Applying the 6+1 Trait® Writing Model to the Common Core State Standards


May 12, 2014


Female student writing in a classroom at her desk

As schools work to shift instruction and train teachers to help students meet the Common Core State Standards, the 6+1 Trait® Writing Model of Instruction & Assessment delivers a proven approach to conveying experiences and presenting careful analyses, well defended claims, and clear information in writing.

Developed by Education Northwest in the early 1980s, the 6+1 Traits model represents an organized, highly detailed framework for describing the quality of a piece of writing. The model has been adopted by schools and districts across the country and, with new rubrics aligned specifically to the Common Core, is more relevant than ever.

Jacqueline Raphael, who manages the project, notes that under the Common Core, educators from across disciplines will be involved in assessing student writing and helping students improve their writing skills across a range of topics and purposes. Because of this shift, educators will need a common language for talking about the quality of written work.

“This common language must be clear, intuitive, and effective at capturing in student-friendly terms what students need to do to write powerfully,” she says. “When we help teachers in our workshops and institutes learn to use this common language with their students, we’re teaching them to make sure students have a deep understanding of the characteristics of high-quality writing.”

She also points to the connections between writing and reading under Common Core, and how students can apply the same concepts for improving their writing that they learn through the model to their close reading of texts by any author. “The 6+1 Trait language can be used to great advantage by students to understand, analyze, and appreciate the written word, which helps them learn to convey information and experiences more effectively in writing.”

I believe the real power comes when students internalize the traits—when they cannot help thinking about voice or organization or word choice when they write—and apply what they’ve learned as they revise. When schools make a systemic, coordinated effort to implement the 6+1 Trait model over time, it’s really exciting to witness.
—Jacqueline Raphael

Raphael comes to her role with a background in creative writing and draws from that passion in her work with educators and students. “Writing is essential to success in our world,” she says. “It is also art form and, for many students, a window into their inner selves. When you’re writing well—when you own the writing, rather than doing it solely to meet someone else’s expectations—you learn about your feelings, what you really do or do not understand, and how you work as a communicator and an artist. And, because there are so many ways to approach writing, learning to do it well teaches you a lot about yourself.”