Six Traits of Writing - Ideas

Six Traits of Writing - Ideas

Add 6 Types of Supporting Details

Teachers want more detail, more idea development, more elaboration. However, when we ask students to add more details, they often nod their heads in agreement and stare at us blankly. They know they need to add more. . .but they don't know what to add or how to add it. Rather than telling students to add more detail, explicitly reveal a variety of ways to accomplish this elaboration.

Here are six types of details that are relevant to all grade levels. Each of these will cause students to write additional sentences, thus adding more meat to their writing.

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  1. Add description.
    • Descriptive details often include the five senses. Students could write a couple of sentences using the senses relevant to the topic.
    • Description can also come in the form of comparisons. Students can use metaphors or similes or simply compare the idea to something (e.g., bigger than, faster than, etc.).
    • Naming something specifically also aids the reader in envisioning exactly what the writer intended.
  2. Add vocabulary.
    • Encourage domain-specific terms followed by a definition detail using phrases like This means. . . or A synonym for this is. . .
    • Where appropriate, an onomatopoeia word (e.g., SPLAT! POP! CRACK!) adds another sentence.
    • Incorporate precise and powerful action verbs directly associated with the topic. Such verbs often are followed by specific information in a predicate.
  3. Add proof.
    • Facts, statistics, and dates are hard proof that cannot be refuted.
    • Specific types or actual examples also provide hard, undeniable proof.
  4. Add voices.
    • Expert quotes, individual feelings, individual opinions, or different perspectives add "soft proof" and additional sentences.
  5. Add explanation.
    • Restate an idea in a second sentence; say it more simply.
    • Summarize an idea to reinforce what is important.
    • Include a "because" phrase to clarify an idea.
  6. Add importance.
    • Answer the question "So what?" after a fact or quote.
    • Explain the significance or impact of the fact or quote.
    • Reveal the consequence or importance of the fact or quote.

Teach each detail type individually

Teach each type of detail explicitly. Roll them out one at a time, emphasizing the grade-appropriate facets of each one. Target these in separate lessons in order to give students time to understand and apply each one.



Develop Ideas in a First Draft


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Online Workshop

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Whether you need to learn about the Six Traits in a hurry or want a “refresher” to get back on track, this online workshop led by Kristina Smekens will provide you with the confidence and resources you need to begin implementing the Six Traits model.

Topics covered:

  • Answers to the questions “What are the Six Traits?” & “Where did they come from?”
  • Explanation of how to recognize the Six Traits in pictorial writing (K-1), intermediate writing (grades 2-5), and secondary writing (grades 6-12).
  • How the Six Traits unify your instruction of state and national standards and the expectations of state/national writing assessments.
  • Ways to introduce the trait language to students of all ages.
  • Numerous trait-based mini-lesson ideas to target common writing weaknesses.

What's included with your registration?

  • 30-day access to the workshop
  • 5+ hours of dynamic workshop content
  • Lifetime access to classroom-ready digital resources

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