Thinking back on my experience teaching in the inner city of Cleveland, I think about the difficulties I experienced teaching journal writing. In the beginning of the year, this was a very difficult thing for my second grader to do. I wanted my students to write for ten minutes each morning using a prompt, such as: what did you do this weekend? what things make you happy? What makes you sad? All different prompts that i believed the students could answer without a problem. However the moment I told the students to begin writing it was a sense of fear that came over them. They instantly had no idea what to write and were completely stumped. It was as if I was asking them to write on a topic they had never heard of before. They could not grasp the idea of writing for any amount of time. This was something that needed to change throughout the year. I had to come up with different ideas to encourage the students to actually write during journal time.
I started by encouraging the students to talk with their neighbors about what they wanted to write about before they began writing, this in a sense worked as the students pre-write/they conferenced with their friends and came up with a number of ideas to write about. Next big challenge was to get them to put their thoughts on paper. I had to explain that during journal time the spelling of tough words were not important, I wanted them to just use their inventive spelling and write all they could about the prompt given.
It was around this time when I began attending different writing workshops. The 6 + 1 writing traits were in my option the answer to my problems! The workshop went through each of the traits and gave me different books to use to help the students understand each trait and to help me as a teacher teach the students each trait. The first trait is Ideas: having the student choose an interesting topic, this was something I needed to encourage my students to start doing, having them come up with their own topics to write about that interested them. Next was organization: explaining to the students there is a structure to writing, my students understood this concept, however did not understand how to get the finished product. Next, is Voice: having the students writing sound like them, I tried to make the students understand they had to have a stance in their writing they had to care about the topic, and once they cared about their writing, their writing improved. Next, word choice: encouraging the use of rich language, my students made a word wall filled with ‘fancy words’ this encouraged the students to not use the same boring adjectives they always used in their writing. Next, Sentence Fluency: making the sentence flow more smoothly. This helped the students listen to their writing and use transitions in their writing that they use in their speaking. Next, Conventions: the rules of writing, this was an idea that the students worked on the entire year to improve their grammar and their sentence structure. Finally, Presentation: how the writing looks on the page, the students were working towards a final product, whether it be a book, or a typed paper they were always working towards a goal.
One of the main ideas I completely loved about the 6 + 1 writing traits was they were not to be taught one at a time, they were to be taught throughout the year, a teacher could start with conventions and then work on ideas, and come back to conventions, there was not right way to teach the traits to the students. This really intrigued me, I couldn’t believe there was no right way to teach these traits, I could come up with my own way of teaching them. After attending of all of workshops I collected a plethora of helpful lesson plans and books that would aid in my teaching of each of the writing traits.