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Assessing Students' Writing - A 6 Traits Approach Article.pdf

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SPOTLIGHT:ASSESSMENTAssessing Students' Writing: A Six Traits ApproachThe Historyofthe6+1TRAITS™ofWritingOnce upon atime,way, way back in theearly 1980s, creative teachersinschooldistricts across the country like Beaverton,OR, and Missoula, MT, decided they didn'twanttolive with their standardizedor ho-listic writing assessments anymore. Theyknew there mustbe abetterway tc getaccurate, reliable,anduseful informationaboutstudent writing performance. Teach-ers wantedabetter system.They wanted something theycouldteachfrom.They wantedashared vocabularythey could use with students, parents,andthe community. Whenanexhaustivesearch didn't produce suctn an instrument,they rolled up their sleeves and began thelong,difficult processofcreatingan ana-lytic scoring system which would fit thebill.Itwasn't easy-theroadwas not smooth.In some places (notably, Beaverton,OR,the most direct originof theNWREL6+1TRAIT^'^ model) teachers read stacks andstacks of essays and sorted them into piles{not always agreeingonwhat they likedand admired either,Imight add)...Pile1 :Really great stuffPile 2: OK,butstill needing workPile3:Whew! Needs extensive revisionand editingAfter sorting, these teachers begantcexamine what the specificsofthe paperswere that caused the separation into differ-ent piles. Lists were compiled, descriptorsof quality werecreated,and common char-acteristics,or'TRAITS," emerged.Other places (suchasMissoula,MT)began by meeting with teachersonaregu-lar basis where they talkedandsharedexamplesofstudent work, grade levelbygrade level, K-12. They examined in greatdetail what student writing performancelooked likeatdifferent stagesofcompe-tenceand bywritersatdifferent ages.From this discussion, qualities thatall"good"writing shared,nomatter whattheage of the writer, bubbled to the surface and,lo and beheld, TRAITS!Regardlessof themethod,onethingallearly analytic writing assessment gurus hadin common was the amountofthought, timeand energy that went into this processtomakeitvalid,honest,andreflectivecfwhatstudentsdowhen they write.In the end,teachers were discoveringforthemselveswhat they knewallalong...thatforwritingassessment to be instructiveithastomirrorwhat gcod writing looks like.Andbeforeitcan be taughttostudents, teachers neededto define, for themselves, the hidden criteriathatlayunderthesurfaceofmost writingprocess classrooms.Asitturns out,and tomakealong storyshort, teachers discovered that writing (stu-dentorotherwise)wasinfluencedby thesamesixcharacteristics:• Ideas {details, development, focus)• Organization {internal structure)" Voice{tone,style,purpose,andaudience)• Word Choice {precise languageandphrasing)• Sentence Fluency (correctness, rhythm,and cadence)• Conventions {mechanical correctness)(Now wealso lookatPresentation:handwriting, formatting, layout)Not everyone usesSIXtraits; someusefour, someusemore.But in thelongrun,these samesixcharacteristics showup on

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Term
Spring
Professor
MichaelWenz
Tags
Writing, Writer, Montessori method

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