What is 6+1? ~ By: Jake Clare

posted Jan 24, 2014, 8:25 PM by barryjohnson@isriau.org   [ updated Jan 24, 2014, 8:25 PM ]
With the elementary school getting ready to start another round of 6+1 writing assessments, I thought families who were unfamiliar with the program might be interested in what exactly these “six” and the “plus one” were.

Six Traits Writing is an approach for looking at writing one part at a time. Since writing is such a complicated activity, this approach helps many students break down the task and better understand it.

By focusing on and scoring only one trait at a time, a writer/reader can break down a complex activity like writing and make it more manageable. With practice, writers can then learn to be more critical of their own work and can make improvements in the quality of their writing.

Perhaps, more than anything else, the six traits give teachers and students a common vocabulary for talking and thinking about writing.

1. Ideas and Content are in a sense the heart of the writing. Everything that is said comes back to ideas and content. The two keys are clarity and details. Making a topic clear and manageable is so important. Details can make or break any piece of writing. Ideas and content focus on clear writing that presents details in an interesting, fresh manner.

2. Organization is just the way it sounds, organizing a paper so it is easy for the reader to follow. The trait of organization is the hardest for students to master. They have trouble seeing the big picture in their writing. Often times making students aware of methods or shortcuts to good organization is key.

3. Voice is the author’s fingerprint on the page. An author’s voice is the personal touch through which the reader feels more in touch with the writer’s emotions, opinions, and personality. Voice is a favorite trait of students. They love to read books with effective voice, which in turn carries over to their writing.

4. Sentence fluency is a trait based solely on the ear. Students need to tune their ears to the rhythm and cadence that can be accomplished with sentence fluency. Using the natural flow of poetry can add clarity to this trait. Focusing on variety in sentences can help attain fluency.

5. Word choice is a trait that shows the power of language. Sometimes students seem so caught up in their ideas, organization, and grammar that word choice may take a backseat. Showing students the use of good word choice opens their eyes to a whole new world of writing.

6. Conventions are the editing and revising component of writing. Is a student’s paper is error free (or close!) and ready to be published? Many people would say that this trait is the most time consuming of the six because of its depth and importance.

+1 is the presentation, a combination of both visual and textual elements. Some of the components teachers will be looking for are balance of white space with visuals and text, graphics, neatness, handwriting, font selection, borders, etc.

The grade 3’s and 4’s will soon start five paragraph essays that compare and contrast two versions of the same fairy tale (Cinderella). This topic should give them every opportunity to really excel at each of the six writing traits.