Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jay Middle School - 2009-2010

School has begun for many teachers and so they are busy planning the year ahead. Many are already sleep deprived - as they try to juggle the diverse needs of the students in their rooms, prepare the curriculum for each child, and attend workshops.

Here at BPI, we are also gearing up for the year. We are delighted to be asked back to Jay again to work with middle school teachers at Jay Middle School.

Jay is a district in western Maine. Students usually go from K-12 in this system, with
the buildings housing the Elementary, Middle, and High Schools all geographically close. The town is very supportive of the schools as are the teachers - many are long time residents.

Jay has been involved in a literacy initiative for over 5 years. Administration and school board have supported the teachers with funds, resources, and time. Teachers in turn have committed and worked hard (nothing new for them) to fine tune the literacy strategies and embed them into the curriculum. All grade levels participate and communicate within and across grade levels. It is amazing!

Last year, as many of you know, grades K-4 adopted and implemented 6 + 1 traits into their language arts program. The results were excellent and they produced a curriculum, once again embedding the strategies in their daily lessons.

This year, the middle school will be implementing 6 + 1 traits. We plan to include content areas as well.

We start in middle September and we will keep you posted.

We invite you to sign up as a follower to this blog:)

Enjoy the start up in your school as well and please don't hesitate to post comments or questions. I try to check the blog once a week! Darlene

Saturday, August 1, 2009

6 + 1 Trait Writing Site by NWREL

I have just discovered a great site: 6 + 1 Trait Writing Site by NWREL. It is published and maintained by NWREL and gives teachers all of the information they need to get started with 6 +1 or to use to recalibrate themselves after 6 + 1 training.

The site is divided into 5 sections:
  1. About
  2. How to Use
  3. Scoring
  4. Products
  5. Staff Development
The sections most pertinent to teachers are:
  • About
  • How to Use
  • Scoring
About provides the research and history of the development and implementation of 6 + 1 traits, a rubric now being used in the U. S. by many states to measure student writing development, answers to frequently asked questions, and definitions of the traits. The rubric combines the best of assessment and educational theory since it is organized by developmental stages - thus providing a continuum for growth and instruction - and is embedded in the writing process (see the FREE download of the writing process on the right - it will coordinate the traits with the appropriate stages of the process). The rubric has also been written for appropriate student use according to grade level.

How to Use is a great resource for teachers at all levels of understanding. It begins with how to get started, moves to sample lesson plans at various levels, and ends with prompts for a variety of writing genres.

This section provides information teachers have been trying to locate for some time. Since the earlier publications and research dealt with the primary level, most teachers at the middle and upper levels have had to create materials on their own. Many , realizing the necessity of consistency across grade levels, have been looking for guidance in order to coordinate their efforts. It is available here.

With the growing implementation of the 6 +1 traits, there has been more recent publications for the middle and upper grade levels. Here are some of the texts I recommend and have used successfully in the schools where I consulted.

Seeing with New Eyes - this is an excellent text with an updated approach to the traits. It is published in conjunction with NWREL and provides a practical approach to integrating 6 + 1 traits into the school curriculum. It can be ordered on

Traits of Good Writing is a new series published in 2008, providing one book for each grade, 4-6. This book is based on a compendium of state standards compiled by the Mc Rel corporation. They are generic, similar to many individual state standards and are printed in the front of the book. What I found useful was their focus on content area writing - the predominant form of writing at the middle and upper levels and one most teachers find challenging. If you visit their website: Shell Education you will find many other resources, including prep for SAT writing.

Scoring, is the third and final section most teachers will find beneficial. This section contains
scoring guides or rubrics. They have included three teachers can download for free. They are:
  • the complete 6 + 1 rubric
  • the condensed one pager
  • the beginning continuum
All three have their purpose and use. Many teachers use the complete 6 + 1 for "formal" assessments, but the one pager for daily use. While primary teachers find the continuum more helpful. Your grade level and purpose will determine which one you will choose.

This section also contains scored samples of work for teachers to use with students or for their own pupose to recalibrate their scoring practices. What makes this section so valuable is the search engine they have install. Teachers can choose the trait, the level of performance, and the grade level to find examples officially scored by NWREL personnel. This is a great way for teachers to have a clear goal in their minds when assessing students. This is also a great avenue for providing examples for teachers based on the rubric and guidelines provided with each paper.

The third category in this section is called practice scoring . Here you will find examples of writing you can score blind and then check your scoring with NWREL's scores. Once again, you are allowed the option of choosing what traits and what levels you would like to score. All writing samples are easily read.

While this is a great resource for teachers, it is a great resource for students as well. As we all know, the use of rubrics with students gives them a clear understanding of the end product. Discussions around these samples will help students clarify concrete expectations in their mind and a process of how to get their themselves. Dialogs around how to move a 3 to a 5 will help students analyze their own writing and begin to develop what Graves calls "the other self" - the audience that listens and critiques.

The final category in this section is an advertisement for NWREL to provide large scale assessment services. While this is not within many schools' budgets right now, they do provide examples of reports that teachers could replicate in some ways - if a technology teacher might consider the use of excel.

If you are interested in pursuing the 6 + 1 traits, please look in our archives to find some of the schools who I have teamed with and postings of their teachers' lessons or go to our site: BPI Writing Initiative (link at the top of the page), where we have more information including a list of read alouds for teaching the traits.