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

teaching and assessing writing with the 6 traits university of wisconsin stout

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 Roundtable Bringing 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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Credits: Logo design by Carlo Vergara
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.