Six Trait Writing Process

› Six Traits

Six trait writing process makes teaching writing strategies a snap. The key is to use mentor texts for modeling and provide lots of practice.

two girls writing outside using the six trait writing process

The beauty of using mentor texts with the six trait writing process is that they are meant to be used for many purposes, they are to be imitated and help our kids take risks with trying new approaches in their writing.

I am a big fan of picture books for all grade levels. These books stimulate interest, they are culturally diverse and can be read in their entirety in one setting.

Most picture books will also cross reference within the 6 Trait Framework, meaning they can be used for more than one lesson. In fact, it is a very good idea to revisit a book for multiple purposes rather than be "once and done." 

Six Trait Writing Process Explained

There are suggested mentor texts with each trait.  These books are proven winners that kids love and can model their writing after.

1. Ideas/Content

Elementary writing skills start with focusing on ideas. The content is the heart of the message.

This is the main message, or theme, of the text.  It is also where the author refines the details used in the writing piece.

Often, guiding students towards refining ideas is the hardest part of teaching writing to children. Students have to learn that a clear message with supporting details is critical to clear communication.

2.  Organization

Organization is how the piece is structured.  There should be a logical sequence or pattern to the writing.  

Children need to be specifically taught how to do this.  Strong beginnings, effective sequencing with transitions and satisfactory conclusions are what make writing engaging.

When writing makes sense it is easier and more enjoyable to read.  When it isn't, the reader loses interest and the piece is ineffective.

3. Voice

Voice is what makes the magic happen in a story.  It is what makes a piece of writing easily identifiable as an author's work because the style is so distinctive.

Most children naturally have this - they just need help refining it.  Encourage them to show their humor, sarcasm or wit in their stories.

4. Word Choice

Word Choice is often mistaken for complicated vocabulary. Teaching word choice does involve vocabulary building activities, but it is also about developing the ability to choose the right words to convey the meaning in everyday writing.

Figurative language needs to be actively taught and used orally before expecting children to use it in their writing.  Try to make word play a common occurrence in your classroom:

  • idioms
  • metaphors
  • similes
  • homophones
  • analogies

Read many examples of "show me" types of writing to the students (pieces that "show" the meaning with words, not ones that just "tell").

5.  Sentence Fluency

Sentence fluency is how a piece of writing sounds when it is read out loud.  If it sounds choppy, the sentences are incomplete or not constructed correctly then the reader will feel unsettled - almost as if something is missing.

Sentences should vary in length and complexity. The reader ought to be able to feel a certain rhythm and flow in a piece, and this helps with comprehension.  

6. Mechanics and Conventions

Conventions are the technical part of the six trait writing process. While not always fun to teach, there are many creative teaching ideas that can be used to support this trait.

If correct conventions are not adhered to, then understanding of the text will be impaired.

This is also the trait where specific accommodations and modifications are made.  

There is one more trait that is often referred to. We call this 6+1: Presentation.

Presentation is how a finished product looks. Writing must be inviting to read by its' appearance, and that includes handwriting and neatness.

Think of it like a bookstore – we are naturally drawn to the books that look attractive and attract attention. The final presentation of a piece of writing is key to a polished, finished look.

Like what you Read?  Share.