Do schools need a good writing curriculum? After all, with spell and grammar checkers, texting, instant messaging and Twitter, among others, who needs writing lessons? It seems that in the midst of all this, many are given the illusion that the art of meaningful writing has lost its importance.
Seven years ago when Bailly Elementary School staff conducted its annual review of schoolwide test scores and students’ writing prompts, they put improving writing skills and understanding the qualities of good writing at the top of the needs list. Immediately it became a school goal for Bailly students to improve their writing skills.
A committee was formed to research several writing programs and they became interested in the six-trait writing method. The premise of this model is that successful writing strategies are based on six traits: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency and conventions, and that using these traits in classroom instruction improves student writing performance. We collected books as samples for each trait to use as tools in all the classrooms.
The next action changed our writing culture at Bailly School forever. We found one of the most amazing literacy consultants, a certified six-trait trainer, who came to Bailly and made the six-trait model come alive before our very eyes.
There a lot of good educational consultants, but very few can go into any classroom and successfully teach a lesson at different age levels. The trainer did just that — actually went to classrooms at each grade level and taught a mini-lesson while teachers observed and took notes.
Our entire staff was motivated with new ideas and strategies that could be put to use immediately. We have used the six traits ever since. We even have a hallway called Writers Way with banners for each of the six traits displayed as a daily reminder to students.
The trainer comes back to our school each year and adds to our knowledge, not only in writing but in literacy as well. During the visit, parents come to Back to School Night and get a taste of what we are doing and learn how they can help at home with writing.
It’s been a few years and our ISTEP writing scores show dramatic improvement. All our teachers take great pride in knowing that everyone is helping develop the art of writing with our students. The six-trait writing model is now used throughout the Duneland school district K-12.
Students become confident writers, not always realizing writing is an underlying factor in all subjects taught. It’s that hidden subject — writing —that makes the difference.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.