6 Traits of Writing – Ideas

This year is my 2nd year teaching writing. While I have been here for four years, the first two were spent teaching math to the 4th graders while the 4th grade teacher taught Language Arts to my 5th graders. We switched last year for a number of reasons, but because of the switch, last year’s writing curriculum was a bit scattered.

I knew what “paper” was coming next – personal narrative, how-to essay, formal letter, etc. – but didn’t really throw in much “instruction”, per se. I mean, we had several discussions on good introductions/conclusions, and at my school we use Four Square organizers so we spent the first few weeks refreshing the kids’ memories on how to use a Four Square. But there wasn’t much else. And I didn’t like that!

After much thought over the summer, I decided to implement teaching the 6 traits of writing. During the big back-to-school sale at TeachersPayTeachers, I purchased Down Under Teacher’s Six Traits VOICES Bulletin Board Headers and Cards. I created a bulletin board on the back of my bookcases after doing some rearranging (wish I had more wall space, but you gotta work with what you have!). I also purchased Ruth Culham’s 6+1 Traits of Writing to guide my teaching.

I started out the year by discussing the trait of Voice. I was going to start with Ideas but I had some great ideas for Voice that I really wanted to use to get the kids excited for writing!

To begin our discussion, we first talked briefly about each of the 6 writing traits and why we would be learning about them. We talked about how they can make us better writers if we are intentional about including them in our writing!

I love and have always loved the book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use it! If you don’t know this story, it is a MUST read!! It tells the story of the three little pigs from the perspective of the wolf, who wants to make you think he is innocent. I shared this story with my class, asking them to pay attention to how the author made you feel about the wolf, the main character.

After reading, we talked about how the author was trying to portray the wolf; most of them agreed that he is seen as an innocent victim that we should feel sorry for. I described how this is the “voice” that the author chose to use in his book. He could have made the wolf continue to seem evil, or maybe made it a mysterious story, but he chose a voice of pity and innocence.

I then had the students choose a fairy tale that they could rewrite from the perspective of a “misrepresented” character. I reminded them to think about the voice they wanted to use – how did they want to portray their character? These were SO well done! I gave them about 30-45 minutes total over the course of a few days and allowed students to share when everyone had finished. Some of the fairy tales my students did included “Snow White”, writing from the queen’s perspective, “Hansel and Gretel”, writing from the witch’s perspective, and “Little Red Riding Hood”, writing from the wolf’s perspective. I was quite impressed with how well they did and hope to share some of them with you as soon as I collect their journals in which they are written!

The next activity we did I got from Ruth Culham’s book. I used Spotify to play for the students multiple versions of the song “Hey Jude” by the Beatles.  I love this website because you can search for and play full versions of songs without having to pay for them or download them! I used versions by Elvis, Bing Crosby, Earl Scruggs, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra, as well as the original. As I played each version, the students wrote down thoughts about each one – images they got when listening, words that described the version, etc. After listening to all of the versions, we made a big list of everything the students came up with. They tended to enjoy the more upbeat, exciting versions rather than some of the ones that made you feel like you were going to fall asleep 🙂

I asked the students how listening to music can relate to writing. They realized that, even if I gave each student the same topic, no one would write the exact same thing – everyone’s work would “sound” different, just as each version of the same song was so different from the others! I think this is really what drove the point home.

We then made a master list on chart paper of all different voice descriptors (ideas can be found in Ruth Culham’s book) which I will leave posted in our room throughout the year.

As a last fun activity, I read the books Diary of a Worm and Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin. We thought about the voice the author used in each of these – silly, humorous, sarcastic at times – and then I gave the students an opportunity to choose an animal’s diary to write.

I am so excited to move on to all of the other traits. In fact, we started Ideas yesterday, but that will have to wait for another post! I really believe this will pay off in the students’ writing.

How do you teach the 6 traits? I’d love to hear more ideas!!

PS: You should most definitely go check out my friend Jenny’s blog! She and I went to Grove City together and now she is teaching 1st grade at my school. Her classroom is the CUTEST and I am so excited that she is joining the teacher blogging world! Yay Mrs. B!


Classroom Management

I posted this last school year but am re-posting to join up with What the Teacher Wants’ Behavior Management Linky Party!




Classroom management is something I struggled with during my first student teaching placement in a 3rd grade classroom. I simply did not yet have the confidence needed to discipline the kids, especially with my co-op always in the room (I’m one of those people who works better without other adults watching me…). It was a struggle, but I eventually found my groove. There is simply nothing a college class can do to prepare you for an actual classroom in terms of management!

When I entered my next placement in a 6th grade classroom, I was even more concerned because I wasn’t sure how 6th graders would react to being disciplined, and I didn’t want to be that teacher! But surprisingly, dealing with the older kids was even easier for me. I showed them right away that I would respect them as long as they respected me. This seemed like such a small thing at the time, but it made a world of a difference. I had very few problems with these kiddos and I knew that I was starting to find my stride as a teacher.

Enter my own classroom. I knew I needed some sort of procedure that would be implemented from the start that was fair, easy to handle, and fun for the kids. Pulling together a few ideas from classrooms I had observed over the years, I came up with KICKBACK Time!

Every student has the above sticker on the corner of his/her desk. I simply used easy peel post-it stickers and printed the KICKBACK letters on labels. Each letter in the word KICKBACK stands for two minutes of free time on Friday afternoons, meaning that every Friday afternoon the students receive 16 minutes of free time. However, if a student misbehaves, disobeys, or is other disrespectful, they will be asked to cross off a letter, resulting in the loss of two minutes of free time. For every letter crossed off, they continue to lose two minutes of free time. They are also required to fill out a form that explains why they lost a letter and how they will fix that behavior. This form gets sent home and signed by a parent so that the parents are aware of what happened in school that day:

KICKBACK Behavior Note

Students not only lose letters for misbehaving but also for not being prepared in class. For example, I have had several students forget to bring their homework planners in from their backpack every day. This was unacceptable in 5th grade, so I started to take away KICKBACK letters every time they forgot. And has it happened since?? Not once!

The kids love the free time at the end of a busy week. They are allowed to do anything they’d like to in the classroom – draw on the board, play games (I have a good selection of board games), go on the computer (I draw names every week for this), sit and talk, read a book, etc. Sometimes we take a vote and go to the gym, or the roof if it is a nice day out (the roof is a huge area on top of the building where the kids can run around = don’t worry, it is completely fenced in and 100% safe!), but usually we end up hanging out in the classroom.

If a student has lost a letter (or 2, or 3…), they are asked to sit at their desk quietly until their time is up. I keep meaning to pick up a timer so that they can visually see how much time they have left. After they get up, we quickly talk about their wrong behavior and how it can be fixed.

Now that I am in my 4th year of the system, I feel like I finally have it down to a T. I am not afraid to take away letters like I sometimes was in my 1st year, and I know the students benefit from the consequence because I have seen a decrease in the negative behaviors when letters are taken away. They love KICKBACK time and don’t want to miss out on the fun!

So that’s how I deal with management issues. What is your management procedure??