Monday, December 12, 2011

6-Traits Resources: Digital Magazine!

I invite all readers of this blog to also visit my new curated 6-Traits Digital Magazine.  This new effort casts a wider net over all aspects of writing, the writing process, 6-traits, Common Core Standards and more.  Just click an image below to see what I'm talking about! ~ Dennis

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Video: Common Core for English: Read like a detective and write like a conscientious investigative reporter!

View this thought provoking video about Common Core Standards. 

Read like a detective and write like a consceintious investigative reporter!

This high end lecture presentation on the shifts required to meet the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.  

Shifts promoted by the CC Standards

Major move toward reading informational texts at all levels is the main message.

Writing at the high school is dominated by personal opinion / narrative?   The shift is to writing that conveys an arguement that can be supported with facts.  Narrative is not eliminated, but takes second place to informative writing.

As a heart and soul writing teacher I've taught writing in the context of personal narrative. Using this mode remains the best way to teach fundamentals.  However I have to agree with the lectures statement that in general "People don't give a shit about your opinions."  His point being that writers should be able convey information and support their opinions with facts.

I don't worry about writing being sidelined. That's already happened after years of distorted emphasis delivered by NCLB.

I hope that the CC standards will help us shift our teaching to the point where critical thinking and being able to 'write like a conscientious investigative reporter' becomes a more common reality in classrooms across the country.

I wouldn't be a teacher if I didn't have an enormous capacity for hope. ~ Dennis

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Digital Writing Workshop: The Writing Process Evolves

Troy Hicks, author of the Digital Writing Workshop (Heinemann, 2009), offers an overview of the five principles guiding writing instruction in the 21st century:

The digital writing workshop ning Troy mentions at the end of this broadcast is no longer online.  For a vibrant online community investigate Jim Burk's English Companion Ning.

Also this blog post from the Enhanced English Teacher will give you more information and ideas about Troy's Digital Writing Workshop

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NEW! 6-Traits Resources Digital Magazine

I've launched a new digital magazine as part of my ongoing project to broadcast great resources about writing and the 6-Traits. This magazine format is easy to read and will open your ideas to many new sites and ideas.  Below is a brief glimpse at the latest topics I've posted.  Visit and click follow if you'd like to be informed when new content is posted.

I hope all of the loyal followers of this blog, also become followers of the new magazine.  I'd also love to get suggestions from all of you.

Here's where you can contribute:
I hope to hear your voice!  Here, there,everywhere!  ~ Dennis

Friday, November 11, 2011

Word processing taught me how to spell.

I overcame a severe spelling problem thanks to spell check.

I discovered (on my own) that spell check was providing me with individualized feedback on my spelling.

I was missing the same words over and over again. (Just as I'd done with spelling lists all through school.)

By paying attention to spell check feedback I was able to get a visual fix on most of my problem words.  Eventually I could tell by sight when I was misspelling something.  Overtime the number of errors decreased and my sight based error recognition improved.

To this day I have trouble spelling, especially when I'm tired.  I still misspell 'receive' about half the time.
(photo: NEO Loaner Program)

Main point: Let's explicitly teach our students how to improve their spelling by seeing spell check and grammar check as individualized instruction from a slightly crazy robotic tutor.  We can't always trust what the machine says.  However it does give us a series of learning opportunities.

I recall arguing with English teachers when word processing first became widely available.  Many were convinced it was the end of writing (and civilization).  For me it was a technology that changed my life.  (Now, as a Certified Geezer, I still depend on my word processor and spell check to make my living.)

Dennis, who is blurry eyed in Valley Center

 (Five spelling errors corrected when I first checked. Several more after I revised. This did not include three spell check prompted stabs at receive.) 8-)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Synesthesia, Painting, Poetry, Sentence Fluency, Rhythm with Toby Lurie

Poetry - Painting - Song 

Later in my teaching practice I started writing grants to bring writers and illustrators to my school district. This helped me build a relationship with painter, musician and poet, Toby Lurie:

Toby is an amazing, creative, and unpredictable guy. (The link to his site will introduce you to his work. He shares many QuickTime audio clips of his work that trigger creativity.) It is fun to find him on the Internet after all these years.

I recall meeting him for the first time. Toby was wild white bearded poet with a dangerous gleam in his eye. One look at him and I realized that he was going to draw some lightening.  I was the language arts coordinator for a conservative Nevada school district. I knew Toby was going to make waves and I was glad to aide and abet in a little artistic subversion.  We were at the district's biggest high school.  I'd planned a full school assembly, but an uptight vice principal sand bagged me and side tracked us to a remote spot in the school where they kept the 'tough' kids.

As I was about to introduce Toby to a huge class of hyper-active alternative ed high school kids.  I didn't have a clue what he was going to do. The rowdy group had the bored vibe of caged cats.  I was sure this crowd of edgy and angry adolescents would tear us apart. 

Just as I introduced Toby, he whispered in my ear, "Tell them I don't speak any English."  I followed his lead and got out of the way.

Toby proceed to emote with sounds and facial gestures and within seconds he captured everyone's attention. He spoke gibberish but it didn't matter. This guy knew how to communicate with sound alone, words were an afterthought. The kids were riveted by the odd man capering and grunting in front of them.

By the end of the assembly everyone was up moving and chanting,  found poetry echoed off the walls and we were all swimming in Toby's unique tone patterns.  Sometimes it's good to be in alternative ed!

To really appreciate Toby's work you need to hear and see him. This new video Synesthesia Part 1 will give you a taste. 

Synesthesia part 1 from Terrence Vaughn on Vimeo.

Choral Reading, Toby Style

Several years later on one of his return visits, Toby taught me a great method that ties perfectly into the concepts of rhythm and sentence fluency. After a writing session, Toby had each student pick a single line from their work. Then he called 6-8 volunteers to come to the front of the room. They lined up shoulder to shoulder and started to read their lines in order from left to right. The first boy read. Then the second. Suddenly Toby would point back to the first and have him repeat the line. Toby would would mug and gesture and flail his arms like a demented conductor, all to draw more emotion and voice from the reader.

We soon understood that Toby was conducting a word orchestra and hearing special music.

The kids began reading their lines louder or lower, deadpan or angry, happy or weeping. Once the whole group of young ones had read once, Toby layered together a sound poem based on the melodies of repeated lines and varied voice.

Sometimes Toby had the same student read two or three times in a row or come back to one particularly powerful line repeatedly. No one in the chorus knew when they'd be called on and everyone was amazed at the nuances and lunacies that spilled out of it all.

Toby created a wild reader's theater  of word choice, sentence fluency, voice, organization, and ideas all wrapped in a spontaneously generated poem. It was hilarious, energizing,  fun. Everyone loved it.

All of this points to the powerful mix of music, performance, and poetry that supports sentence fluency (and all the other traits as well).

I  used this method myself two or three times a year for the rest of my classroom teaching career. I got so I could conduct a pretty good sound/word poem, but I could never top the Maestro!

Synesthesia part 2 from Terrence Vaughn on Vimeo.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Writing Across the Curriculum - Writing Lesson of the Month Network

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Word Choice: The J. Peterman Way

The J. Peterman Catalog is real and online!

What a great way to teach word choice and voice!  From the online catalog:

The Victoria Falls Jacket

It has the look of a true jacket. Substantial and trim, not flimsy and baggy. You could navigate down the Zambezi and then proceed directly to high tea on Stanley's Terrace without raising any eyebrows.

Victoria Falls Jacket (No. 1636). Four buttoning, flapped pockets outside, three inside. Crisp notched collar with chin strap. Airy mesh half-lining. Pointed yoke, deep inverted pleats, and stitched-down Norfolk-style waist in back.

Carry on, gentlemen.

Men's even sizes: 38 through 48.

Color: Tobacco.


J.Peterman Writing Idea.
Uploaded to YouTube by Barry Lane.

This is a brief Interview with Dena and Corbett Harrison (the write couple).  Corbett is the Webmaster and writer behind the great 6-Traits oriented WritingFix website Dena discusses how sharing the J.Peterman catalog with her students generated some great writing.

Great Voice and Word Choice Example:

For a prime example the J.Peterman overblown speaking style:

Seinfeld - Peterman Background

Larry David, Seinfeld and J. Peterman (The real J.Peterman.)

This topic was suggested during a discussion on Word Choice in my Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits online class.

I had some fun running down these resources. I'm not sure how they might play for the current generation of kids in the seats who may not be Seinfeld fans.  Not many will know who J.Peterman is.  That's why I tried so hard to find the right video  example of word choice and voice!

Let me know what you think?

~ Dennis (In exotic Valley Center)

Larry David, Seinfeld and J. Peterman (The read J.Peterman.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

WritingFix Search Trick

I love to search the Internet.  It's one of my passions. I've got an entire website dedicated to searching and evaluating online resources:

Here's a WritingFix search trick: 

Use any search engine or go directly to the WritingFix homepage and use the search box in the upper right hand corner.

Seach term examples:
  • writingfix primary
  • writingfix elementary
  • writingfix middle
  • writingfix high school
Second keyword suggestions:
  • ideas
  • voice
  • organization
  • word choice
  • sentence fluency
  • conventions
  • tone
  • mood
  • style
  • brainstorming
  • grammar
  • writing process
  • mentor texts
  • expository
  • narrative
  • persuasive
  • poetry
  • research
  • raft
  • wac
  • science
  • social studies
  • math
  • history
  • lesson plans
The WritingFix site is so incredibly deep and rich, you're bound to find something on almost any writing topic.

If you're ever stuck for a good lesson, give it a try!

#whyiwrite National Why I Write Tweet Fest

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How to Introduce the 6 Traits

This article was originally published by the Writing Teacher, a fine blog that is no longer online.  I retrieved the article using the Wayback Machine from the Internet Archive Project.  Lessons Learned! Always keep a back up copy of your work.  Many thanks to the Internet Archive project for attempting to back up the entire Internet!  This version of the article has been refreshed with additional resources.

Dennis O'Connor teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and has 36 years of experience as an elementary and middle school teacher, as well as a professional development trainer. As a district Language Arts Coordinator he organized teacher training in the writing process and Traits Writing Model. In addition to teaching and consulting, he maintains several invaluable websites:

I have taught 6-traits assessment and writing on the Internet since the turn of the century. Before that I developed a writing workshop with a technology enabled blend of writing process and traits. Most of my students were 7/8 mixed classes in a block schedule. I was fortunate to have the same students two years in a row. The blend of writing process and 6-traits instruction produced remarkable results, in the classroom and on the state mandated writing test. Online, I have shared what I learned in the classroom with hundreds of dedicated teachers as they create writing workshops empowered by 6-traits concepts.

Establishing the writing process as the basis for instruction.

It's always writing process first, then the traits. Traits and the writing process fit together naturally. The writing process provides a path to a young writer. The traits are the touchstones on the path.
The pre-writing phase of the traits is the perfect place to hammer home the importance of Ideas. Help young writers generate ideas with any number of brainstorming techniques. When the right topic and information has been generated, you'll see a writer light up.

Drafting helps the writer apply organization, word choice and sentence fluency to the first rush of ideas and voice.

Responding is enhanced by a traits based vocabulary that sharpens and enhances revision. When students understand the language and criteria of traits, they have a variety of ways into the revision process. Simply checking conventions and making a neat copy gives way to revision based on all the traits.

Multiple response sessions may be needed, since you'll want to limit the response to one trait at a time. Too much feedback will only confuse a writer. It's always better to keep the feedback short and focused on one strength and one area for improvement.

Editing for conventions helps prepare the piece for formal assessment and publication, which ends the writing cycle.


Where do I start teaching the 6 Traits?

Introduce traits sequentially:

  • Ideas
  • Voice
  • Word Choice
  • Organization
  • Sentence Fluency
  • Conventions
This order of presentation isn't set in cement. If there is a particular trait you are comfortable with, start there. I start with voice in my online class. Many teachers struggle with this trait, so I make understanding the concept of voice the foundation for the class. However, in a face-to-face, K-12 classroom, the trait of ideas is a logical place to start, as generating ideas is the first step in the writing process.

How much time do I spend teaching the 6-traits?

You can spend the entire year working with the writing process and the 6-traits and never exhaust the possibilities. Of course, you have to adapt your planning to meet the realities of your classroom. That said:
  • Schedule 2-4 weeks for each trait.
  • Introduce one trait at a time.
  • Introduce and teach all of the traits.
  • Provide rubrics, 6-traits writing guides and checklists.

Rubric Resources:

First teach the concept, then apply the concept as a trait of writing.

Introduce the core concept of a trait separately from writing.
  • What's the voice you see in a painting or hear in music?
  • Can you recognize fluency in a dance?
  • One more good example
A teacher in one of my online classes introduced organization by scattering desks all around her room. Students walk in and suddenly, they're confused. There's no order! Once students experience the connection between chaos and organization, it's time to explain the concept of organization in writing.

A basic pattern for introducing each trait.

Hammer home the trait's criteria with many small focused lessons, followed by a practice writing period.
  • Compare strong and weak writing examples for each trait.
  • Provide ample practice rewriting weak samples into strong samples.
  • Have students score sample papers.
Consider using online databases of practice papers that provide expert feedback. Have students assess samples for a single trait and then check expert feedback. Students need to practice recognizing traits in anonymous samples many times before they are able to independently use the traits to revise their own writing.

After presenting your traits mini-lesson, write with your students. As you write, you will show your students how important writing really is. Revise your weak pieces using a computer or overhead projector. Use a think aloud technique as you revise for a specific trait. This form of modeling is essential to any writing workshop.

Seize Teachable Moments

If a chance to understand another trait presents itself before you formally introduce it, seize the teachable moment! Quickly introduce the new trait in the context of the current trait. If you have an opportunity to show how finding the right idea fires up a writer's voice with confidence and enthusiasm, don't miss it! Say enough about a trait to be appropriate for the moment without getting lost in a tangent. Foreshadowing concepts and vocabulary creates a foundation for the traits concepts to come.

Use 6-Traits Posters

Plaster the walls with traits posters. Keep the concepts and criteria on the walls for ready reference. Sometimes just walking over to the poster and touching it as you talk will set the patter for your students. Soon you will see students glancing at the posters as they work. Constant coaching on the concepts, supported by bullet points on the criteria helps everyone build understanding. Posters that explain the writing process are a good idea as well. Multiple graphics representations of big concepts are always a good idea.


Plan to Teach and Re-Teach.

Each time you introduce the concept of a new trait, refer to the previous trait, while mentioning the traits yet to come. Freely use the vocabulary of traits as you present your mini-lessons. Plan to teach and re-teach throughout the year. Combine mini-lessons with ample writing time focus on the trait. When using sample papers or the practice databases available on the web, focus one trait at a time. Here's the practice pattern:
  • Read the story.
  • Write your traits score and a brief rationale for your thinking.
  • Check your score against that of the experts.
Once the new trait is locked in, repeat the process for each trait you have already introduced. This can be done solo or in small groups. Understanding the traits by scoring and discussing multiple samples works for both students and teachers!


Traits allow meaningful revision!

The ultimate goal of writing instruction is for students to become assessors of their own writing. 6-Traits provides the vocabulary and the concepts teachers and students need to recognize the entry points for revision. Too often, students think revision is just a matter of fixing the sloppy copy. While conventions are important, there are 5 other, equally important traits to consider while revising during the writing process.

It is best to save intense focus on conventions until the editing phase which happens just before the publishing stage of the writing process. Sadly, many young writers freeze when hit by negative feedback on conventions. Those who don't instantly suffer a case writer's cramp may go into a play it safe shell that destroys voice by limiting word choice to only those words the writer can safely spell. By postponing editing until later in the writing process, the writer has time to practice traits application during an extended respond and revise experience.

Patience and Waiting for Eureka Moments

When you first start, you wonder if a six traits approach will really work. You have to commit a lot of time to teaching and writing. This is difficult in test-driven environments where time is short and success isn't always measured by improved writing ability. However, over the course of the first year you will see significant improvement. It will take faith and patience, but doesn't all teaching?

I recall a eureka moment as I listened to previously inarticulate kids from my toughest class speak eloquently about the ideas and voice being shared by their peers. These middle schoolers, who a few months earlier hated writing, were using traits vocabulary to offer supportive and insightful feedback. It is moments like these teachers never forget. These people were writers helping each other.

Contrast the hushed and focused atmosphere of a writing-process-based classroom full of motivated young writers with the groans, protests, and glassy eyed resentment of kids stuck in a test prep system and you'll understand why fighting to create a writing workshop powered by the traits is worth the effort.

Recommended books on the 6-Traits

PK-4 Creating Young Writers: Using the Six Traits to Enrich Writing Process in Primary Classrooms (2nd Edition) (Creating 6-Trait Revisers and Editors Series) (Paperback) by Vicki Spandel. Allyn & Bacon; 2007

Middle School-Adult EdCreating Writers Through 6-Trait Writing Assessment and Instruction (5th Edition) (Creating 6-Trait Revisers and Editors Series) (Paperback) by Vicki Spandel. Allyn & Bacon, 2008.

Friday, October 7, 2011

6-Tips for Writing Web Content

Writing for the Web

Is your website one of your project’s most valuable ways of disseminating information? If so, this page will give you 6 tips for writing content that engages and motivates your web visitors—and, most importantly, helps them find the information they’re looking for.

The tips are:

Posted from DiigoTagswriting6-traitstechnology
The rest of 6-Traits Resources group favorite links are here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

National Writing Project Find a Site

Click the link and go to an interactive version of this map that details writing project sites across the country.  You are not alone!

Click the link and go to an interactive version of this map that details writing project sites across the country. The classroom can be a lonely place. However, you are not alone even if the teacher's room in your school is a dispirited trench.

Reach out and connect with like minds!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Helping teachers become writing teachers.


How this class came to be:

My first formal online learning experience was in 1996. I took an online class offered by the Milken Family Foundation that was mentored by the great Lajeane Thomas of ISTE and Louisiana Tech renown. Thanks to LaJeane I returned to school and earned an online masters degree focused on online teaching and learning.

I began teaching online in 1999. I wrote and started teaching my 6-Traits class in 2001 for the University of Northern Iowa. I moved the class to the University of Wisconsin Stout in 2005. I've taught the course nearly every semester for the past 10 years.

The two essential drivers that make this class work are a very strong sense of community that encourages teachers to share methods and practice scoring of papers using a number of databases that provide expert feedback. It's all about hands on discovery of highly practical ideas. My litmus test is: "Will this work on Monday morning?" I also enjoy helping teachers discover that they've been teaching with the traits all along. Learning the vocabulary of the traits helps everyone understand the bigger picture of writing instruction.

I learned about 6-Traits and the writing process when I was an elementary teacher in the 80's. Later, as a district Language Arts coordinator, I worked with the Northern Nevada Writing Project to train dozens of teachers. This early exposure to the writing process, combined with 25 years in the classroom and 10 years online make this online class a rich experience.

I love teaching this class. It's a chance to connect with teachers from around the world and share practical methods and materials about 6-Traits and the writing process.

I also publish the 6-Traits Resources Facebook Page as a way to share ideas about writing and teaching.

If you now of anyone who would be interested in this class pass it on? 

Helping teachers become writing teachers is one of the most satisfying things in the world. ~ Dennis

University of Wisconsin-Stout of EDUC 744 Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits. 
For more information:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fall 2011: Online Class: Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits

EDUC 744 3 graduate credits 

EDUC 744 920 Elem (PK-4) 3 graduate credits September 26 – November 18, 2011

EDUC 744 909 Middle School-Adult 3 graduate credits September 26 – November 18, 2011

Learn to teach and assess writing with the 6-Traits of writing
(voice, ideas, word choice, organization, sentence fluency and conventions). Learn to use the 6-Traits with the writing process to teach revision strategies. Help learners meet higher standards and improve test scores.

What students are saying:

 "I began this course thinking of myself as something of a blank slate with regards to the teaching of writing. I felt that writing was often a hit or miss proposition in my classroom. Today I see that while there are certainly holes in my second grade writing instruction, I'm actually doing more then I thought. I'm not starting from square #1. Today I'm able to categorize and organize what I'm already doing, plus add new things, using the framework of the 6 traits."

"I feel very fortunate to be taking a course like this so early in my teaching career. Someone mentioned to me recently that while there are many great ideas within the 6 trait model, it's easy to slip back into one's old ways of doing things. Perhaps I'm lucky in that I have no old ways to slip back into."

"I've had several important realizations as a result of work we've done these past weeks. The first is the specific connections that I now make between reading and writing. Naturally I was always aware that a connection existed. I knew on some level that reading to my kids was beneficial to their writing development. But too often the reading was undirected and without a plan. Today I have an arsenal of literature with which I can model, discuss, and teach specific traits in a focused way. And I don't have to teach writing alone. I now have the great authors of the world to help me. I can point to a piece of literature and say to my kids, "Take a look at what this author has done. We can do something similar in our own writing."

I've been teaching this course online for almost ten years.  It remains my favorite course because I get to help teachers from around the world transform their thinking about teaching writing.  Join us!  It's a remarkable experience in community, sharing, and new learning! ~ Dennis O'Connor

Collaborative Writing Platform: Thumbscribes

Posted from Diigo. The rest of 6-Traits Resources group favorite links are here.

Twitter: One way to find your writing process

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Primary Sentence Fluency Whales Passing

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

6-Traits Posters

Back to School Traits Posters

Posted from Diigo. The rest of 6-Traits Resources group favorite links are here. (Feel free to join us on Diigo!

Monday, August 22, 2011

NWP - Connect Join the National Writing Projects Social Network

The National Writing Project has launched a social network that all writing and reading teachers should consider.  At a time when writing and writing instruction is generally neglected it is important for all of us to find others who understand and share the vision of what a truly literate person can be.

NWP Connect: Don't go it alone!  Join NWP Connect! 

This is a new project for the NWP.  You have a chance to be an 'early adopter' as you connect with other writing teachers from around the world.

I discovered this site today. I'm in the process of setting up my profile.  10 years of teaching online lets me know instantly how important the new NWP Community can be. I believe in the reality of online community and the support of virtual writing teachers. All it takes is a willingness to share and think.

See you online!


Sunday, August 21, 2011

6-Traits Bulletin Boards

    • Teachers have been introducing the trait language to students in a variety of ways. Here are some of my favorite 6-Traits introduction strategies. Thanks to all of you who have sent in new pictures! If you would like to email digital photos of how you have introduced the traits into your environment, we’ll post them on our website for all to see. Click on some of the photos below for a larger view of the bulletin board.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Color Coordinated Traits! by LaRae Kendrick

Color Connections with Revising & Editing

"At what point in the writing process do you work on correcting & editing?"

After a student has written their rough draft on a big assignment, I ask them to use the first five traits to revise (less than 5 traits for smaller assignments).

My characters, "Our Six Writing Friends," are color-coded and organized by the colors of the rainbow, ROYGBV. To begin the revising process, I ask students to use crayons, pens or digital highlighting and read through their work 5 times.

Ideas-Red: Circle sentences that go off topic.

Organization-Orange: Draw an arrow that moves a sentence to a better place.

Voice-Yellow: Highlight a sentence that shows good voice or the author's personality.

Word Choice-Green: Draw a box around words that are used repeatedly.

Sentence Fluency-Blue: Read to a partner and have them mark a sentence that flowed well.

Once they have gone through the revision steps then they can start editing. Conventions-Purple.

Conventions is always checked in 4 separate steps.

  1. Capitalization

  2. Punctuation

  3. Spelling

  4. Grammar

Now they are ready to take the colorful draft and create a clean and polished final draft. "Polished, not Perfect!"

This step-by-step revising is best for assignments that the students have spent a fair amount of time on, usually the types of writing required by the grade-level standards.

For example, my 3rd grade class was required write research reports. When they had already spent up to two weeks researching and writing their first drafts, it made sense to spend extra time revising and editing.

When they were done with their rough draft, they would start with the first color, ideas/red, and read through their paper looking for details that didn't fit. When they were done, they would move on to the next trait/color. Sometimes a student might take one writing period just to check their ideas and organization.

At the beginning of our writing time together, we would review each color and what the students should be looking for. They knew that their peers may be ahead or behind them. Some may even still be writing! No one seemed to mind reading their stories more than once, because they knew they were looking for something new each time.


The sample displayed is the appearance paragraph of a rough draft from a report about chameleons. Notice how the student sees that he repeated chameleon, green/word choice, so he changes the second occurrence to "lizard." (This is all resulting from a mini-lesson that was taught before one of the writing periods.)

He also used orange/organization to draw an arrow moving the first sentence about the lizard's skin next to the other sentences about its skin. Again, this is not something that he naturally knew, but that he learned from a mini-lesson.

Because "Our Six Writing Friends" visual aids are color-coded on the bottom, students are quickly able to refer to which color to use.

Whichever visuals you use, I suggest color-coding them for quick reference. It could be as simple as attaching pieces of construction paper to the back.
LaRae Kendrick, M. Ed., is a native of San Jose, CA who now lives in Gilbert, AZ. She is an experienced writer and educator specializing in language arts education. She was the director of curriculum development for A Plus Educators and has presented teacher workshops on a variety of topics nationwide. LaRae has served as a leader for numerous state and district writing committees and as a former classroom teacher, she understands the need to master state standards while being realistic about life in the classroom. As the author and creator of Our Six Writing Friends™, she is dedicated to the goal of helping all students become better writers. Her areas of expertise are Six Traits Writing, writing assessment, utilizing interactive whiteboards and the writing/technology connection.

LaRae is a teacher’s teacher who energizes and inspires her fellow educators. A participant in one of her professional development sessions recently stated, "Your workshop was so motivating for me… I couldn't even sleep last night because I could not wait to get back in the classroom and start teaching writing. You have inspired me."

Visit LaRae at to find out more!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Five Card Flickr

  • "This quasi experimental web site is designed to foster visual thinking. It is based completely, or more loosely... copied, from the Five Card Nancy game devised by comics guru Scott McCloud and the nifty web version at 741.5 Comics.

    However, rather than drawing from a hand of randomly chosen panels of the old Nancy comic, my version draws upon collections of photos specified by a tag in flickr. You are dealt five random photos for each draw, and your task is to select one each time to add to a selection of images, that taken together as a final set of 5 images- tell a story in pictures.

    When you are done, you the option to add a title and explanation, then you can save the story so you can put a link in your resume or send to your Mom (she pay print it out and tape it to the fridge, or she may criticize your creativity, your mileage and mom may vary). Plus we offer the ability to tweet your story or use an embed code to add it to your own web site."

    Five Card Story: A Nice Fall Day

    a Five Card Flickr story created by magster400

    flickr photo by katerha

    flickr photo by krutscjo

    flickr photo by krutscjo

    flickr photo by katerha

    flickr photo by krutscjo

    One day, a couple was went on vacation. Their plane flew them to an area in Canada where it was pretty chilly. They saw a leaf that they thought was very beautiful. They continued walking around and touring the area. Everyone they talked to was very kind to them, but they were always saying things about an amazing castle that was rumored to have been home to a great king 569 years ago. No one had seen it since a ferocious animal had forced them to leave the area. Now, the couple had been sent to find it. They set off and traveled for many days. Just as they were about to give up hope, they found a garden with sculptures and fountains. Positive that this was the castle they drove back to their original destination through lots of snow to tell the waiting natives of their success. By the time they got back there were many more leaves on the ground. They told the people all about their adventure and were so tired that they immediatly hopped on a plane and headed home. This had been a vacation they could never forget!

    Synonym Toast : Word Choice Game

    Pic Lits : Playing with word choice

    Inspired picture writing
    Drag and drop words on to pictures
    possible poetry, idea generation, word choice applications

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Color Poems Word Choice & Fun!

    Hailstones and Halibut Bones & Color Poems by Karen Grunder

    That old Hailstones and Halibut Bones book motivated me to develop
    a lesson for color poems!

    We brainstormed ideas for one color (red) as a class, sense by sense.

    The students would do it individually first on their own paper,
    then we would share and record all ideas on chart paper.

    The next day we picked the ideas for each sense we thought
    were the strongest, and worked on putting a poem together
    and making each image even more powerful. We balanced
    the amount of sense images (didn't want to overload on the visual).
    Hearing and feeling (emotion) were frequently the challenging
    ones for 10 year olds, but sometimes ended up being very
    effective parts of their poems when they later wrote their own.
    "Showing, not telling" was a big part of this lesson. Finally,
    the children got the chance to choose their own color, and
    brainstormed their own ideas. Lots of excitement!

    Yellow is....
    the smile in my mom's eyes whenever she looks at me
    the first notes of the ice cream song - "Run! Find the truck!"
    huge fields of daffodils rippling like waves as each gust hits…

    These poems were little treasures. The majority of children
    in the class got their poems published in a poetry book through
    a contest I entered. (Not a thing I regularly do, but someone
    handed me the poetry contest sheet just as we were doing the activity).

    This is an easy and effective way to get children to play with words
    to paint pictures and evoke emotions. A lot of talk went into the
    most effective way of sequencing ideas. Mood, balance, dynamics,
    and the importance of leaving the reader with a strong, final
    image/thought also came up. Such fun! So much covered in one
    much enjoyed writing activity!

    This year I'd like to get them to take digital pictures or use the web,
    and create a collage of any images or emotions from their poems
    that could be caught with a camera. I would tell them this after
    they finished their poems, though. I wouldn't want their inspirations
    to be restricted by practicality.

    Karen Grunder
    (Summer 2008: Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits)

    Lesson Extension from Read Write Think:
    Color Poems—Using the Five Senses to Guide Prewriting

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Facebook and 6-Traits Time to make the connection!

    Find great writing contacts on Facebook!

    I've just setup a page on Facebook. You'll find the 6-Traits Resources page here.  

    Please drop by and click LIKE?  ~ Den

    Corbett Harrison's Facebook Page 

    The National Writing Project Digital Writing Page

    National Writing Project  Digital IS

    Be sure to check out the Digital IS webpage as well!

    Vicki Spandel and Jeff Hicks on Facebook 6-Trait Gurus  

    Don't miss their new SixTraitsGurus Blog

    National Writing Project - Help Keep It Alive!

    NWP's web resources are spectacular.  Join for NWP Interactive  Free!

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Word Mandalas & Pizza Memories

    Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits (Online Graduate Class)

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Barry Lane's YouTube Channel!

    Barry Lane!
    YouTube - Explode a Moment with Barry Lane

    This is a terrific mini lesson from Barry Lane. He shows (not tells) how to explode a moment into a full page of rich writing. The visuals in this video will catch any student's attention. I've called this technique the Magnified Moment. It's also tied to the idea of using imaginary binoculars to really see the details of an event. Fun to watch, this video is part of "Barry in a Box", a book and dvd Barry is selling on his website:

    A Horn for Louis, how Louis Armstrong found his passion. Great anecdotes about Armstrong, Marc Chagall, and Harry Houdini that lead to Kimmel's books. Children's author Eric Kimmel describes how to find your passion. More information about Eric's work at

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Writing Process / 6-Traits / Web 2.0

    Here's my stab at creating a poster that shows the relationships between the writing process, 6-traits, and web 2.0. ~ Dennis

    Click here for a much larger version that you can use as a poster. (Warning it's a big file!)

    Right click link to open in a new window. Then right click image for download options.

    Do you agree with this view? Suggestions? Additions? Questions?

    I'm listening! ~ Dennis

    Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits (Online Graduate Class).

    Saturday, May 28, 2011

    Help Kids Write! Animated posters

    Help Kids Write is a wonderful resource!

    This site is from LaRae Kendrick, a veteran teacher and nationally know presenter on 6-Tratis.  She's created some very clever posters to help kids remember the traits.

    Each page features a character who embodies the trait. Included are essential ideas about each trait. This would make a great smart-board intro to each trait!

    Here's a link to Ida Ideas! You can click through all of the traits from this page.

    tags: "6-traits training 6-traits"

    Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC)!

    Twitter for K-3? Think about it!

      • I have been itching to write this Teachers Guide to Twitter for a while now - hoping to encourage K-3 Teachers and others, to give Twitter a try. Many of our visitors have expressed that it is all too confusing - so - I will do my best to unravel the 'mystery' behind Twitter - it is worth hang in there with me...
    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Best websites: Working With English Language Learners

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Writing Tips, Tech Tips, English Ideas

      • I like to begin the term in any class that I'm teaching by asking my students some questions about themselves as writers so that I can better understand their learning style. After a while, I developed a variety of writing assignments around the questions that I tend to ask. I usually use one of these writing assignments very early in the term, so that I can learn something about the students' backgrounds. We might discuss all the questions underlying these assignments, but they'd only write an extended piece on one of the questions. In a composition class, the question would be the basis of an essay.

      • These audience analysis techniques ask students to think about their readers from a slightly different point of view (as an opponent in a soccer game, for instance), or to think about the similarities and differences that they have to their readers. The exercises lean more toward persuasive and informative writing assignments. Though they could be rephrased or adapted for other uses.
      • The activity, inspired by a similar task described by Shelbie Witte, asks students to design and explain a tattoo for a character from Romeo and Juliet.
      • This is a training exercise.  It helps condition the muscles necessary for making haiku.

      • In what could be considered a model of using off-the-shelf tech tools for a high-impact class project, a writing class spent the fall semester creating resources to help victims of online bullies. The Tech Therapy team talks with Mark Marino, an assistant professor of writing at University of Southern California who led the effort, and one of his students about their online campaign.
    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.