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Track writing skills with a yearlong 6-Traits bulletin board
august 22, 2023
When the Six Traits of Writing are at the center of your writing instruction, it only makes sense that the traits would be depicted physically somewhere in the classroom.
But rather than a simple poster that lists the Traits, build a Six-Traits bulletin board that evolves as new skills are taught.
The initial 6-Traits-of-Writing display
A trait-based bulletin board would start off rather sparse, with only a title that identifies the content to come.
The first lessons would introduce each writing trait to the students—ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions. The teacher would define each writing trait, describe the purpose it serves in writing, and reveal a related graphic icon.
A record of 6-Traits writing skills
The remainder of the year would include delivering grade-level writing skills taught via whole-class mini-lessons.
It’s important to note that you are not teaching traiting—you are teaching writing. The 6 Traits are simply categories that organize writing instruction. Each trait represents several smaller skills that have a similar impact on the overall product. And each of these skills needs to be taught separately and explicitly.
As the teacher reveals a new writing skill during a lesson, she will tag it with a trait. Meaning, students observe the teacher walk over to the growing bulletin board and pin or staple the skill (summarized in 2-4 words) to its “mother” trait. This visual display becomes an evolving record of mini-lesson instruction that both teachers and students refer to regularly.
For example, skills that fall under the trait of ideas include: know the topic, narrow the topic, stay on topic, provide details/evidence, explain evidence, etc.
Formats & mediums for 6-Traits yearlong displays
A yearlong 6-Traits display can be presented in various formats and mediums. Depending on your physical classroom and personal style, consider the best option for you.
The most common approach is to use the same bulletin board all year.
Sherry Thomas, Kindergarten
Blackford County Schools
(Hartford City, IN)
Capture the same list of skills on a single piece of chart paper.
Tree of Good Writing
Cara Crickard, Grade 3
A designated space on the wall could work just as well.
Amy Becker, Grade 5
Ridge Lawn Elementary
(Chicago Ridge, IL)
Use the tacking strip above the chalkboard/whiteboard.
Mary Menze, Grade 1
East Allen County Schools
(New Haven, IN)
After planning where the visual display will be housed, then collect the materials you will need to start it.
CAUTION: If coming up with a theme, laminating cutout pieces, and typing all the skills will take too long for you to implement a visual display—then just plan to handwrite the skills as you go. What’s most important is that you begin to teach these individual skills and connect each one to the writing trait it impacts.
The 6 Traits are simply six categories that will help tie your writing instruction and assessment together. A yearlong display keeps these grade-level skills in front of students, constantly reminding them of what to include in a “good” one.
Scroll through several yearlong bulletin board examples. (Click on some of the photos for a larger view and/or a gallery of close-up images.)