everyday.
I started thinking of how we taught editing at our school. It looked like a series of half-baked attempts to solve a problem that we were not sure how to fix. If I asked my sixth-grade class to correct a sentence riddled with errors, did that show them editing is a powerful tool? When I looked at their faces, I had to admit the answer was a re-sounding, "No!"

Set Parent Expectations

Parents expect red ink. You will be pressured to teach the good old-fashioned way. Still, the good old-fashioned way (correcting) just doesn't work. A thoughtful letter home at the beginning of the year is a good idea. Explain your editing approach. Help parents understand that you value independent correctness. Be consistent and proactive. Periodically, send an editing paragraph home and ask parents to work together with their children on the edit. Consider inviting parents who are strong editors to work in your classroom, and train them to teach editing.

Reality Check on Editing

Finally, accept the fact that not everyone will be a strong editor. A writer with a talent for unique ideas and a powerful voice may be very weak in the conventions of writing. Consider Wilson Rawls, author of Where the Red Fern Grows. Rawls was so ashamed of his spelling, punctuation, and grammar that he burned all his manuscripts and almost gave up writing. Yet who can deny the lyrical genius of his prose?

Writing is too often judged by correctness alone. Do good manners insure fine character? Does polished chrome and a fine paint job create a competitive race car? By balancing conventions (correctness) with the other traits of wiring; ideas, voice, organization, word choice, and sentence fluency, you help students find their strengths, while working on their weaknesses.
In the end, by teaching instead of correcting, you arm all of your students with some independent editing skills. You help them on the road to becoming independent writer.
You've done the job. Relax, take the weekend off!

Additional Editing Resources:

Teaching and Assessing Writing with the Six Traits (UW-Stout Online Class)
Conventions Homepage (WritingFix)
6-Traits Resources Blog: Jeff Anderson The Write Guy (a guided tour of Anderson's online resources.)
Loren Wolter Notable Sentences...For Imitation and Creation

Resources from Jeff Anderson:

The Write Guy (Jeff Anderson's Website)
Mechanically Inclined (Google Book Preview)
Mechanically Inclined Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop
Making editing useful for young Adolescents
Grammar intertwined throughout the writing process: An "inch wide and a mile deep"
Zooming In and Zooming Out:Putting Grammar in Context into Context (PDF)

August 3, 2014

Writing Process / 6-Traits / Web 2.0

Here's my stab at creating a poster that shows the relationships between the writing process, 6-traits, and web 2.0. ~ Dennis

Click here for a much larger version that you can use as a poster. (Warning it's a big file!)

Right click link to open in a new window. Then right click image for download options.

Do you agree with this view? Suggestions? Additions? Questions?

I'm listening! ~ Dennis

Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits (Online Graduate Class).