FAQ: Introducing the 6 Traits
Q: I know I should introduce each trait one at a time within six different mini-lessons. But what do the students do during independent writing time on those days? I want them to write something, but I'm not sure what it should be.
A: It would appear that it may be difficult for students to generate any writing with the limited knowledge of each trait you've introduced. However, you definitely want them to produce something on paper. Give them an opportunity to play with the trait, but don't expect great writing. Remember, it's just an introduction.
- After introducing the trait of ideas in a short mini-lesson, simply invite students to try and write about an idea (or topic) they know a lot about. The more they know about their topics, the more details they can write/draw with.
- After introducing the trait of organization in a short mini-lesson, invite students to write about a topic that lends itself to order. For example, have them write/draw about what they did to get ready for school that morning or how to do something or the steps in a process, anything that has some order. Again, the product won't be great, but they are playing with organization in a first attempt.
- After introducing the trait of voice in a short mini-lesson, ask students to select a topic that stirs strong emotions within each of them. Have them write about an event or memory that was silly, embarrassing, or frustrating. At the top of the writing have them indicate how they feel about the topic and then unleash them to start writing. The word at the top helps them remember to maintain a consistent voice throughout.
- After introducing the trait of word choice in a short mini-lesson, encourage students to write a new piece and be conscious of using lots of Wow! words (purple words, vivid words) in their writing. NOTE: This could also be a writing time where students reread some of the pieces they have written over the last three days and go back to strengthen the word choice within those first drafts.
- After introducing the trait of sentence fluency in a short mini-lesson, invite students to look back at previous pieces and identify long sentences and short sentences and middle-length sentences they've written. You may also encourage them to start a new piece and be conscious of having several short and several long sentences among their middle-length ones.
- After introducing the trait of conventions in a short mini-lesson, reinforce the idea that conventions are for the reader and not the writer. Consequently, have students swap any previously written draft with a peer. Have them attempt to read one another's writing. They can check for capitals, punctuation, spaces, spelling, grammar, etc. NOTE: This may also be a great introduction to your peer-editing procedures.
In summary, you do want students to dabble with the trait(s) in a writing task each day. However, both you and your writers need to remember that the quality of the writing will not necessarily be fabulous. These are first drafts. You are attempting simply to define the six ingredients of good writing (the 6 traits). Over the course of the year you will fine-tune their understanding and application of the traits in action.