Common Core and the Six Traits Connection

By Betty Hollas

Do the Six Traits of Writing connect to the Common Core State Standards for writing? If so, how? The answer is yes—perfectly.

In fact, teachers may be surprised at the number of different ways they can use the Six-Trait Writing framework to meet the new rigor and requirements of the Common Core standards and how dramatically their students’ writing performance will improve. In fact, these traits can prepare students at all levels for high-quality writing while satisfying the requirements of the Common Core.

Common Core State Standards for Writing

To understand the relationship between the Six Traits of Writing and the expectations of the Common Core State Standards for Writing, let’s take a close look at the standards.

Teachers who were to download the standards would see there are 4 strands: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. What ties the strands together are College and Career Readiness (CCR) Anchor Standards. Each strand is headed by anchor standards that are identical across all grades and content areas. Each anchor standard has a grade-specific standard translating the CCR statement into grade-appropriate, end-of-year expectations.

Next, let’s look at how the writing strand is organized. You’ll see there are no longer genres. Standards 1, 2, and 3 are the writing types or text types: Argument/opinion, informative/explanatory, and narrative. Standards 4, 5, and 6 (Production and Distribution) apply to all three of the writing types. Standards 7, 8, and 9 (Research) can include all three types of writing. Standard 10 (Range of Writing) wraps it all together with practice.

Six-Trait Writing

A common misconception is that Six-Trait Writing is a program or curriculum. Not true. It is a nationally acclaimed framework that enhances what teachers are already doing. It provides a common language or a way to talk about writing. It is a way for students to understand the difference between strong and weak writing and how to improve their own writing. It includes rubrics that students can use to get immediate self feedback on their writing. It lays a foundation based on the belief that what students can self-assess, they can revise.

The Six Traits are not new. Teachers are already familiar with the key concepts: Ideas—the heart of the message; organization—the internal structure of the piece; voice—the soul of the piece; word choice—the use of rich and precise language; sentence fluency—the flow of the language; and conventions—the level of correctness.

A Perfect Match

Clearly, the CCSS links to four specific traits: Ideas, organization, voice, and word choice. But take a step back and you’ll see the link between CCSS and Six Traits is far more sweeping. Both provide a vision of what quality writing looks like. Both drive students’ revision skills to achieve that level of quality.

As students learn revision skills, they become independent writers, as the Common Core requires. And that makes reaching the standards that much easier.

For a deeper look at how to use the Six Traits to meet new Common Core demands, check out SDE’s webinar Six-Trait Writing for Common Core Success: Creating Competent, Confident, and Successful Writers by veteran educator and author Betty Hollas.

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