Teaching Idea

Writing Tools and Apps

Deanna Day

Abstract

Brief, efficient reviews share tools and apps that offer a variety of creative and motivating writing experiences for students in K-Grade 8. The author gives examples of ways these apps can be applied with science and social studies, as well as in reading, writing, and multimedia experiences. Students integrate visual arts, music, and drama as they use these apps, and they develop communication skills as they prepare projects for dissemination.

Are you looking for some innovative technology tools to incorporate student writing or written reflection in your classroom? If you are, these tools and apps may enhance the learning experiences for your K-8 students. Even if you are just beginning to increase your technology use, you could integrate one or more of these tools to support active and authentic writing, and other curricular areas as well.

Book Creator

https://bookcreator.com/

All children enjoy making books, and this open-ended, creative storytelling app is available for any device for $2.49 to $4.99. Students choose the format they want to use and then select photographs, find clipart, or draw their own illustrations. Using the step-by-step directions provided, students add text, music, video, or voice.

This cross-curricular app could be used in any discipline. Students could create a reading journal or a writer's notebook and add to it throughout the year. For science, students could keep a science notebook to collect notes from observations as well as information from different sources. The most popular use of this app is in writer's workshop where students create and publish books. Teachers have found that students revise their writing more if they have an audience, and these books can be published in iBooks or uploaded to social media to give them that opportunity.

Explain Everything

https://explaineverything.com/

As the title states, students can explain anything and everything with this app. The versatile interactive whiteboard can share children's knowledge or build their understanding. Students use visuals, animations, videos, and narration about any topic or subject matter.

Students might write and illustrate a story on the whiteboard and read it aloud with the video display. Or they could write a summary of a historical event and add onscreen drawings, import photos and movies, and then add audio. After writing a nonfiction piece, students could complete a summative assessment explaining the text features and text structure of this genre. Explain Everything is an amazing tool for creating interactive and engaging multimedia presentations with many options available.

Make Beliefs Comic

https://www.makebeliefscomix.com/

This exciting comic strip tool can help kids build creative comic strips. Students choose their characters, background colors, and speech balloons, and then they write the text. This free user-friendly tool, available on the internet, is appropriate for all ages. The comic characters are diverse, including people of color, animals, and a child in a wheelchair. Students could retell a story by creating a narrative comic, including the beginning, middle, and end. In addition, students could write a reflection to something they have read, using three simple images and text. The comics can be emailed or posted on social media.

My Story

http://mystoryapp.org/

This book-making tool and storytelling app is the easiest for PreK-3 students. Children can type or write their text, then illustrate using the paintbrush and drawing tools. For students who would prefer to use clip art or stamps, these options are available, as well as resources for finding images from the internet to enhance a story. A final option is for students to audio record and narrate their story. The video can be exported to social media or the internet. Only $3.99, this app is extraordinarily easy to use as it empowers young children to write.

Popplet

https://popplet.com

This free graphic organizer is an excellent tool for brainstorming and planning a piece of writing. Popplet helps students think and learn visually by organizing thoughts, ideas, images, facts, and more. They can insert words, sentences, drawings, videos, photographs, and URL links. For example, when writing a personal narrative students could create a popple for each memory they recall related to their story. Young children could plan a beginning, middle, and end in this tool. Older students could use Popplet like a story map and plan the rising action, climax, and resolution. Children find this tool fascinating and very easy to use.

Puppet Pals

There are two versions of this app, Puppet Pals 2 and Puppet Pals HD, applicable for primary to older students. This app helps students create and record their own animated short videos. For example, students could create a puppet show to retell a book or discuss what they have learned after an inquiry unit. First, they need to use pencil and paper to story board and write a script. Then they can take photos of their characters or use the caricatures available in the app. They can either use real-life backgrounds or choose from the many settings available in the app. Children can change the characters' size and move them around in different directions, just like puppets. Finally, students record the voice over and then export their puppet shows to a class website.

Skitch

https://evernote.com/skitch/

This app is free for any device and is very simple to use. With Skitch, children can communicate visually about what they are learning, then label and annotate with words, doodles, arrows, or stickers. For example, students could take a photograph of a mealworm that they are studying in science, then label the parts of the mealworm and discuss on the photograph what they learned about mealworms. Or during a class field trip a couple of students could take photographs, and then class members could write sentences on each photo as they reflect on the experience. Additionally, when the teacher sees students revising in their writer's notebooks, she might take photographs of their writing. Students could then label on the photo what kind of revising they accomplished and how this helped their writing.

Sticky

These digital sticky notes are free and available for any device. As with the actual paper sticky notes, students can keep track of their thinking as they read a book by creating these notes on their chrome book or iPad and saving them in a folder with the book title. While listening to a read aloud, students could write down their predictions, questions, or connections on digital sticky notes and share them with their table group. Perhaps at the close of a mini lesson on opinion writing, students could quickly write on a sticky note the difference between facts and opinions. The classroom teacher could check these notes to determine students' understanding. Since there is only room for one sentence, students feel empowered, not intimidated, by writing.

Deanna Day teaches literacy and technology courses for Washington State University, Vancouver. She believes in taking small steps in enhancing our classrooms with technology. All teachers can incorporate technology where it makes sense.