Thursday, March 5, 2015

6 + 1 Traits of Writing review

This was the first book we read for our PLC's at school this year. I finished it last week during a snow day and am using this week to write what I've learned etc. I have post it notes throughout. If you are teacher of students third grade and up I highly recommend this book. It was very practical with tips and examples of student work throughout the book. All quotes/notes are from the book and items that I found to be beneficial.

Chapter 1:
This chapter talks about how writing fits into assessment and instruction as well as the differences in revising and editing. Students need to see the differences in the two, so they can start to apply the process.

  • Revising: Re-visioning your work....Messy ideas until they come into focus 
  • Editing is putting the house in order before company arrives. 
  • "The purpose of revision is not to correct, but to discover." ~Lucy McCormick Calkins
  • "Revision is re-seeing the topic so the writer can discover meaning. Editing is making the meaning clear so that the reader can understand meaning." ~Donald Murray 
Chapter 2
This chapter introduces the Ideas trait. It details the process of ways to teach the trait as well as assess the trait. This chapter was full of meat and ideas ;-)
  • Writing begins with having something to say 
  • Writing is always better when it is written for the writer and not the teacher or reader. (I loved this point because writing is such an outlet for me. I love blogging, writing in my journal etc.)
  • Students have to see themselves as writers not just finishers. 
  • Details need to be unique to writers' experience. 
  • Teachers should always reinforce the positive. 
  • The purpose of assessment is to improve student performance the next time the task is attempted. 
  • Telling statements vs. Showing statements ...Show me, don't just tell me!
  • When you write about things you care about, ideas soar. 
Chapter 3
This chapter introduces the organization trait. I love how throughout this book using examples for literature that is familiar to the students is encouraged. Examples are also included in various chapters. 
  • A piece with strong organization begins with a clear purpose that creates anticipation in the reader. 
  • The reader never loses the big picture....
  • For every piece of writing there is a structure that makes sense...(In other words it's not always a five paragraph format that works for every prompt...)
  • Am I process teacher or a product teacher? 
  • Birthday gift illustration: Main idea: Box's content, Details: Bow and Wrapping Paper, Conclusion Sentence: Ribbon that ties it all together.
Chapter 4
This chapter introduces the trait of voice. Students need to learn and see how to create something that is a voice and not an echo. I loved the voice 
  • Almost every writer has a style or voice. 
  • "Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish." ~John Jakes
  • Voice: the writer's music coming out through the words, the sense that a real person is speaking to you and cares about the message. 
  • Emails can confuse reader at times and is subject to interpretation....needs to be well crafted (oh how true this is. We often times forget that our voice must shine through our words in every text or email, so that our true purpose can be felt.)
  • "Live in the moment with your students, and they will prepare themselves for the future." (My favorite quote of the entire book)
Chapter 5
This chapter introduces the trait of Word Choice. 
  • learn to look for the logic behind the errors ( most students have a reason or rhyme to why they choose the words they do(right or wrong). 
  • Steer students away from impressive vocabulary and toward the skill of to use every day words well. 
  • Active vs. Passive Voice
Chapter 6
This chapter introduces the trait of Sentence Fluency.  Many strategies that we use to teaching Reading Fluency can also help with teaching Fluency in writing as well. 
  • Giving students an opportunity to read their writing aloud is vital. (I've found that reading a students written work out loud to them is a way for them to recognize their mistakes. When they hear it read, it becomes obvious it doesn't sound right.)
  • Classrooms where there is writing taking place should have noise. 
  • Fluency can work hand in hand with instruction on other traits (i.e. conventions). 
Chapter 7
This chapter introduces the trait of Conventions. The author compares the use of conventions to the good table manners of writing. This chapter was one of my favorites, not because it is a topic I enjoy, but one I found very beneficial. Many times in the classroom grammar and conventions are practiced in the form of worksheets etc. When this is done, students have difficulty applying the skill in the writing process. This is also an area that needs to be practiced and reviewed daily, even as adults. We tend to forget what we do not apply. 
  • Make sure conventions are correct when "publishing" 
  • See conventions for what they are and pay attention to evolving language and how technology plays into it. 
  • Hold students in Grade 7 or above to a higher standard for conventions. (By this time most students should know how to apply most conventions). 
  • Teachers/Students should choose a convention goal. Practice applying one skill, area at a time until mastery. 
Chapter 8
This chapter introduces the trait of Presentation. The student examples in this chapter brought to life the information the author was discussing. Presentation is the additional trait that was added later. This trait is referenced to rolling out the welcome mat for the reader. 
  • How the paper looks influences our reaction to it, no matter how hard we try (Often times as teachers we learn how to read writing that non teachers would dismiss as illegible). 
  • Presentation demonstrates to students that first impression (in many areas) means a lot.  
As a teacher I enjoyed this book as well as a writer. I read the content with instructional practices in mind as well as application as someone who blogs or writes on a regular basis. Writing is quickly becoming a lost art in the classroom. Students are feeling forced to stay within set limits, set parameters, and the creativity that often times makes a student's writing come to life is not found. When we give students an opportunity to demonstrate their voice, to show who they are, they begin to learn to write with a passion. I have been fortunate to see these traits applied in the classroom. Using these traits and the rubric the book provides has guided my conferences to them to see what they did well and how they can improve. 

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