Customer Reviews: 6 + 1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide, Grades 3 and Up
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on April 18, 2004
I started teaching high school english this year and ordered this book because our district uses the 6 traits to assess the students' biannual writing tests. I decided I should teach them what they'd be tested on...
This book has really taught me a lot about using the traits. Each chapter is very in depth and has good examples. There are sample lesson plans and suggestions on ways to emphasize each of the traits.
I like the traits because it's a great way to break writing into manageable parts. I'm not just telling my students they got a "C" on a paper. Instead, I'm telling them they wrote a paper that has some strengths and some weaknesses. Further, I can tell them where the weaknesses are and what I think they should do to improve it.
But, maybe the best thing is that I am teaching them to score each other's papers and it guides their thinking and scoring. There's a companion book of worksheets and other reproducibles that is almost a must have because it includes rubrics and scoring sheets for students to use.
My only wish is that there was a separate book for secondary students. The standards for writing are different. But, even still, this book does cover secondary teaching and I find it very useful.
I highly recommend this book if you want to teach your students to be better writers.
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on December 30, 2002
Any teacher, school employee, or a mother would greatly benefit from having this book on their resource shelf. This book is a fantastic guide to improving your writing instruction across ALL content areas. The wisdom and experience that Ruth Culham distills in her new book is invaluable. I knew, when I was first introduced to the 6+1 Trait Model, the impact it would have on my student's ability to write with confidence and precision. For the past fours years my students were ranked at the top of Delaware State's Writing Assessment. I owe it all to Ruth Culham! This book can help your students understand the qualities of good writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation. Once they understand this common language teachers are able to provide their students with precise, complete feedback on their writing performance. Writing is a lifelong skill we all need. This book will help you and your children master it!
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on December 12, 2003
Save the $1,000+ you'd spend on a workshop! This paperback has it all. And you get to keep it with you for future reference! I bought this wonderful resource, 6 + 1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide, on a whim. I implemented it in my classroom, and I just can't say enough about how well it has been received. My middle school students really enjoy the activities I've used nearly straight from the book. Other teachers who come through my room comment on what they see hanging from the walls, things the students created using the structures set forth in 6+1 Traits. The grading rubrics used in the system work extremely well with the Florida standardized writing test scoring system, making this an ideal choice for any Florida teacher. Still, anyone anywhere who wants an easy to remember system with affordable supplemental products should look into the 6+1 Traits system offered by Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. While NWREL offers training, I've found this book needs no additional support to be a strong, effective foundation for teaching both the art and the science of fine writing.
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on January 21, 2003
A few years ago I took a workshop on the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing that changed my life as a language arts teacher forever. The traits are a simple yet effective way to improve your students' writing. I was thrilled when I heard Ruth Culham was writing a new guide to the traits. Her book is the perfect combination of background information about the traits and practical lessons for the classroom. The examples of student writing are invaluable. My students and I have already enjoyed many of the creative ideas.
As an added bonus, Ruth practices what she preaches. The book is beautifully written, strong in all the traits. I truly enjoyed reading it from cover to cover. Writing teachers of all levels will treasure this valuable resource!
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on June 9, 2003
Without question, this is the most complete, dependable book on teaching writing according to the traits. It's made a real difference in the way I assess, teach, and talk about writing to my students, as well as the way they talk about writing to one another. Most important, my students enjoy writing. They see value in it. And it shows in their finished products. Thank you Ruth Culham for creating such a useful, well-researched, well-written tool.
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on December 18, 2005
I looked at many writing books for my child. A school teacher recommended this one to me. After we used it as the primary writing guide, my child's writing took off. It's so effective that his writing has jumped from average to outstanding in his class. Now the book is one of our two MUST-DOs every week (the other is Beestar online ELA and vocabulary exercises, a wonderful web site [...] Writing is a life-long skill. We will continue use this guide to improve writing for a long time.
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on June 11, 2003
Ruth Culham's text is easy to use, clear and concise, and certainly a companion volume to Vicki Spandel's book. I have used it to teach graduate courses in writing and teachers like it very much.
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on August 8, 2007
English teachers have it tough -- no matter how hard they try, they cannot avoid a degree of subjectivity when it comes to grading papers. This book, 6+1 TRAITS OF WRITING, will not make the process a totally objective one, but it will provide a definite structure that will be invaluable to both new and experienced teachers alike. In workmanlike fashion, Ruth Culham devotes chapters to the traits (ideas, word choice, sentence fluency, voice, organization, and conventions) PLUS one (presentation) with a series of indicators for teachers to assess each one.

It's a great primer in the technique, and the chapters all follow a similar pattern with definitions of the traits, a list of reasons on why students struggle with that trait, steps on how to assess the trait, and sample papers to practice assessing using the 6 + 1 method. Each sample paper is followed by the scores the author gave it, along with their reasoning. Finally, the chapters are nicely rounded out with a series of practical ideas on how you can TEACH each trait. Teachers trying to get a handle on grading papers will appreciate the practicality and the structure.

The caveats I have with the book are minor. First, the sample papers range from Grades 3 to 9, and it's often difficult to assess sample papers because elementary teachers may not know how far along a secondary student should be and secondary teachers may have no clue about what's expected from third-grade writers. The wide range in ages, in other words, creates a bit of extra confusion for teachers who are well-versed in their own age-group of students. Also, the extra batch of "practice papers" to assess at the back of the book are directly followed by the author's scores, meaning the papers and their scores often share the same page. It would have been more helpful to separate them so as to avoid accidentally seeing a score while trying to finish the paper.

Culham's book is a great start, but a lot more practice assessing will probably be necessary to successfully implement the program. Also, I found that I had many questions about judgment calls while assessing some of the indicators and, in a workshop type setting, could have used further explanation from an experienced hand. Alas, the book cannot provide anything like that, but still, it's a start -- and a good one. Recommended.
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on June 27, 2004
This is an excellent guide in helping your students become better writers. Furthermore, as a classroom teacher in Texas, I feel that it will greatly help my students achieve "4"s in their TAKS writing test.
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on August 8, 2010
The 6+1 Traits definitely gave me clarity like I'd never had before about what makes good writing good, and how to assess writing. Thanks to this book, I now have an excellent framework for teaching writing and a clear vision I'm working toward with my students.

Where the book is less strong, in my view, is in suggesting ways to teach writing. Of course, the book does not pretend to be a writing curriculum or a series of lessons, so perhaps this is by design. Each chapter has focus lessons and a series of activities that are meant to introduce the concept of each trait and develop students' understanding of it. However, none of these are designed to work toward objectives of the 'students will be able to' type, organized around active verbs, and they don't really explain how to get students to use the traits in their writing.

For example, an activity that has students practice reading text aloud in different voices to demonstrate the idea of 'voice' might end with, "Encourage students to use different voices in their writing." Well, to me THAT'S the part that seems like the crux of our teaching! How shall they do this? How can I break down the traits into bite-sized objectives, as I do with standards? I know that I must respond to my students' needs as they arise, but I would still like a sense of a long-term plan, plus I'm not even sure how to respond to their needs. Culham asserts a few times that she is sure her readers' filing cabinets are bursting with ideas for how to teach writing, but mine aren't!

THe 6+1 Traits is an outstanding resource for setting the vision and goals of a writing course and for assessing writing. If you are looking for a resource to help you develop a long-term plan for teaching the traits, or break the traits into smaller lessons, you might find some ideas but it's not nearly so helpful for that.
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