Six-Trait Writing for Young Children


Ideas are the heart of the message, the content of the piece, and the main theme, together with all the details that enrich and develop that theme. When the ideas are strong, the message is clear or the storyline is easy to follow. Things make sense. In the early years, their strong ideas can be documented mostly in their drawings and somewhat in the text.

Look for complexity, attention to detail, clarity, focus, sense of purpose, and a message or story.


Organization is the internal structure of writing - like the framework of a building or the skeleton of an animal. It holds things together, and gives the whole piece form and shape. Good organization helps a reader understand a writer's message or follow a story with ease. A writer with strong organization stays focused on one key idea (in information writing) or one main plot (in a story). For younger children, organization is represented with balance and harmony. Text and pictures fill the pages in a balanced way, creating labels and other text. Young writers begin to develop a sense of sequencing, like putting things in order, and grouping. Also a strong sense of beginning and ending are good indicators of organization.

Look for pictures and/or text balanced on the page, coordination between text and picture; multiple pictures that show sequence; grouping of details and ideas; text that shows sequence (first, then, after); text that shows connections (because, so, when, however); sense of beginning (one day, last week, when I was little); sense of ending (so finally, that's all; at last); cause-and-effect structure in text or pictures; problem-solving structure in text or pictures; chronological structure in text or pictures; surprises that work; and sticking with one main topic or idea.



The voice is the writer coming through the writing. It is the heart and soul of the writing, the magic, the wit, the feeling, the life, and breath. It is unique to each writer, imparting a personal flavor that is his/her style. For the young child, this will show up as individuality, sparkle, love of writing and drawing, passion and enthusiasm. Drawings will express emotion. Individual expression is visible through oral storytelling, facial expressions and in art.

Look for individuality, sparkle, personality, liveliness, playfulness, emotion, the unusual, taking a chance by trying something new or different; recognizing that the writing/drawing is both for self and audience; tailoring communication to an audience; and response to voice in the writing/art of others.

Word Choice

Word choice is the use of rich, colorful, precise language that communicates not just in a functional way, but in a way that moves and enlightens the reader. Strong word choice paints pictures in the reader's mind. Strong word choice clarifies, explains or expands ideas. Effective word choice is an ability to use everyday language naturally in a fresh and unexpected way. Young writers will demonstrate this by understanding that letters form words, that written words communicate a specific meaning, correct word use and originality, a willingness to experiment with words or even invent words. (authorstrated)

Look for play with letter forms, letters, letter strings, first words, label, etc.; stretching to use new words; curiosity about words; verbs; precise words; unusual words or phrases; striking words or phrases; and imitation of words or phrases heard in literature.

Sentence Fluency

Sentence fluency is the rhythm and flow of the language, the sound of word patterns, the way in which the writing plays to the ear, not just the eye. How does it sound when read aloud? Fluent writing has a power, rhythm, and movement. For early writers, we will see this fluency demonstrated with the rhythm and cadence in oral language, and by noticing how the writer listens to sentence patterns, rhythmic language, and rhymes.

Look for experimenting with word strings to form sentences; rudimentary sentences with a subject and verb; use of more complex sentences; multiple sentences with different beginning, varied lengths; rhythm, cadence in oral or written language; long and short sentences; and love of rhythmic language.


Conventions are textual traditions. They have grown out of a need for some conformity to make text penetrable and easier to follow. This includes spelling, punctuation, grammar and usage, paragraphing, and capitalization. Beginning conventions include writing from left to right, or beginning at the top of the page and working your way downward, or facing all the letters with the proper orientation, or putting spaces between your words. These all need to be learned. Discovery of any punctuation marks soon leads to exploration into their use - when and how to use them. Students must also first associate sounds (consonant sounds, then vowels) with letters and play with letter strings to form words before moving to prephonetic, phonetic, and close-to-correct or sometimes correct spelling. Readable spelling is a fine goal at primary level. Conventionally correct spelling is a lifelong goal which virtually no one fully masters without the support of helpful resources.

Look for left-to-right orientation on the page; up to down orientation on the page; letters facing appropriate directions; distinction between upper and lowercase letters; spaces between words; spaces between lines; name on the page; use of a title; use of labels; use of indentation to show a new paragraph; dots over i's; exploration with punctuation; rudimentary spelling; and readable spelling.

The Six Traits Primary Version
Six Trait Assessment for Beginning Writers