8 Web Tools That Make Writing Fun!

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Students will write more and you will grade less using these tools!

The new Common Core State Standards being adopted nationwide state that “students must devotes significant time and effort to writing and producing numerous pieces over short and extended time frames.” The 3 types of writing emphasized in the standards include:

  • Argument
  • Informative/Explanatory
  • Narrative

In addition to these specific genres of writing, students must be able to:

  • Produce clear and coherent writing
  • Plan, revise, edit and rewrite
  • Use evidence to support analysis
  • Use technology to produce and publish writing

Even though the standards stress writing across the curriculum, there are a variety of challenges associate with teaching writing.

  • It requires time to scaffold writing assignments.
  • Peer editing is not always effective.
  • Teachers write the same thing over and over again on each paper.
  • Time spent editing only benefits the individual student receiving the peer feedback.
  • It creates a ton of grading.

So how can we use technology to make writing more enjoyable?

1. Brainstorm using collaborative tools.

  • Pair prewriting with online discussions.
  • great modeling
  • students learn from one another
  • harder to procrastinate
  • learn from other perspectives
  • informal peer editing

2. Use online discussions to facilitate prewriting.

3. Formal peer editing using Google.docs

4. Publish & share online = increases pride in work

 

The awesome free web tools that can help!

1. Lino it is a multimedia post-it note canvas. It  is a great way to engage students in brainstorming online. Provide a topic and allow them to generate ideas together before they begin prewriting. Students can post comments, images, and video. Teachers can create groups and make canvases private or public.

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2. Collaborize Classroom is an online discussion tool that is perfect for prewriting, informal writing assignments and group collaboration on writing. Beginning a writing assignment with a dynamic discussion online is a great way to get students thinking about a topic. It also exposes students to alternative perspectives and makes it possible for students to provide each other with informal feedback.

3. Pen.io makes it possible for students to publish work immediately. They can create a personal URL, copy and paste written work onto their page, upload images, tag and change the page themes.

4. Penzu is an online journal that students can use to reflect privately or collect pieces of writing they want to share. The ability to lock or share makes this a wonderfully diverse web tool. Students can individually use this or a teacher can create a “classroom” collection of journals and provide students with a code. Students can save, print, add photos, etc.

5. My Fake Wall allows students to create a profile for a character from history or literature. This inspires them to think deeply about people- their lives, interests, relationships, fears, motivations- which is helpful for writing strong narratives.

*Note: MyFakeWall is in beta stage and runs a little slow. This can also be done with Facebook if you don’t mind using that with students.

6. Storybird is a beautiful online tool that lets students pair their writing with artwork to create a story. It is a fun way to publish short stories or poetry.

7. Google docs is fabulous for collaborative group writing. Students can construct an essay or story together easily on a shared document.

8. Google Forms is an incredible tool for editing. Teachers can create a form using a variety of assessment types – multiple choice, scale, text- and provide focused guided feedback to their peers. Teachers can email the forms to students who can complete them right in their email and send the information direct to a spreadsheet that collates the information! Total time saver.

If you have any questions about any of these tools or want ideas for how to use them with your students, send me at tweet @CTuckerEnglish. I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you to all the educators at FETC for attending my session!

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2 Responses to 8 Web Tools That Make Writing Fun!

  1. Mike says:

    Catlin
    Just heard the webinar on collaborize classroom. Sounds like a lot of potential to really engage my students. One question (out of a million I’d like to ask)- how much of the discussion is online and how much is in class (old fashion human to human interaction)? My students rarely do homework. It is a real issue for every teacher at my school, but that’s another discussion. If I was to assign discussions outside of class, at least at this point, many of my students wouldn’t do it. Do you think taking a lot of class time for the online discussions is an adequate approach?

    • Catlin says:

      Hello Mike,

      First, feel free to pepper me with questions. I have used Collaborize Classroom for 2 years now so I know it inside and out.

      To address your question about when and where students do their online work. I have replaced 75% of my pen and paper homework with online discussions, writing assignments, and collaborative group work. As I transitioned online, the total number of students turning in their homework on a daily basis increased significantly. I think several of my students were more inclined to jump on the computer than open their bags and complete a handout. The social nature of online discussions kept most of them really engaged. That said, there were a handful of students who never did homework and that did not change when I took work online. For a few I would hold them in and have them do their postings at break or lunch but that can be challenging.

      I think their is a lot of value in having students use in class time to do discussion. If you think about it, we would never be able to hear from every student in the classroom even if our discussions rocked. Time is limited and there are a variety of barriers to that cause the majority of kids to stay quiet. Some are shy or need more time to process. So, if you wanted to engage them in an equitable discussion in class, you could post a question and give them 15 minutes to respond, read their peers postings and reply to one another. Then you have given everyone an equal opportunity to engage in the class dialogue, they have the opportunity to learn from one another and you have a transcript you can revisit. To me that justifies taking class time to do online discussions and collaborative group work.

      Please don’t hesitate to post additional questions if you have them.

      Catlin Tucker

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