Writing Interventions at Wings to Soar
In addition to explicitly teaching traits of good writing and the writing process (see article on “Helping Students with Writing Problems by Teaching the Traits of Good Writing and the Writing Process”) to students, there are several other important factors that are a part of our writing interventions at Wings to Soar Online Academy.
Good writing is the ultimate goal for our students. Developing writing fluency takes the student from merely manipulating words and phrases to communicating and emotionally connecting with another person through the written word. Automaticity in applying the skills needed for fluent writing is developed through regular, daily practice. Like any learning process, writing interventions need an active, consistent spiral sequence to create automaticity and reliability, whereby topics are introduced, practiced, and then built upon further.
Each writing trait needs to be practiced in isolation, in chunks, and within the writing process, no matter the learning level of the writer in our writing interventions at Wings to Soar. Each trait can be difficult for those who are challenged by higher-order thinking skills, processing skills, etc. So how do teachers teach this and students practice this?
Below is a suggested breakdown of how to structure writing sessions using the traditional six traits of writing. Students, regardless of ability, must write daily to become skilled writers.
These four components of writing practice are woven into our writing interventions for students at Wings to Soar:
- Six traits in isolation
- Workbook or online application drills: grammar, parts of speech, punctuation, vocabulary, spelling, prefixes/suffixes, synonyms/antonyms, sentence construction
- Vocabulary: 10 to 20 minutes daily
- Spelling: 10 minutes daily
- Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics: 10 minutes daily
- Immediate feedback from parent or computer program
- Six traits in chunks
- Identifying and applying elements of paragraph writing (including grammar)
- Crafting introductions, body paragraphs, and extended paragraphs
- Peer/partner revision and editing
- The Writing Skills series by Diana Hanbury King from Educators Publishing Service is great for this kind of practice.
- 10 to 20 minutes two or three times per week until these traits are mastered
- Six traits in action
- The student should spend time journaling or free writing on topics of their own choosing. The goal is to increase fluidity in getting their thoughts on paper.
- This type of writing should not be critiqued. Revision, editing, and publishing are not appropriate for this session.
- 10 to 20 minutes two or three times per week
- Six traits in a written piece
- The student should take one piece of writing through the full writing process (as described above) over the course of a week or two.
- Paragraph and/or essay formats
- Project management taught as they work on the longer-term project
- Constant review of the writing rubric throughout the process
- 20 to 30 minutes daily
In our writing Intervention courses at Wings to Soar Online Academy we build all of these elements into the day-to-day assignments for our students using the appropriate online programs, workbooks, and writing handbooks for each student’s level.
The following is a chart of different types of writing Wings to Soar students do throughout the school year to apply the six traits of writing to written pieces. Each year they write at least three types from each section (both short and long). We link these to the topics they are studying in social studies, so the curriculum drives the type of writing they do. If you aren’t working with our social studies curriculum, consider how these might link to your curriculum.
Writing Interventions at Wings to Soar: Feedback; Benchmarks; Common Vocabulary; Chunking, Sequencing, and Pacing; Scaffolding
The six-traits model helps everyone at Wings to Soar see the big picture of what good writing looks like. It also provides the framework for measuring progress of our writing interventions and skill development.
All writers need feedback from a variety of people to know whether their efforts are headed in the right direction. While the writer can internally comment on the piece, it takes another’s eye to help the writer see what the reader sees. To be effective, feedback must come through many modes of communication. Banish the red pen! Replace it with:
- Asking open-ended questions (see “Essential Questions” article)
- Reading a work in progress out loud
- Recording reading the work in progress and listening to how it sounds
- Color-coding sections that show one or more of the six traits
- Literally cutting apart a printed copy of the writing into sections and reordering the parts on a tabletop, then reading the new arrangement out loud
- Substitute words to create clearer sentences
- Rearrange, add, or delete sentences for better paragraphs
- Rearrange paragraphs for better organization
- Using “copy” and “paste” on a computer to do the same thing is also effective.
- If a particular section is well written, but not appropriate for the current piece, it’s helpful to copy it to a “parking lot” document to save it for possible future use. This makes cutting something that the student has worked hard on more palatable.
Our rating scales include descriptions with terms that both teachers and students understand to use as benchmarks. Benchmarks are usually presented in a grid format and called a rubric. If you google “six traits writing rubrics” in your browser, you will quickly find dozens of well-crafted rubrics made by teachers that contain:
- A rating system
- Usually from 1 (lowest) to 5 or 6 (highest)
- A corresponding description of the rating
1 = beginning, needs work, novice, or other generalization that implies inexperience, to
5 or 6 = exemplary, fluent, or other generalization that implies complete mastery with flair
- A brief description of each of the six traits
- A description of what the trait looks like at that particular rating using words that have a shared meaning for students and teachers