But we already bought all this other stuff….

With the release of K-5 grades for Traits Writing and grades 6-8 just around the corner in March, everyone’s wondering what to do about the materials teachers already have, trait crates in particular.  Easy.  Use them.  Let me explain.

Although Traits Writing is the most comprehensive and complete writing program to ever hit the market, each component, every lesson, every strategy has its beginnings in the Teaching Resources materials I’ve done with Scholastic and that have been working so successfully over the last ten years.  The materials in Traits Writing will look familiar and comfortable to you because they are more of what teachers like.  Lots more–lesson plans and materials for teachers and students for every day of the year, K-8.

Here is what I suggest:  To make the transition from stand-alone trait professional book titles to a complete curriculum, share the trait crates and other key trait materials with the Special Education, Title 1, ELL, Talented and Gifted, and other support teachers. Think about the before and after school programs and if they can continue the writing work going on in the classroom using existing trait materials.  Are there parents who would appreciate having materials to check out and help their children at home?  There are many, many places to use what has already been purchased and working well. You’ll be in perfect shape if you have both:  Traits Writing for everyday classroom use and Teaching Resources trait materials to supplement.

I love the Teaching Resources materials so much, and have always been gratified to hear all the stories about how well they are working, it was natural for me to include that same thinking in Traits Writing.  For example, you’ll find a mentor text every week with lesson plans just like the Trait Crates.  And, there is a video about writing from the author every week, too.  I think of Traits Writing as Trait Crates on steroids.   The Warm-Ups books are such a hit that we built in a warm-up activity every week at grades 3-5, too.  It’s assessed and used to create flexible groups for further work on the key quality in focus. It also works for conventions practice that week and those lessons are built around the Warm Ups.   When the middle school materials come out, you’ll find awesome R.A.F.T.S. every week that are used as prompts, but also are used to teach conventions and provide model texts for students.  The forms books for each level are redesigned and used in lessons and for home communication.  The list of what you already know and love about the traits that is also in Traits Writing goes on and on.

So, if you are fortunate and have Scholastic Traits of Writing materials already, you needn’t worry about what to do with them when you adopt Traits Writing.  You’ll always want to keep the Theory and Practice core book for your grade (yellow/primary; purple/G3-5; green/middle school) to read and develop a deep understanding of the traits:  where they came from; how they work for assessment; how they work for instruction.  You won’t want to give up the favorite writing activities in those books or your carefully developed library of picture books, chapter books, and YA books to teach writing.  For the most robust writing program possible, use what you already own in new ways and make sure that students are getting the help they need to write well no matter what.  They should be used side-by-side with the brand new, state-of-the-art writing program that is an embarrassment of writing riches. Seriously–you are going to be amazed at everything new at your fingertips in Traits Writing.

However, if you are just getting into the traits and aren’t planning to adopt Traits Writing right away, no problem.  The Teaching Resources materials are just as wonderful as they can be to get you started in the right direction.  New things are still coming out, too. Middle school Trait Crates, for instance, are available September, 2011.  They are fabulous.  Wait until you see!

As time passes, and people share what they are doing as they implement Traits Writing this fall, I’ll share those ideas with you here, too.  But in the meantime, as we begin this exciting adventure together, don’t worry about what to do with the trait materials you have.  Keep them, share them, use them, get missing titles and complete your collections. There is no such thing as too many writing lessons and activities.

About Ruth Culham

RUTH CULHAM has written more than 40 books and best-selling resources illuminating both writing and the reading-writing connection for countless educators around the globe. Her groundbreaking work with the writing traits and writing from reading is the culmination of 40 years of research, practice, and passion. Ruth’s most recent books, The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing and Dream Wakers: Mentor Texts That Celebrate Latino Culture, are available from Stenhouse Publishers. She also conducts professional development for schools and districts and writes a regular column for The Reading Teacher.
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