Common Core, Modes, Traits and Everyday Texts

Your school is probably in full-blown Common Core State Standards mania. Or, if your state didn’t adopt the Common Core, the pressure is likely building to meet and exceed your state standards. Either way, teaching writing and helping students make great gains will be a big part of your school year. It’s a good thing, right?

Over the summer, I spent time falling in love with new picture books. I gathered everyday texts like brochures and posters. I am always reading, looking, and taking pictures to find examples that exemplify one or more of the traits and their key qualities.

Last month, I went to the Hoopla in Salem, Oregon to watch a friend’s son play in the city-wide tournament that filled the streets. As I was watching, I looked down and found mentor texts under my feet and embedded in the sidewalks: opinion, informative, and narrative. Seriously!

Oregon TenacityWishram LegendInitiative

Which are which? Narrative, informative, or opinion? I know you know this, but the first is opinion, the second narrative, and the third is informational. Right under my footsteps!

It’s interesting isn’t it? Our world is filled with fascinating examples of good writing. We just have to reach out with our cameras and capture it or tuck a paper copy into our pockets to bring back and share. What could be a more delightful way to show students how each purpose for writing shows itself in the world: everyday texts.

As I’ve discovered new resources, I’ve been pushing my thinking about how the traits and modes fit together in light of the renewed emphasis on both in the Common Core. What I’m thinking is simple: the traits are “how” we write: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions and presentation. And the modes are the “what” we write: narrative, informative, or opinion/argument. (Or for those of us stubbornly clinging to traditional terms: narrative, expository, and persuasive.) To write in any mode, you have to know the traits, so students need good, solid instruction in both modes and traits to be the best writers they can be.

Look for examples of the traits: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation, right along with the modes/purposes as you are reading and living this year. I bet you’ll be just as lucky as I am to find local examples of what good writing looks like that will take students a long way toward excellent writing to meet and exceed Standards.


– Ruth

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.
This entry was posted in Author, Back to School, Back to School, Common Core State Standards, Education, Teaching writing, The Trait Lady, Traits Writing, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s