Your Child’s Composition Skills: Are they Good Enough?


Writing in the 21st century, dominated by technology, is “defined by its frequency and efficiency, and modern writers must express ideas in ways that enable them to communicate effectively to many audiences” (US NAEP Writing Framework, 2011).

Do you know if your child writes well enough for his/her grade level? There is a way to evaluate how “good” or readable your child’s compositions are.

In the U.S. three decades ago, a forward-thinking group of teachers examined and evaluated thousands of student papers with an important purpose: to identify the core qualities of great writing and describe the skills required to achieve excellence. These qualities became the framework for the “6+1” Trait analytical model, which uses common language and scoring guides to identify what ”good” writing looks like.

1. IDEA / CONTENT: Ideas should be presented clearly and developed fully with reasons, examples and support from a text. Shows insightful development of interesting ideas.

2. ORGANIZATION: Writing should be organized logically and be easy to follow.

3. WORD CHOICE: Precise and effective word choice adds clarity to writing.

4. SENTENCE FLUENCY: Sentences should be varied and effective in sound and in purpose. When read aloud, a paper should sound fluent and even rhythmic. Few short, stilted sentences.

5. VOICE: This is the personality and conviction of the writer showing through the words.

6. CONVENTIONS: Spelling, mechanics, usage, agreement are all conventions of writing.

“+1” PRESENTATION: This is how the paper looks. Is it typed according to a format? Does it have a title page?

A scoring guide or rubric sets the standard for excellence for each of these areas. It is differentiated for early years and the upper grades. Some teachers may choose to score a project or paper using only a few of the traits or they may choose to score it using all of the traits. Here’s a simplified graphic rubric summary:


Ask your child to write a short paragraph (7-10 sentences) and use this scoring rubric to evaluate it. Topics can be as simple as, “What’s my ideal summer vacation?” or “My favorite book and why I like it”. Then find out if your child can improve by enrolling in a writing program, which should be run by qualified reading and writing teachers.


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