In the early 1980s, creative teachers in school districts across the country decided there must be a better way to gather useful information about student writing performance rather than with single scores or standardized tests. Teachers wanted an instrument that would provide accurate, reliable feedback to students and teachers, a tool that would help guide instruction. When an exhaustive search didn't produce such a tool, they rolled up their sleeves and began the difficult process of creating an analytic scoring system that would be valid, honest, and practical.
After evaluating thousands of papers at all grade levels, the teachers identified common characteristics of good writing. These qualities became the framework for the 6-trait analytical model, which has now grown to include a seventh, +1 trait. The model uses common language and scoring guides to identify the traits year-to-year as we refine our idea of what ”good” writing looks like.
Not everyone uses the 6+1 traits: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation. Some use four traits; some use more. However, these same six or seven characteristics show up on everyone's list in one form or another. The 6+1 Trait components are the foundation for Education Northwest's writing assessment model and the basis for the descriptive criteria we use to define the qualities of good writing at different levels of achievement. Once teachers know the traits well and score consistently between rates and amongst groups, the link to instruction becomes clear. This is where the real fun begins.
Our 6+1 Trait® Writing Model of Instruction and Assessment is now used in virtually every state in the country, not to mention American Samoa, Amsterdam, France, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, China, Venezuela, Australia, Turkey, and Bahrain. It's the model or the source of the model used to score student papers in numerous state assessments and district assessments in virtually every state. Teachers from primary grades through college have embraced the 6+1 Trait model and not just English teachers, either. The traits are used by teachers of mathematics, science, social studies, foreign language, art, music- anyone for whom writing is an important part of instruction.
We at Education Northwest are proud to be part of the 6+1 Trait analytical writing experience. The link to instruction has become so real and so powerful that master teachers continue to use and refine the model after years of application while other educators are just beginning to discover it for themselves. We continue this good work by updating scoring criteria, developing new instructional materials, and attending to the staff development needs of educators across the globe.