Promoting Student Self-Assessment using the Six Traits of Writing

As teachers, we want to help our students learn to become excellent writers! One way we can do this is by teaching students how to revise their own writing. My favorite way to do this is using the Six Traits of Writing.

Help Students Learn the Six Traits of Writing
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You’ve likely already familiar with the six traits of writing: Ideas, Organization, Word Choice, Voice, Conventions and Sentence Fluency. These six traits can also be a great assessment tool to help your students reflect on and improve their own writing. That means less revising and red marks on writing for YOU to do! (I know, we all love using our flair pens– but keeping it to a minimum on student writing is ideal!)

For each trait, I have 4 questions listed that students can use to reflect upon their writing. Use these during your next writing project and have them focus on one trait each day. When they’re done, they will have improved their writing using the six traits!

Six Traits #1: Ideas

The idea(s) of the writing is the main topic or topics of the writing. While sometimes the ideas are set in stone (if students are given a topic), students are also given the opportunity to choose their own writing topics as well, and this is when it is important for them to assess their ideas.

Six Traits Ideas

Students should think about the purpose of their writing when they come up with their ideas. Have your students ask the following questions to assess the ideas in their writing:

  • Is this idea my own?
  • Did I try to make it interesting?
  • Have I written about this before?
  • What is my topic or message?

Six Traits #2: Organization

The organization of the writing is how it is structured. There are so many ways to organize writing. First off, there is the type of writing (story, poem, informative essay, etc.) Then there are different ways to organize the same information. There is no right or wrong way to organize, but the important thing for students to consider is if their writing flows and stays on topic.


Six Traits Organization

Have your students ask the following questions to assess the organization of their writing:

  • Do I have a strong opening?
  • Does my writing “flow”?
  • Do I stay on topic in my writing?
  • Do I have a clear concluding (ending) sentence or paragraph?


Six Traits #3: Word Choice

The word choice in a student’s writing is the vocabulary that is used to convey meaning. You may want students to use vocabulary words in their writing. And of course, you definitely want them to use a variety of words, and not repeat the same ones over and over!

Six Traits Word Choice

Have your students ask the following questions to themselves about their writing to assess their variety of word choice:

  • Do I use descriptive words (adjectives and adverbs)?
  • Do I use a variety of words (meaning I don’t repeat the same words)?
  • Do I use any unique words?
  • Do I use at least one vocabulary word?


Six Traits #4: Voice

Voice can be one of the trickiest of the six traits for students to understand. The voice of any writing passage is the tone and style of the writing. Simply put, does this writing sound like the author?
Six Traits Voice

To assess the voice of their writing, have students consider the following questions:

  • Does this writing sound like me?
  • Does it sound natural and not forced?
  • Do I use appropriate humor for the assignment?
  • Do I like what I wrote?

Six Traits #5: Conventions

The conventions are what students are probably the most familiar with revising in their writing. This is the nitty gritty- checking the grammar and spelling of the writing. The definition of “conventions” is the correctness of the writing.

Six Traits Conventions

Have your students check the conventions in their work using these questions as a guide:

  • Do I use capital letters at the beginning of every sentence?
  • Do I end each sentence with an end mark (period, question mark, or exclamation point)?
  • Are all proper nouns capitalized?
  • Are my words spelled correctly?


Six Traits #6: Sentence Fluency

Sentence fluency consists of the flow and rhythm of the writing. Most commonly, this means using a variety of sentences in the passage. A mixture of both short and long sentences help the writing flow smoothly. Beginning a sentence in a variety of ways helps, as well.

Six Traits Sentence Fluency

Have your students ask these questions to check their sentence fluency:

  • Do my sentences “flow”? 
  • Do I use a combination of both long and short sentences?
  • Do I begin my sentences in a variety of ways?
  • Do I use full sentences with a subject and a predicate?

And that’s a wrap!

Use these questions in your class to help your students self-assess their own writing! You’ll be surprised at just how well the students can assess their own writing once they are taught what to look for. If you’d like ready to go checklists to give your students to help them assess their writing using the six traits, check out my Six Traits of Writing product in my TpT store! This product includes a checklist for each of the six traits, with each of the questions discussed above. Color and black and white versions are included!  They are perfect for student notebooks- you can even print 4 to a page if you’d like smaller versions! (Another fun teacher tip- print them at 80% of their size and they will fit perfectly in a composition notebook!)


Six Traits of Writing Checklists

Not only does it include these handy checklists, but it also includes a grading rubric for you to assess their work (after students have checked their own work, of course, so students will already know EXACTLY what they will be graded on!)

Six Traits Grading Rubric

And last, but CERTAINLY not least, it includes these fun Six Traits posters using REAL pictures! Real pictures are great for both older and younger students. These are perfect to hang up in your classroom so your students can remember the six traits of writing.

Six Traits Posters

You can check out the product in my Teachers pay Teachers store here or by clicking on the cover image below!

Six Traits of Writing Checklists, Posters and Rubric on TpT

I hope you’re able to use these questions to help your students self-assess their own writing! I know that they were very useful for me. And while you’re here, be sure to sign up for my mailing list here so you don’t miss out on any new blog post and also get access to my freebies that are just for my email subscribers!


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Promoting Student Self Assessment with the Six Traits of Writing


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