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6 + 1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide, Grades 3 and Up Paperback – 2003
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I got this copy for my grand kids whom I was recently visiting. My daughter home-schools and told me they don't like to write. I got a prompt online, and we all sat down for a 4 minute write. They were so excited about their little papers! They read them to my son-in-law when he got home and had him write one too.
This program teaches kids to write and then to take care of editing later. The freedom to get your ideas down without having everything scrutinized is amazingly freeing. Once they realize it's ok not to have the grammar and spelling perfect, writing becomes a joy. Anyone can go back and fix spelling and even professional writers have editors. What we need to do is learn to get our own unique ideas down first and let the editing be used for the works worth sprucing up. This is not a text book; it is a how-to book for the instructor, so you can use it for any age.
My sister is a principle of an award-winning elementary school. I told her about this program, and she said they pay for their teachers to go for the training. That would have been wonderful, but even with just the book, I felt successful in teaching writing.
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.
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.