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My 6-Trait Materials: Original Reading & Writing Ideas from My Classroom
I truly believe if you invest the time to teach writing authentically and well, then state tests will take care of themselves. Writing skills create strong, independent thinkers.

I have had a long and successful teaching experience using the six writing traits in my classroom. In fact...

  • I am a six trait-trainer in Northern Nevada, offering inservice classes and workshops through the Northern Nevada Writing Project. For many years, I served as the NNWP's Trait Project Coordinator, designing new courses and workshops by collaborating with other teachers from the local writing project.
  • For six years, I served as a "Head Reader" for the State of Nevada's trait-assessed writing exam. Today, I independently score practice writing prompts for a dozen schools that hire me every year to provide them with formative trait data.
  • I strategically teach my students to become users of trait language as they discuss both their reading and writing assignments.
  • And most recently, I have worked with a colleague to create trait-based practice materials for all middle school teachers in Nevada to use as their students prepare for our state test, which has recently changed from narrative to expository.

Traits are the language of my lessons, my lesson-planning and my classroom. On this page, I freely share some of my favorite trait materials that I created over the years. I hope my efforts inspires you to share any original materials with me or with others!

A note about copyright: I freely post these original materials on my website for other teachers to make use of. If you borrow or adapt any of my ideas from this page, all I ask is that you cite me with original credit.

Seven of my Original Trait-inspired Writing Lessons:

A Poetry Lesson: So Much Depends Upon Poems

Mentor Text: Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Focus Trait:
Support Trait:
Word Choice

Lesson Summary: Inspired by both William Carlos Williams and the main character in Sharon Creech's Love That Dog, the writer will create four original 16-word poems that capture interesting images.  The writer will then choose a favorite 16-word poem and ask, "Why would so much depend upon that image to someone else?"  The writer can then create a short story about an original character who might have written the 16-word poem.

Voice Lesson: Inventing Stories about your Clothes

Mentor Text: Any J. Peterman Clothing Catalogue
Focus Trait:
Support Trait:
Word Choice

Lesson Summary:The J. Peterman Clothing Catalogue is famous for its well-written descriptions of the clothes and accessories they sell.  Each item is given its own unique history through crafted writing descriptions, often involving stories and memories that are associated with what's for sale.  After studying this famous catalogue’s wonderful descriptions and story-telling for its clothing items or accessories, students will impersonate the voice of the catalogue for an item they would like to sell.

A Word Play Lesson: Nash-ing the Animals

Mentor Text: Several poems by Ogden Nash
Focus Trait: Word Choice
Support Trait: Idea Development

Lesson Summary: Everyone loves the poetry of Ogden Nash!  His silly style and word play entertain people of all ages.  For this mini-lesson, students will discuss some of Mr. Nash’s poetry on animals and write their own short poem(s), imitating his style, in their writer’s notebooks. 

A Paragraphing Lesson: A Scientific Mishap

Mentor Text: Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey
Focus Trait:
Support Trait:
Idea Development

Lesson Summary: After enjoying the clever title and humorous writing style of Dav Pilkey's Dogzilla, students will imagine what type of scientific lab mishap created Pilkey's title character. Then, they will brainstorm other interesting creatures that might be created during scientific lab accidents. Using this lesson's graphic organizer, students will create a three-part story that tells the story of a scientific mishap that leads to the creation of a new creature.

An Organization Lesson: The Sibling Report

Mentor Text: Tub-boo-boo by Margie Palatini
Focus Trait:
Support Trait:

Lesson Summary: After sharing Margie Palatini's charming "bad-situation-that-only-gets-worse tale", Tub-boo-boo, writers will plan a story about a humorous household accident that gets worse before it gets better.  Borrowing Palatini's exciting idea from her book, students will narrate the story as if they are a sibling of the accident victim who is reporting on the situation from the front lawn.   The voice of the narrator, though not a real news reporter, must sound like one.

A Poetry Lesson: One Minute in Time Poems

Mentor Text: 10:15 on a Saturday Night by The Cure
Focus Trait:
Idea Development
Support Trait:
Word Choice

Lesson Summary: After updating my I-pod with some of my favorites 80’s hits, I realized that The Cure’s song “10:15 on a Saturday Night” might inspire some great poetry from my students.  This song explains what happens in one slowed-down minute as the singer is waiting for an important phone call, while also utilizing some catchy onomatopoeia to emphasize the seconds ticking by.  Students will choose their own moment in time to slow down and use onomatopoeia to emphasize the passing of time as they write their own free-verse poems.

A Poetry Lesson: Color My World Grey and Blue

Mentor Text: Grey Street by the Dave Matthews Band
Focus Trait:
Idea Development
Support Trait:
Word Choice

Lesson Summary: After listening to the song “Grey Street” by the Dave Matthews Band, as well as the song “Blue is a Mood” by Blu Cantrell, students will explore the lyrics and discover what role color can play when combined with a particular setting. Once they are armed with this information, students will choose their own color and setting on which to write their own poem or song.



6-Trait Resources for Helping 7th and 8th Graders Pass an Expository Writing Prompt:

During the 2009-2010 school year, I took a break from teaching inservice classes to work on a collaborative project with my amazing colleague, Cambell Valle. The state of Nevada has recently changed our eighth grade writing test from a narrative prompt to an expository prompt. We knew many teachers had no materials to assess their students' abilities with expository prompts, so we created a set of six practice prompts to be used by any teacher in Nevada preparing for the writing test in middle school.

Our project created three practice prompts for seventh grade, which we hope teachers will use in the Spring of their students' seventh grade year, and three practice prompts for eighth grade, which we hope teachers will use in the Fall, right before the eighth graders take the test in either January or February.

These resources are stored at the WritingFix, and truly would be helpful to any teacher working on expository writing with middle school students. Click on the pictures below to access the pages at WritingFix where they are stored.



Trait-inspired Resources & Activites from my Reading & Writing Workshops:

Little Red Riding Hooks

This one-pager is the first original thing I posted online that teachers really seemed to like. It has been featured in a number of print resources now. I use this on the overhead when we are discussing options for introductions during writers workshop. We also use it during reading workshop as a technique to discuss alternative chapter introductions to the chapter we've just read.

Six Trait Trading Cards

This is a project I am currently working on. I am trying to get my students to ultimately build be a deck of thirty trait trading cards. Each year, I end up with a few really good examples that go in my permanent deck. These are the instructions that get my students personifying the trait skills into students at Hogswrite School for Writers.

Reading Workshop

This is my newest version of my Reading Workshop directions to my kids. If you end up using any of these options for your own Workshop then sharing with other teachers, I'd appreciate you citing my website as the original source. Last year a school district in Florida kind of "ripped this off" from me by distributing their adaptation of it to all its GT teachers without any citation to me, which I don't think is very professional. It's not that hard to cite other educators, folks!

Narrative Self-Responding Questions

This is the first resource the NNWP asked me if they could include in one of their publications. It was featured in the NNWP's Secondary Writing Guide back in 2004, and it inspired me to post other things I've made here at my website.

Word Study Bingo: My Three Versions

My students use these Word Study Bingo tasks when they are writing about vocabulary words we are learning. Assigning these tasks to my medium and high-leveled learners gives me an opportunity to do small group or one-on-one work with my students who struggle with vocabulary acquisition.


WritingFix is the best website ever. And not just because they have several of my lessons posted! This site covers every writing topic out there!

If you're not a member of the NNWP's Writing Lesson of the Month Ning, change that fact right now! Click here and create a profile to begin receiving the monthly lessons!

The NNWP's Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Guide is a great teaching resource. You can order your own copy by visiting the NNWP's Publications Page.

Creating Writers through 6-Trait Writing
by Vicki Spandel. A really great teaching resource!

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins. My three classroom copies see no dust as they're passed from reader to reader.

My husband also keeps a webpage of his lessons and his professional development resources. Click here to visit his site.

Click here to see some of my past students who are "famous" because they were published at the WritingFix website.





hometrait materialsmy students' notebooksexpress yourself!no busy work!don't plagiarize!write to an author!be an author!note passers!my family and pets

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