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Leadership Exchange
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Edtech Advocacy &
Policy Summit

6+1 Traits of Writing and the Technology Tools That Love Them

Participate and share

Participate and share : Interactive lecture


Monday, November 30, 12:45–1:30 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Dr. Suzanne Myers  
Dr. Amber Rowland  
Dr. Sean Smith  
Josh Stock  

Writing isn’t easy and teaching writing is hard, but technology can support the journey. Using the 6+1 Traits of Writing as a framework, learn how technology solutions purposefully integrated make teaching and learning writing more engaging and impactful for all students, even those who struggle.

Audience: Coaches, Teachers, Professional developers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Any web-enable device will suffice.
Topic: Assistive & adaptive technologies
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: Language arts, Special education
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
Designer
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
Leader
  • Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.
Analyst
  • Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Challenge/Solution/Relevance: According to the latest results from the National Assessment for Educational Performance, of the eighth grade students identified with a disability, 80% were unable to write at even the basic level of performance (USDE, 2011). With the integration of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a heightened focus on writing is altering literacy instruction across content and grade levels. In addition, whether on computers or tablets, schools across the country are seeking to further the integration of Apps and web-based solutions. For the presenters of this session, who travel all over the world presenting on technology integration and implementation, our sessions on writing have garnered great popularity with attendees seeking us out, post session and upon their return home to follow-up with usage ideas. Writing is a ripe topic that many educators feel unprepared to teach, especially if they are Science, Social Studies or other content educators beyond Language Arts (LA). The CCSS require writing to show content understanding and yet, explicit teaching of how to write is not a common practice, even in LA classrooms where novel study has dominated for several decades. Educators across grade levels and content areas are seeking best practice for teaching writing in engaging and impactful ways.

Students who struggle with writing, especially those with learning disabilities need explicit instruction to support the development and execution of writing (Graham and Harris, 2013). Research has found that “good” writing has six key traits, which include ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions (Ok & Rao, 2019). These 6 traits are not a curriculum, but rather a set of qualities that help define good writing. Ruth Culham describes them as a common language for teachers and students to use to determine what is and is not working in their writing product (Culham, 2006). For each trait, there are practical and creative technology enhancements that can support all students, especially those who struggle. “If students are given the opportunity to use tools and reflect on the ones that are useful and supportive to them, they can have the self-awareness and agency to seamlessly use both IT and AT tools as needed.” (Ok & Rao, 2019).

As a result of attending this session, participants will:
Explore technology tools that enhance and support the teaching and learning of the 6+1 Traits of Writing.
Examine how various technology solutions can be used to differentiate and personalize learning for ALL students, especially those who struggle.
Gain understanding of and access to a bi-weekly, 3-minute progress monitoring tool and associated professional learning resources for immediate implementation with students.

Technology Intervention & Replication: The technology solutions shared during this session are all free and available to anyone, online. Tools such as Popplet, an interactive graphic organizer, AnswerGarden, a large group response engine, Comic Creation a comic strip creation tool, the built-in features of devices including talking word processors and word prediction, and several others will be shared. At least one tool per 6+1 Trait, with additional recommendations will be available on the Google Doc created for this session. Stories of implementation will be shared for each trait and associated resource to help session attendees better generalize use to their own contexts.

Model & Strategies Employed: The 6+1 Trait model for writing is commonly used across classrooms in the nation and the strategy for offering at least one technology solution per trait makes it more likely for everyone in the session to be able to apply at least a few ideas to their own context and ultimately walk away with multiple nuggets of information that they can go back and implement immediately.

Evidence of Success: The resources shared in this session are derived from the work of an Office of Special Education and Policy (OSEP) funded Stepping Up project where a progress monitoring tool and associate technology solutions were implemented and researched. Two large studies conducted with over 2,000 students during the 2017-19 school years show that increasing the focus on explicitly teaching writing with the support of technology solutions can help students increase writing productivity. The studies targeted struggling learners & those with identified disabilities but also included all students in the general education setting. 53.45% of students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, 39.38% are English Language Learners, & 19.38% of the student population have been identified with a disability. Data was collected at three time points (fall, winter, & spring) during two academic years. Writing ability was auto-scored using three indicators, word count, number of words spelled correctly, & a measure of correct writing sequence. Educators and instructional coaches also used qualitative analysis of student work to conduct data walks with students, exploring all 6+1 Traits of writing, using the auto-scored data as a springboard for bigger conversations around writing quality. The descriptive statistics for all variables will be provided at the presentation. Results show the three quantitative writing variable scores all increased significantly across the three measurement times with very large effect sizes for both years of study.

Outline

Introduction (5 min): Attendees will be introduced to the session format, learning objectives, the project where these solutions were tested and the research supporting it.

Progress Monitoring Tool (5 min): Attendees will be introduced to the progress monitoring tool developed as a part of the OSEP project and how results from student writing samples can be used to springboard teachers and students into discussion of all the 6+1 Writing Traits.

Trait Cycle Overview (6 min per trait): Each Trait will be introduced with a field-based anecdote and at least one technology solution to support the implementation of the trait for all students. Specific attention will be given to how the trait can be differentiated depending on the needs of the students.

Ideas: For example, the first trait is Ideas. Attendees will be introduced to the trait with an example from the co-presenters who are language arts teachers. Then, attendees will be asked to interact with the session AnswerGarden instance to determine the best narrative topic a middle school student may want to write about. We will then use the most frequently mentioned topic to model the rest of the session from.

Organization: If Alien Invasion is the narrative topic that the majority of the attendees think will be of interest to middle school kids, then for the trait of Organization, we will model the use of a tool, such as Popplet to help organize ideas around an Alien Invasion. We will have our Language Arts teachers share an anecdote of how they used Popplet to organize story elements for a narrative writing piece.

Voice: We will use Comic Creation to quickly generate an animated story of aliens invading, infusing passion, personality, opinions, and fun from audience member responses. A story will be shared here of how the LA teachers used writing samples from the progress monitoring tool to walk a student through options for enhancing VOICE and why the Comic Creation tool was an engaging and powerful solution.

Word Choice: With an engaging Vivid Verbs YouTube video we will introduce word choice and how to facilitate it with built-in word prediction tools. We will demonstrate how to adjust word prediction and purposefully teach it to students through an anecdote of use.

Sentence Fluency: For fluency, attendees will be introduced to a specific student who struggles with writing and then reading and editing their own writing for fluency. The use of built-in text-to-speech and speech-to-text features can be used to help a student draft their initial thoughts and then to listen to their final product and determine if it sounds right.

Conventions: The progress monitoring tool initially introduced in this session has an auto-score feature for spelling and correct word sequences. These are two data points that can be actively tracked through auto-scoring of writing samples. To support students who struggle with conventions, a tool such as Ginger or Grammarly have grammar and spell check functionality and can support students at varying degrees, depending on need.

Presentation & Review: When students have a final product to share, there are multiple ways students can be empowered to present. An example of a student-made Paperslide video will be shown and the story of the writing process that led to the final product will help summarize all of the traits and highlight a few additional tools that may be helpful to session attendees.

Reflect/Question and Answer (10 min): We know best practice for adult learning provides time for reflection of new information with the opportunity to ask additional questions. Time will be set aside for attendees to share their greatest take-away with their neighbor and to ask any lingering questions.

Supporting research

According to the latest results from the National Assessment for Educational Performance, of the eighth grade students identified with a disability, 80% were unable to write at even the basic level of performance (USDE, 2011). Students who struggle with writing, especially those with learning disabilities need explicit instruction to support the development and execution of writing (Graham and Harris, 2013). Research has found that “good” writing has six key traits, which include ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions (Ok & Rao, 2019). These 6 traits are not a curriculum, but rather a set of qualities that help define good writing. Ruth Culham describes them as a common language for teachers and students to use to determine what is and is not working in their writing product (Culham, 2006). For each trait, there are practical and creative technology enhancements that can support all students, especially those who struggle. “If students are given the opportunity to use tools and reflect on the ones that are useful and supportive to them, they can have the self-awareness and agency to seamlessly use both IT and AT tools as needed.” (Ok & Rao, 2019).

Teachers Struggle with Technology Integration: The availability and proliferation of K-12 technology tools continues to advance with online instructional supports, digital text, tablets, and interactive Whiteboards, increasingly being used to personalize the learning experience for the student with disabilities (Shapley, Sheehan, Maloney, & Caranikis-Walker, 2010).The US Department of Education’s 2016 National Technology Plan states that when carefully designed and thoughtfully applied, technology can accelerate, amplify, and expand the impact of effective teaching practices. However, the report states that to be transformative, educators need to have the knowledge and skills to take full advantage of technology-rich learning environments. Purcell, Heaps, Buchanan, and Friedrich (2013) surveyed 2,462 teachers, many of whom included English language arts teachers (ELA), and found that teachers indicate that while they feel comfortable in the use of the technology for tasks associated with designing and planning instruction, they express strong reservations in their ability to integrate similar tools in their direct instruction with students. Thus, despite the growing evidence on access to technology-based solutions, data on their use suggests the need for strategic efforts to extend implementation, specifically efforts that align with instructional strategies and curricular goals to further student opportunities to use these effective tools.

Teachers struggle to use technology effectively:Regrettably, although technology is increasingly proliferating the classroom and shown to be an effective support for student development, teachers still struggle with how to effectively use it to enhance instruction (Gray, Thomas & Lewis, 2010). The reality is that technology adoption and use in the classroom is a complex process that cannot be simply mandated (Straub, 2009). Technology Counts (Rebora, 2016) EdWeek’s annual report on K-12 documented that 24% of educators surveyed are willing to be risk takers and first adopters with technology, even if it might fail, while 47% of teachers surveyed were willing to try out new technologies before they are commonly used. Unfortunately, Technology Counts (Rebora, 2016) also reported that 53% of teachers still consider lack of sufficient training to be their main barrier in the use of technology in the classroom. Thus, despite district’s investments in improving teaching and the positive experiences of a few educators, there is little evidence that teachers are implementing the practices that research says are effective (e.g., Jacob & McGovern, 2015). We hypothesize this is because (a) teachers do not receive effective ongoing support for their professional learning, and (b) teachers do not have a clear picture of how technology applies to their pedagogical and content instructional practices and related student needs.

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Presenters

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Dr. Suzanne Myers, University of Kansas, Center for Research on Learning
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Dr. Amber Rowland, University Of Kansas, ALTEC
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Dr. Sean Smith, University of Kansas
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Josh Stock, Santa Fe Trail Middle School

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