Sixth Grade Writing Standards

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Sixth Grade Writing Standards
Writing standards for sixth grade define the knowledge and skills needed for writing proficiency at this grade level. By understanding 6th grade writing standards, parents can be more effective in helping their children meet grade level expectations.

What is 6th Grade Writing?
Sixth grade students are expected to produce cohesive, coherent, and error-free multi-paragraph essays on a regular basis. Sixth-graders write essays of increasing complexity containing formal introductions, ample supporting evidence, and conclusions. Students select the appropriate form and develop an identifiable voice and style suitable for the writing purpose and the audience. Sixth grade student writing should demonstrate a command of standard American English and writing skills such as organizing ideas, using effective transitions, and choosing precise wording. Sixth-graders use every phase of the writing process and continue to build their knowledge of writing conventions, as well as how to evaluate writing and conduct research.

The following writing standards represent what states* typically specify as 6th grade benchmarks in writing proficiency:

Grade 6: Writing Process
Sixth grade writing standards focus on the writing process as the primary tool to help children become independent writers. In Grade 6, students are taught to use each phase of the process as follows:

  • Prewriting: In grade 6, students generate ideas and organize information for writing by using such prewriting strategies as brainstorming, graphic organizers, notes, and logs. Students choose the form of writing that best suits the intended purpose and then make a plan for writing that prioritizes ideas, addresses purpose, audience, main idea, and logical sequence.
  • Drafting: In sixth grade, students develop drafts by categorizing ideas, organizing them into paragraphs, and blending paragraphs within larger units of text. Writing exhibits the students’ awareness of the audience and purpose. Students analyze language techniques of professional authors (e.g., point of view, establishing mood) to enhance the use of descriptive language and word choices.
  • Revising: In sixth grade, students revise selected drafts by elaborating, deleting, combining, and rearranging text. Other grade 6 revision techniques include adding transitional words, incorporating sources directly and indirectly into writing, using generalizations where appropriate, and connecting conclusion to beginning (e.g., use of the circular ending). Goals for revision include improving coherence, progression, and the logical support of ideas by focusing on the organization and consistency of ideas within and between paragraphs. Students also evaluate drafts for use of voice, point of view, and language techniques (e.g., foreshadowing, imagery, simile, metaphor, sensory language, connotation, denotation) to create a vivid expression of ideas.
  • Editing: Students edit their writing based on their knowledge of grammar and usage, spelling, punctuation, and other features of polished writing, such as clarity, varied sentence structure, and word choice (e.g., eliminating slang and selecting more precise verbs, nouns, and adjectives). Students also proofread using reference materials, word processor, and other resources.
  • Publishing: Sixth graders refine selected pieces frequently to “publish” for intended audiences. Published pieces use appropriate formatting and graphics (e.g., tables, drawings, charts, graphs) when applicable to enhance the appearance of the document.

Use of technology: Sixth grade students use available technology to support aspects of creating, revising, editing, and publishing texts. Students compose documents with appropriate formatting by using word-processing skills and principles of design (e.g., margins, tabs, spacing, columns, page orientation).

Grade 6: Writing Purposes
In sixth grade, students write to express, discover, record, develop, and reflect on ideas. They problem solve and produce texts of at least 500 to 700 words. Specifically, 6th grade writing standards stipulate that students write in the following forms:

  • Narrative: Students write narrative accounts that establish a point of view, setting, and plot (including rising action, conflict, climax, falling action, and resolution). Writing should employ precise sensory details and concrete language to develop plot and character and use a range of narrative devices (e.g., dialogue, suspense, and figurative language) to enhance style and tone.
  • Expository: Students write to describe, explain, compare and contrast, and problem solve. Essays should engage the interest of the reader and include a thesis statement, supporting details, and introductory, body, and concluding paragraphs. Students use a variety of organizational patterns, including by categories, spatial order, order of importance, or climactic order.
  • Research Reports: Students pose relevant questions with a scope narrow enough to be thoroughly covered. Writing supports the main idea or ideas with facts, details, examples, and explanations from multiple authoritative sources (e.g., speakers, periodicals, online information searches), and includes a bibliography.
  • Persuasive: Students write to influence, such as to persuade, argue, and request. In grade 6, persuasive compositions should state a clear position, support the position with organized and relevant evidence, anticipate and address reader concerns and counter arguments.
  • Creative: Students write to entertain, using a variety of expressive forms (e.g., short play, song lyrics, historical fiction, limericks) that employ figurative language, rhythm, dialogue, characterization, plot, and/or appropriate format.
  • Responses to Literature: Sixth grade students develop an interpretation exhibiting careful reading, understanding, and insight. Writing shows organization around clear ideas, premises, or images, supported by examples and textual evidence.

In addition, sixth graders choose the appropriate form for their own purpose for writing, including journals, letters, editorials, reviews, poems, presentations, and narratives, and instructions.

Grade 6: Writing Evaluation
Sixth grade students learn to respond constructively to others’ writing and determine if their own writing achieves its purposes. In Grade 6, students also apply criteria to evaluate writing and analyze published examples as models for writing. Writing standards recommend that each student keep and review a collection of his/her own written work to determine its strengths and weaknesses and to set goals as a writer. In addition, sixth grade students evaluate the purposes and effects of film, print, and technology presentations. Students assess how language, medium, and presentation contribute to meaning.

Grade 6: Written English Language Conventions
Students in sixth grade are expected to write with more complex sentences, capitalization, and punctuation. In particular, sixth grade writing standards specify these key markers of proficiency:

Sentence Structure
—Write in complete sentences, using a variety of sentence structures to expand and embed ideas (e.g., simple, compound, and complex sentences; parallel structure, such as similar grammatical forms or juxtaposed items).
—Employ effective coordination and subordination of ideas to express complete thoughts.
—Use explicit transitional devices.

Grammar
—Correctly employ Standard English usage, including subject-verb agreement, pronoun referents, and the eight parts of speech (noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective, conjunction, preposition, interjection). Ensure that verbs agree with compound subjects.
—Use verb tenses appropriately and consistently such as present, past, future, perfect, and progressive.
—Identify and properly use indefinite pronouns
—Use adjectives (comparative and superlative forms) and adverbs appropriately to make writing vivid or precise.
—Use prepositional phrases to elaborate written ideas.
—Use conjunctions to connect ideas meaningfully.
—Use regular and irregular plurals correctly.
—Write with increasing accuracy when using pronoun case such as “He and they joined him.”

Punctuation
—Punctuate correctly to clarify and enhance meaning such as using hyphens, semicolons, colons, possessives, and sentence punctuation.
—Use correct punctuation for clauses (e.g., dependent and independent clauses), appositives and appositive phrases, and in cited sources, including quotations for exact words from sources.
—Write with increasing accuracy when using apostrophes in contractions such as doesn’t and possessives such as Maria’s.

Capitalization
—Capitalize correctly to clarify and enhance meaning.
—Sixth grades pay particular attention to capitalization of major words in titles of books, plays, movies, and television programs.

Spelling
—Use knowledge of spelling rules, orthographic patterns, generalizations, prefixes, suffixes, and roots, including Greek and Latin root words.
—Spell frequently misspelled words correctly (e.g., their, they’re, there).
—Write with accurate spelling of roots words such as drink, speak, read, or happy, inflections such as those that change tense or number, suffixes such as -able or -less, and prefixes such as re- or un.
—Write with accurate spelling of contractions and syllable constructions, including closed, open, consonant before -le, and syllable boundary patterns.
—Understand the influence of other languages and cultures on the spelling of English words.
—Use resources to find correct spellings and spell accurately in final drafts.

Penmanship
—Write fluidly and legibly in cursive or manuscript as appropriate.

Grade 6: Research and Inquiry
In sixth grade, students select and use reference materials and resources as needed for writing, revising, and editing final drafts. Students learn how to gather information systematically and use writing as a tool for research and inquiry in the following ways:

  • Search out multiple texts to complete research reports and projects.
  • Organize prior knowledge about a topic in a variety of ways such as by producing a graphic organizer.
  • Formulate a research plan, take notes, and apply evaluative criteria (e.g., relevance, accuracy, organization, validity, publication date) to select and use appropriate resources.
  • Frame questions for research. Evaluate own research and raise new questions for further investigation.
  • Select and use a variety of relevant and authoritative sources and reference materials (e.g., experts, periodicals, online information, dictionary, encyclopedias, online information) to aid in writing.
  • Summarize and organize ideas gained from multiple sources in useful ways such as outlines, conceptual maps, learning logs, and timelines.
  • Use organizational features of electronic text (e.g., bulletin boards, databases, keyword searches, e-mail addresses) to locate information.
  • Follow accepted formats for writing research, including documenting sources.
  • Explain and demonstrate an understanding of the importance of ethical research practices, including the need to avoid plagiarism, and know the associated consequences.

Sixth Grade Writing Tests
In some states, sixth graders take standardized writing assessments, either with pencil and paper or, increasingly, on a computer. Students will be given questions about grammar and mechanics, as well as a timed essay writing exercise, in which they must write an essay in response to a writing prompt. While tests vary, some states test at intervals throughout the year, each time asking students to respond to a different writing prompt that requires a different form of writing, (i.e., narrative, expository, persuasive). Another type of question asks students to write a summary statement in response to a reading passage. Students are also given classroom-based sixth grade writing tests and writing portfolio evaluations.

State writing assessments are correlated to state writing standards. These standards-based tests measure what students know in relation to what they’ve been taught. If students do well on school writing assignments, they should do well on such a test. Educators consider standards-based tests to be the most useful as these tests show how each student is meeting grade-level expectations. These assessments are designed to pinpoint where each student needs improvement and help teachers tailor instruction to fit individual needs. State departments of education often include information on writing standards and writing assessments on their websites, including sample questions.

Writing Test Preparation
The best writing test preparation in sixth grade is simply encouraging your child to write, raising awareness of the written word, and offering guidance on writing homework. For example, you can talk about the different purposes of writing as you encounter them, such as those of letters, recipes, grocery lists, instructions, and menus. By becoming familiar with 6th grade writing standards, parents can offer more constructive homework support. Remember, the best writing help for kids is not to correct their essays, but offer positive feedback that prompts them use the strategies of writing process to revise their own work.

Time4Writing Online Writing Courses Support 6th Grade Writing Standards
Time4Writing is an excellent complement to sixth grade writing curriculum. Developed by classroom teachers, Time4Writing targets the fundamentals of writing. Students build writing skills and deepen their understanding of the writing process by working on standard-based, grade-appropriate writing tasks under the individual guidance of a certified teacher.

Writing on a computer inspires many students, even reluctant writers. Learn more about Time4Writing online courses for sixth grade.

For more information about general learning objectives for sixth grade students including math and language arts, please visit Time4Learning.com.

*K-12 writing standards are defined by each state. Time4Writing relies on a representative sampling of state writing standards, notably from Florida, Texas, and California, as well as on the standards published by nationally recognized education organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.

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