Key Indicators and Major Teaching Emphasis for Writing

Getting Ready for School

(For the parents when children are in their preschool years) The most important reading skills your preschool child can learn are a love of books and the ability to hear the sounds in words. You encourage reading by reading with your child. As you read, your child is learning much more than just what happens in the story. As children hold books and turn pages, they begin to recognize the flow of print, the beginning and ending of stories, and how a story is told.

Children who have talked about the characters or the plots and the stories of a variety of books have been shown to have better reading comprehension when they learn to read themselves. They seem to learn the elements of stories. They connect books to their own lives and have a familiarity with the layout and plot flow.

The ability to hear the sounds in words is a more powerful predictor of a child’s later reading ability than measuring IQ or general language proficiency. In fact, this ability is considered to be the best predictor of reading achievement presently existing.

You play a significant role in helping your child learn to hear the sounds in words. Play letter and sound games with your child. When adults speak, we say the words so quickly that the entire word sounds like a single sound. If we slow the words down and stretch them out, children can hear the individual sounds that make up words. This skill also enhances a child’s ability to recognize similar sounds in words and to spell and decode words as he begins reading.

Songs, poems, nursery rhymes, and rhyming activities are a great place to start. Accentuate the rhymes as you read poetry. When your child is familiar with a poem, pause and let your child fill in the blank for rhyming words. Make up nonsense rhymes with your child (“Blue, blue I love you! Red, red, time for bed!”).

Promoting Success

  • Have books in the home. Have a reading and writing area for your child.
  • Go to the library and bookstores often and model reading and writing yourself.
  • Interact with your child by asking questions, talking together, listening, singing together, and talking about the books you share.
  • Respond to your child positively and celebrate what he or she CAN do and early attempts at speaking and drawing.
  • Frequently ask your child to “tell you more.”
  • Explore with your child and talk about what you see, the world around you, the things that happen in your lives, and family traditions.
  • Tell family stories and cultural stories using interesting words with your child.
  • Go see storytellers at the library or bookstores.
  • Retell stories, TV shows, movies, and events that happen, and encourage your child to act out stories.
  • Read favorite books over and over. Have your child draw pictures about the story you read.
  • Read wordless books and make up the story.
  • Read books that rhyme and have fun language and cartoons


Stage 1
Role Play Writer - Ages 3-5

Key Indicators:

I use pictures to tell stories or ideas.

I know that letters are used to make words and stories.

I draw pictures and write letter-like symbols about the pictures.

I can tell about my writing.

Major Teaching Emphases:

Demonstrate the connection between oral and written language.

Demonstrate that writing communicates a message.

Focus on the way print works (print concepts and conventions).

Demonstrate that writing is purposeful and has an intended audience.

Use correct terminology for letters, sounds, and words and encourage children to experiment with writing.

Stage 2
Emergent Writer - Ages 4-6

Key Indicators:

I use pictures and words to share stories.

I copy names and some words.

I know that each sound has a letter or letters.

I print with mostly uppercase letters.

I use one, two, or three letters to write a word.

I use the beginning and ending sounds to make words.

I can usually read what I write.

I see myself as a writer.

I take risks with writing (write new things and spell words on my own).

Major Teaching Emphases:

Model brief, imaginative, and factual texts, and explain the purpose and intended audience.

Help build lists of high-frequency words from the child’s reading and writing.

Demonstrate one-to-one correspondence of written and spoken words.

Discuss how writing can be used to communicate over distance and time.

Encourage children to talk about their experiences.

Talk about letters, words, and sentences, and help children understand how written texts are composed in sentences.

Help children to relate written symbols to the sounds they represent.

Stage 3
Developing Writer - Ages 5-7

Key Indicators:

I write names and favorite words.

I write short sentences.

I can think of ideas to write about.

I use patterns and ideas from books.

I sometimes use spaces between my words.

I write from top to bottom, left to right, and front to back.

I mix my upper and lowercase letters together.

I match letters to sounds.

I mostly use the sound of words when I spell.

I use beginning, middle, and ending sounds to write words.

I can sometimes read my own writing

Major Teaching Emphases:

Teach form for simple and compound sentences.

Expose students to a variety of patterns in texts.

Teach proper use of capitalization.

Teach punctuation for sentence endings.

Teach beginning, middle, and ending for writing.

Continue to teach vowel combinations and patterns for spelling rules.

Provide a variety of resources for spelling check (e.g., word wall, topic dictionaries, word banks, etc.).

Stage 4
Beginning Writer - Ages 6-8

Key Indicators:

I write short sentences.

I write about what I see and what I do with some descriptive words.

I use ideas and language from books.

I add more to my writing with help.

I edit for ending marks with help.

I make my letters neatly.

I write pieces that I can read and others can read.

I use temporary spelling when I write by myself.

I use capitals and periods correctly some of the time.

I share my writing with others.

Major Teaching Emphases:

Develop an awareness in students that writing is purposeful.

Talk about the differences between oral and written language.

Read, write, and discuss a range of different forms of writing for different purposes and audiences.

Teach planning and revision strategies, and show how sentences are linked to form a cohesive paragraph.

Show students how paragraphs are linked to form a whole text.

Teach strategies for learning to spell new words, and continue to help children develop word banks using topic or theme words.

Discuss the selection of words to enhance meaning.

Introduce a proofreading guide and encourage children to use it.

Stage 5
Expanding Writer - Ages 7-9

Key Indicators:

I write with a main idea.

I write with complete sentences.

I sometimes write pieces with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

I put my ideas in the right order with help.

I sometimes add details.

I sometimes find and use interesting language.

I listen to other people’s ideas about my writing and give other people suggestions.

I sometimes use other people’s suggestions about my writing to make it better.

I revise by adding description and detail with help.

I edit for punctuation, spelling, and correct English in my final drafts with help.

I spell lots of words correctly.

I use capital letters and periods correctly.

I write so that people can read my writing.

I write differently depending on who will read my writing.

I talk about what I do well as a writer and set goals with help.

Major Teaching Emphases:

Teach children to plan and write both narrative and informational texts.

Help children adapt their writing to suit the intended purpose and explore alternative ways of expressing ideas.

Teach children appropriate use of organizational markers such as topic sentences, paragraphs, and headings.

Encourage children to take responsibility for their own learning.

Teach revising, editing, and proofreading skills.

Teach children to use punctuation, grammar, and spelling in context.

Teach appropriate use of commas and apostrophes.

Stage 6
Bridging Writer - Ages 8-10

Key Indicators:

I write about my feelings and opinions.

I write pieces with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

I sometimes use paragraphs to organize my ideas.

I use a thesaurus or lists of words to make my writing better with help.

I make my writing more interesting by adding description and detail.

I use strong verbs (action words) and interesting language with help.

I experiment with people talking in my stories.

I ask for help and suggestions about my writing.

I revise my writing to make sense with help.

I am getting better at editing for spelling, punctuation, and correct English.

I spell more words correctly by using spelling rules, word parts, and word shapes.

I use commas and apostrophes correctly.

I try different types of writing (like reports, letters, stories, and poems) with help.

I can read my writing and think about how to make it better with help.

Major Teaching Emphases:

Teach quotation marks.

Analyze paragraphs in texts.

Provide a thesaurus, simple dictionaries, and resource books.

Help students develop lists of interesting action verbs and descriptive words.

Teach students editing, revising, and proofreading skills.

Provide students with opportunities to help edit the work of peers.

Assign a variety of writing formats.

Read, discuss, and analyze a variety of writing formats.

Six Traits Rubric: Kindergarten through Second Grade

Stage Ideas and
Organization Voice Word Choice Sentence Fluency Conventions
Stage 1
Role Play

Uses pictures only

Does some scribble writing

Describes ideas orally

Gives detached descriptions of each drawing on page

Uses drawings that may not be related

Uses some representations that have no meaning

May write and draw for the pleasure of it

Uses nouns and some verbs

Rarely uses adjectives

Answers questions about picture

Uses some incomplete sentences

Gives oral labels to pictures

Is learning to hold a pencil correctly

Uses pictures only with some scribble writing

Writes letter-like symbols

Stage 2

Orally tells a story about picture

Uses pictures to describe people and experiences in their world

Has a theme for picture

Copies words or letters

Shares personal experiences

Describes emotions as well as events

Uses nouns, verbs, and adjectives

Uses common adjectives (hard, soft, etc.) rather than descriptive or original ones

Uses simple sentences orally

Excitedly puts symbols on paper, but tires easily when trying to make representations for multiple sentences

Is beginning to write initial consonants of words and match letter sounds heard in words

Represents some syllables with a letter

Stage 3
Adds new ideas learned from books to background knowledge when orally describing pictures or in writing

Sometimes includes a beginning, middle, and end

Uses a sentence pattern, mimics predictable book formats

Uses oral description that is much richer than written description

Limits writing to easily written words and sentences

Enjoys adding content words to writing Has a sense of sentence but may only be able to deal with one or two elements of writing at one time (e.g., spelling but not

Uses invented spelling with initial and final consonants and some vowels

Understands left to right organization of print

Stage 4

Uses general knowledge to provide big picture

Has some good information but needs more specific details

Organizes thoughts and ideas

Uses transitions that are predictable

Writes about topics that are personally significant Broadens descriptive vocabulary hrough group brainstorming

Uses simple complete sentences

Organizes ideas into paragraphs

Writes many sight words correctly

Decodes words for spelling but also uses resources to self-correct

Stage 5

Has just the right amount of detail

Uses interesting details

Uses details that work together to develop main idea

Focuses on the main idea

Uses details to clarify the main idea

Uses a clear-cut format includes beginning, middle, and ending

Shows personality in writing

Writes showing evidence of their enthusiasm for subject

Uses a wide range of words that clearly and precisely convey meaning Uses a variety of writing formats: poetry, stories, reports, etc. Edits for content, punctuation, and spelling during and after composing

Six Traits Evaluation Form: First and Second Grade

Stage Ideas and
Organization Voice Word Choice Sentence FluencyConventions

You’ve Got It!

Interesting—keeps the reader reading!

Just the right amount of detail—(not skimpy or overwhelming)

Details work together—keeps its focus

Strong sense of direction

Attention is drawn to main ideas

Details all seem to fit where they are placed

The writer’s personality shows

Enthusiast—holds the readers attention

It would be fun to read aloud

Writer’s message is clear

Original, visual language

Words or phrases stay in reader’s memory

Sentences vary in structure and length

Sentences are well-written—invites oral reading

Very few errors, reader would skip right over them

Clean, edited, polished

Only a quick fix needed to publish

Almost There!

General knowledge provides big picture

Has some good information, but needs more specific details

Orderly, but some information could be dropped or moved

Transitions are too predictable

The information is good but not full of energy or personality

Writer has not quite found his/her voice but is experimenting

Makes an effort to use colorful language

Some memorable words and phrases—leaves the reader hungry for more

Most sentences are easy to read aloud

Variation in length and structure would
add interest

Although errors are distracting, the meaning is still clear

Editing would be needed to publish


Has a few details, but may be skimpy or overwhelming

Main idea is unclear

Has an introduction and conclusion, but they need a little work

Predictability smothers main idea

Voice comes and goes

The voice does not fit the topic

Commonly used words (nice, hard, etc.)

No mental pictures

Hard to tell where sentences begin and end

Short, choppy sentences with repetitive patterns

Frequent errors make it hard to read

Reader must go back and read a sentence to be sure of it’s meaning

Take Another
Not enough information to write about topic

Writing has no sense of direction

Ideas are not set up; there is no real conclusion

The voice could be anybody’s

Not enough enthusiasm to make the topic come alive for the reader

Words are used incorrectly

Reader has a hard time understanding writer’s message

Long sentences that are hard to read

Reader must often reread to understand meaning

Appears that student hurried too fast, scribbled idea, and just wanted to be done

Reading Stages

Stage 1
Role Play Reader - Ages 3-5

Key Indicators:

I select things to read and have favorite books.

I am interested in reading signs, labels, and logos.

I can read my own name.

I hold a book and turn the pages correctly.

I can show the beginning and end of a book.

I know some letter names.

I listen and talk about books.

I talk about the pictures in books.

I read along when we share poems, songs, and books.

Major Teaching Emphases:

Read from enlarged text (big books) so children can follow the print as it is read.

Point out the direction and flow of print.

Use pointers, laser pens, and other visuals to focus children on print flow.

Encourage children to predict what they think will happen next in the story.

Provide many opportunities for children to play with the sounds in words (rhyming words, initial sounds of words, etc.).

Discuss the pictures in books.

Encourage dialogue among the children about the illustrations.

Discuss personal connections to books that you read aloud to children.

Encourage children to share connections they have with illustrations.

Read aloud rhyming books, books with patterns, and predicable texts.

Help children find repeating words or words that begin with the same sound in big books.

Stage 2
Emergent Reader - Ages 4-6

Key Indicators:

I know some poems and books with patterns by heart.

I read signs, labels, and logos.

I like to read.

I can “almost” read some books.

I use the pictures to tell about a story.

I read from top to bottom, left to right, and front to back with help.

I know most of my letter names and some letter sounds.

I read some names and words.

I sometimes make good guesses about what will happen next in a story.

I rhyme and play with words.

I read along when we read books I know.

I connect the books we read to my own life.

Major Teaching Emphases:

Encourage discussion and praise critical and divergent thinking.

Provide picture books with limited text that children can “read” to themselves and others.

Reread favorite stories and rhymes.

Share “big books” with children, incidentally modeling reading behaviors.

Establish a language-rich environment, presenting print as natural and meaningful.

Read texts that feature rhyme, rhythm, and repetition.

Show that a written word is a unit of print with space on either side.

Talk about letters by name, relating initial letters to the sound they represent.

Show that print is written left to right and top to bottom.

Relate spoken to written words in context.

Draw attention to the relationships between words and pictures.

Demonstrate use of context cues to construct meaning.

Stage 3
Developing Reader - Ages 5-7

Key Indicators:

I can read books with patterns.

I can read to myself for a little while.

I can select things to read all by myself.

I am a reader.

I share what I’m reading with others.

I learn information from reading and share what I learn with others.

I use the words and pictures when I read.

I know most letter sounds.

I read simple words.

I make good guesses about what will happen next in a book.

I notice when I read the wrong word or it doesn’t make sense.

I can point to the words as I read.

I can show the title and author’s name in a book.

I can tell the main idea of a book or article.

I talk about a book or story during discussions.

Major Teaching Emphases:

Share with children times when you challenge or disagree with a text.

Discuss instances of stereotyping in texts.

Value and encourage both critical and empathetic responses from children, especially those that are different from your own.

Before, during, and after reading, promote discussion that goes beyond the literal level.

Provide opportunities for children to retell stories.

Purposefully use environmental print each day.

Select reading material that is predictable, familiar, and has natural

Informally discuss conventions of print when reading.

Model reading strategies such as predicting words and reading on.

Talk about letters and words in context, pointing out distinctive features.

Encourage children to explore letter to sound relationships.

Stage 4
Beginning Reader - Ages 6-8

Key Indicators:

I read simple early-reader books.

I read harder early-reader books.

I know about different types of writing (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry).

I use ending marks when I read out loud with expression.

I can read by myself for 10-15 minutes.

I use the words more than the pictures when I read.

I use meaning to make sense when I read.

I use what I know about words to make sense when I read.

I use letter sounds to make sense when I read.

I read familiar words easily without sounding them out.

I can put a list of words in ABC order.

I can talk about who’s telling the story (point of view) with help.

I sometimes correct myself when the reading doesn’t make sense.

I can talk about the characters in a story.

I can tell the beginning, middle, and ending of a story with help.

I can explain why I like or don’t like what I read.

Major Teaching Emphases:

Provide opportunities for:

  • Making comparisons with other texts
  • Identifying the main issues in a text
  • Providing support in detail, identifying cause and effect and predicting outcomes
  • Identifying character traits from textual cues
  • Analyzing plots, interpreting symbolic or metaphorical meaning
  • Discussing concepts and vocabulary
  • Extracting and organizing information

Model and discuss word-identification strategies:

  • Use of graphophonic knowledge and sounding out
  • Blending
  • Letter and word patterns
  • Sight words
  • Using syllabication and segmentation
  • Using knowledge of root words and word components
Stage 5
Expanding Reader - Ages 7-9

Key Indicators:

I read beginning chapter books.

I read and finish lots of different types of writing with help.

I choose books that are at my reading level with help.

I can read aloud smoothly.

I can read by myself for 15-30 minutes.

I read differently depending on why and what I’m reading.

I use meaning when I’m reading to learn new words.

I correct myself when my reading doesn’t make sense.

I follow written directions.

I can find the chapter titles and table of contents in a book or magazine.

I can retell the events of a story in order.

I talk about how facts, characters, and events in books and relate them to my life.

I talk about what we are reading in small group discussions with help.

I talk about what I do well as a reader and set goals with help.

Major Teaching Emphases:

Teach students to:

  • Articulate their reading difficulties
  • Discuss the questions they asked of the text
  • Discuss how they solved problems
  • Select and use appropriate strategies when reading for different purposes

Teach students to:

  • Analyze topics and questions
  • Generate self-questions
  • Summarize and take notes

Praise and encourage students when they show evidence of critical reading, listening, and responding with sensitivity to the comments of others.

Teach students to identify and comment on different points of view in texts.

Provide opportunities for students to examine, analyze, and discuss narrative and expository texts.

Stage 6
Bridging Reader - Ages 8-10

Key Indicators:

I read medium level chapter books.

I can talk about different types of books (genres) like realistic fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy.

I can read aloud with expression.

I read silently for long periods of time (30-40 minutes).

I can find information in the encyclopedia, on the computer, or in a nonfiction book, with help.

I learn new words by reading and by using tools (like a dictionary or thesaurus) with help.

I can talk about the difference between fact and opinion.

I can find the organization of a book (like the glossary, captions, and index).

I can use alphabetical order to find information.

I can summarize a story by talking about the setting, plot, and characters.

I can talk about the issues and ideas in literature as well as the facts or story events.

I make connections to other authors, books, and points of view.

Major Teaching Emphases:

Help students learn to choose books that are at an appropriate reading level.

Provide dictionaries, thesaurus, word banks, and resources students can use independently.

Teach students to use an encyclopedia, computer, and nonfiction resource books to find information.

Demonstrate how to gather information from graphs, charts, tables, and maps.

Orally demonstrate “reading between the lines.”

Encourage children to try it.

Provide many opportunities for children to summarize a story by talking about setting, plot, characters, and author’s purpose.

Encourage children to evaluate their own reading and set reading goals.

Expose children to a variety of literature and encourage children to try new types of genres.

© 2003, Elementary CORE Academy, Utah State Board of Education, Utah State University. Artwork created by Nancy Bittner