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Six Trait Analytical Scoring Guide

Ideas | Organization | Voice | Word Choice | Sentence Fluency | Conventions

Ideas are the heart of the message, the main thesis, impression, or story line of the piece, together with the documented support, elaboration, anecdotes, images, or carefully selected details that build understanding or hold a readers attention.

5The paper is clear, focused, purposeful, and enhanced by significant detail that captures a readers interest.
  • The paper creates a vivid impression, makes a clear point, or tells a whole story, without ever bogging the reader down in trivia.
  • Thoughts are clearly expressed and directly relevant to a key issue, theme, or story line.
  • The writer selectively and purposefully uses knowledge, experience, examples and/or anecdotes to make the topic both understandable and interesting.
  • Quality details consistently inform, surprise, or delight the reader or just expand his or her thinking.
3The writer has made a solid beginning in defining a key issue, making a point, creating an impression, or sketching out a story line. More focus and detail will breathe life into this writing.
  • It is easy to see where the writer is headed, even if some telling details are needed to complete the picture.
  • The reader can grasp the big picture but yearns for more specific elaboration.
  • General observations still outweigh specifics.
  • There may be too much information; it would help if the writer would be more selective.
  • As a whole, the piece hangs together and makes a clear general statement or tells a recountable story.
1The writing is sketchy or loosely focused. The reader must make inferences in order to grasp the point or piece together the story. The writing reflects more than one of these problems:
  • The writer still needs to clarify the topic.
  • The reader often feels information is limited, unclear, or simply a loose collection of facts or details that, as yet, do not add up to a coherent whole.
  • It may be hard to identify the main theme or story line.
  • Everything seems as important as everything else.

Organization is the internal structure of the piece. It is both skeleton and glue. Strong organization begins with a purposeful, engaging lead and wraps up with a thought-provoking close. In between, the writer takes care to link each detail or new development to a larger picture, building to a turning point or key revelation and always including strong transitions that form a kind of safety net for the reader, who never feels lost.

5The order, presentation, or internal structure of the piece is compelling and moves the reader purposefully through the text.
  • The organization serves to showcase or enhance the central theme or story line.
  • Details seem to fit right where they are placed, though the order is often enlivened by a surprise or two.
  • An inviting lead draws the reader in; a satisfying conclusion ties up loose ends and leaves the reader with something to think about.
  • Pacing feels natural and effective; the writer knows just when to linger over details and when to get moving.
  • Organization flows so smoothly the reader does not need to think about it.
  • The entire piece seems to have a strong sense of direction and balance. Main ideas or high points stand out clearly.
3The organizational structure guides the reader through the text without undue confusion.
  • Sequencing seems reasonably appropriate, given the main theme or story line.
  • Placement of details seems workable though not always deft.
  • Predictable moments or developments outweigh surprises or discoveries.
  • The introduction and conclusion are recognizable and functional.
  • Transitions are usually present but sometimes reinforce obvious connections.
  • Structure is sometimes so dominant it is hard for the reader to focus on the ideas or voice.
  • The piece has a developing sense of balance; the writer is zeroing in on what is most important but does not yet build to that point with a strong sense of momentum.
1Ideas, details, or events seem loosely strung together. The reader struggles to discover a clear direction or purpose. The writing reflects more than one of these problems:
  • There is as yet no identifiable structure to move the reader from point to point.
  • No real lead sets up what follows.
  • No real conclusion wraps things up.
  • Missing or unclear transitions force the reader to make giant leaps.
  • Sequencing feels more random than purposeful, often leaving the reader with a disquieting sense of being adrift.
  • The writing does not build to a high point or turning point.

Voice is the presence of the writer on the page. When the writer’s passion for the topic and concern for the audience are strong, the text virtually dances with life and energy, and the reader feels a strong connection to both writing and writer.

5The writer’s energy and passion for the subject drive the writing, making the text lively, expressive, and engaging.
  • The tone and flavor to the piece fit the topic, purpose, and audience well.
  • Clearly, the writing belongs to this writer and no other.
  • The writer’s sense of connection to the reader is evident.
  • Narrative text is open, honest, and revealing.
  • Expository or persuasive text is provocative, lively, and designed to prompt thinking and to hold a reader’s attention.
3The writer seems sincere and willing to communicate with the reader on a functional, if somewhat distant, level.
  • The writer has not quite found his or her voice but is experimenting—and the result is pleasant or intriguing, if not unique.
  • Moments here and there amuse, surprise, or move the reader.
  • The writer often seems reluctant to “let go” and thus holds individuality, passion, and spontaneity in check. The writer is “there” —then gone.
  • Though clearly aware of an audience, the writer only occasionally speaks right to that audience or invites the audience “in.”
  • The writer often seems right on the verge of sharing something truly interesting—but then backs alway as if thinking better of it.
1The writer seems somehow distanced from topic, audience, or both; as a result, the text may lack life, spirit, or energy. The writing reflects more than one of these problems:
  • The writer does not seem to reach out to the audience or to anticipate their interests and needs.
  • Though it may communicate on a functional level, the writing takes no risks and does not involve or move the reader.
  • The writer does not yet seem sufficiently at home with the topic to personalize it for the reader.

Word Choice
Word choice is precision in the use of words—wordsmithery. It is the love of language, a passion for words, combined with a skill in choosing words that create just the mood, impression, or word picture the writer wants to instill in the heart and mind of the reader.

5Precise, vivid, natural language paints a strong, clear, and complete picture in the reader’s mind.
  • The writer’s message is remarkably clear and easy to interpret.
  • Phrasing is original—even memorable—yet the language is never overdone.
  • Lively verbs lend the writing power.
  • Striking words or phrases linger in the writer’s memory, often prompting connections, memories, reflective thoughts, or insights.
3The language communicates in a routine, workable manner; it gets the job done.
  • Most words are correct and adequate, even if not striking.
  • Energetic verbs or memorable phrases occasionally strike a spark, leaving the reader hungry for more.
  • Familiar words and phrases give the text an “old comfortable couch” kind of feel.
  • Attempts at colorful language are full of promise, even when they lack restraint or control.
1The writer struggles with a limited vocabulary, searching for words or phrases to convey the intended meaning. The writing reflects more than one of these problems:
  • Vague words and phrases (She was nice… It was wonderful… The new budget had impact.) convey only the most general sorts of messages.
  • Redundancy inhibits clarity and creativity.
  • Clichés and tired phrases impair precision.
  • Words are used incorrectly (“The bus impelled into the hotel.”).
  • The reader has trouble zeroing in on the writer’s intended message.

Sentence Fluency
Sentence fluency is finely crafted construction combined with a sense of rhythm and grace. It is achieved through logic, creative phrasing, parallel construction, alliteration, absence of redundancy, variety in sentence length and structure, and a true effort to create language that literally cries out to be spoken aloud.

5An easy flow and rhythm combined with sentence sense and clarity make this text a delight to read aloud.
  • Sentences are well crafted, with a strong and varied structure that invites expressive oral reading.
  • Purposeful sentence beginnings often show how a sentence relates to and builds on the one before it.
  • The writing has cadence, as if the writer hears the beat in his or her head.
  • Sentences vary in both structure and length, making the reading pleasant and natural, never monotonous.
  • Fragments, if used, add to the style.
3The text hums long with a steady beat.
  • Sentences are grammatical and fairly easy to read aloud, given a little rehearsal.
  • Some variation in length and structure enhances fluency.
  • Some purposeful sentence beginnings aid the reader’s interpretation of the text.
  • Graceful, natural phrasing intermingles with more mechanical structure.
1A fair interpretive oral reading of this text takes practice. The writing reflects more than one of these problems:
  • Irregular or unusual word patterns make it hard to tell where one sentence ends and the next begins.
  • Ideas are hooked together by numerous connectives (and… but…so then) to create one gangly, endless “sentence.”
  • Short, choppy sentences bump the reader through the text.
  • Repetitive sentence patterns grow distracting or put the reader to sleep.
  • Transitional phrases are either missing or so overdone they become distracting.
  • The reader must often pause and reread to get the meaning.

Almost anything a copy editor would attend to falls under the heading of conventions. This includes punctuation, spelling, grammar and usage, capitalization, and paragraphing—the spit-and-polish phase of preparing a document for publication. It does not (in this scoring guide) include layout, formatting, or handwriting.

5The writer has excellent control over a wide range of standard writing conventions and uses them with accuracy and (when appropriate) creativity and style to enhance meaning.
  • Errors are so few and so minor that a reader can easily overlook them unless searching for them specifically.
  • The text appears clean, edited, and polished.
  • Older writers (grade 6 and up) create text of sufficient length and complexity it to demonstrate control of a range of conventions appropriate for their age and experience.
  • The text is easy to mentally process; there is nothing to distract or confuse a reader.
  • Only light touch-ups would be required to polish the text for publication.
3The writer shows reasonable control over the most widely used writing conventions and uses them with fair consistency to create text that is adequately readable.
  • There are enough errors to distract an attentive reader somewhat; however, errors do not seriously impair readability or obscure meaning.
  • It is easy enough for an experienced reader to get through the text without stumbling, but the writing clearly needs polishing.
  • Moderate editing would be required to get the text ready for publication.
  • The paper reads much like a rough draft.
1The writer demonstrates limited control even over widely used writing conventions. The text reflects at least one of the following problems:
  • Errors are sufficiently frequent and/or serious as to be distracting; it is hard for the reader to focus on ideas, organization, or voice.
  • The reader may need to read once to decode, then again to interpret and respond to the text.
  • Extensive editing would be required to prepare the text for publication.