Ideas refers to the piece’s content — its central message and details that support that message.

The Ideas are the main message, the content of the piece, the main theme, together with all the supporting details that enrich and develop that theme. The writer chooses details that are interesting, important, and informative–often the kinds of details the reader would not normally anticipate or predict. Before a writer thinks of shaping, ordering, or detailing those ideas, they must gather them in their mind. Successful writers do not “tell” readers things they already know; e.g., “It was a sunny day, and the sky was blue, the clouds were fluffy white …” Successful writers “show” readers that which is normally overlooked; writers seek out the extraordinary, the unusual, the unique, the bits and pieces of life that might otherwise be overlooked When ideas are strong, the overall message is clear. Students need to:

  • select an idea (the topic- sometimes assigned, sometimes not) to narrow the idea;
  • elaborate on the idea;
  • discover the best information to convey the main idea (details)

You can use the scoring guide below to help you find where the piece of writing you are drafting is situated. If you are conferencing the piece with your teacher, it is recommended that ideas be one of the Six Traits you ask for feedback on.




A. Finding a Topic: The writer offers a clear, central theme or asimple, original storyline that is memorable.

B. Focusing the Topic: The writer narrows the theme or storyline to create a piece that is clear, tight, and manageable.

C. Developing the Topic: The writer provides enough critical evidence to support the theme and shows insight on the topic. Or he or she tells the story in a fresh way through an original, unpredictable plot.

D. Using Details: The writer offers credible, accurate details that create pictures in the reader’s mind, from the beginning of the piece to the end.Those details provide the reader with evidence of the writer’s knowledge about and/or experience with the topic.





A. Finding a Topic: The writer offers a recognizable, but broad theme or storyline. He or she stays on topic, but in a predictable way.

B. Focusing the Topic: The writer needs to crystallise his or her topic around the central theme or storyline. He or she does not focus on a specific aspect of the topic.

C. Developing the Topic: The writer draws on personal knowledge and experience, but does not offer a unique perspective. He or she does not probe deeply, but instead only gives the reader a glimpse at aspects of the topic.

D. Using Details: The writer offers details, but they do not always hit the mark because they are inaccurate or irrelevant. He or she does not create a picture in the reader’s mind because key questions about the central theme or storyline have not been addressed.





A. Finding a Topic: The writer has not settled on a topic and, therefore, may offer only a series of unfocused, repetitious, and/or random thoughts.

B. Focusing the Topic: The writer has not narrowed his or her topic in a meaningful way. It’s hard to tell what the writer thinks is important since he or she devotes equal importance to each piece of information.

C. Developing the Topic: The writer has created a piece that is so short, the reader cannot fully understand or appreciate what he or she wants to say. He or she may have simply restated an assigned topic or responded to a prompt, without devoting much thought or effort to it.

D. Using Details: The writer has clearly devoted little attention to details.The writing contains limited or completely inaccurate information. After reading the piece, the reader is left with many unanswered questions.