This past spring I announced that we would be implementing the program “6+1 Trait Writing” to standardize writing instruction across TIS grades and tracks. Having one writing program for our school means that students will be working toward one set of standards and expectations in all grades and whether they are writing in Chinese, Spanish, Japanese or English. All teachers will have one set of vocabulary to talk about writing, and a common vision for the characteristics of good writing.
The 6+1 Trait program was developed in the 1980’s by teachers who were looking for a tool to consistently and reliably evaluate and guide student writing. After combing through thousands of writing sample at all grade levels, the teachers agreed on six traits of good writing and subsequently added a seventh, the “+1”. The traits are:
Ideas make up the content of the writing—the heart of the message.
- Organization is the internal structure of the piece, the thread of meaning, the logical pattern of the ideas.
- Voice is the soul of the piece. It’s what makes the writer’s style singular, as his or her feelings and convictions come out through words.
- Word choice is at its best when it includes the use of rich, colorful, precise language that moves and enlightens the reader.
- Sentence fluency is the flow of the language, the sound of word patterns—the way the writing plays to the ear, not just the eye.
- Conventions represent the piece’s level of correctness—the extent to which the writer uses grammar and mechanics with precision.
- +1. Presentation zeros in on the form and layout—how pleasing the piece is to the eye.
The key concept is that the 6+1 traits are universal, applicable in all languages and grade levels, thus perfect for TIS. Having the common vocabulary and expectations of 6+1 will help students build on their learning from grade to grade and leverage lessons between English and their track language. It will also help teachers collaborate on writing assignments and help one another address student learning challenges.
Some of our teachers have already been using 6+1, so it may not be completely new to your child. Our school-wide 6+1 implementation will begin during the teachers’ Inquiry Week, before students return to school. The non-profit organization Education Northwest will provide a two-day workshop for all our elementary grade teachers, focusing on 6+1 concepts and practical application in the classroom. There will be follow-up instruction for the teachers as needed.
Our students will start learning through 6+1 from the start of the school year. To support your child in the writing process, please see more information about 6+1 at http://educationnorthwest.org/traits. As with all homework in any language, you can show your interest by asking open-ended questions about what your child is learning. By understanding the 6+1 program, you will be able to reinforce the same writing concepts that your child is hearing about in school.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Robert Woods, Head of School, RobertW@intlschool.org