Ten Apps to Help Students Develop Writing Skills
Communication skills are of vital importance in the world today. With an increasingly reliance on technology, teachers sometimes fear that students are losing the art of face-to-face and formal written communication. But instead of fearing technology’s impact on student communication, why can’t teachers leverage technology to help students hone their written communication skills? Whether students are still struggling with basic to complex grammatical concepts, or they need help elaborating their thoughts in thoughtful, sensical written pieces, teachers can rest assured: there’s an app for that!
Grammar & Spelling Skills
Building students’ grammar and spelling skills is foundational for strong written communication. The following apps are great tools for helping students master grammar and spelling.
Winner of the 2010 IEAR Language Arts App of the Year, Sentence Builder is an app geared toward elementary students. It uses a game-like interface to teach students to form grammatically correct simple, compound, and complex sentences. The app offers audio reinforcement, progress monitoring, and a “teen” module for older or struggling ELA students.
Spelling is a cornerstone of strong writing. But how can students locate a new word in the dictionary if they don’t already know how to spell it? American Wordspeller is an app that can solve this problem by helping students to “find a word by the way it sounds!” Students can type the first two to three letters that they think the word starts with, and American Wordspeller will use a predictive function based on the letters’ sounds to generate a list of suggested words and help the student identify the word he or she is looking for! This app builds agency and confidence in proper spelling.
Written by a team of linguists from the University College of London, the grammar in this app is based on the most current research and reflects real situations and real sentences, not just the repetition of archaic rules. The app is progressive, spanning concepts from basic level understanding to complex, collegiate-level pieces of writing.
Technically, No Red Ink is an interactive website, but it is so functional and easy to navigate, that it has earned its place on a list alongside self-contained apps! No Red Ink is a personalized approach to drilling grammar skills. The site uses the students’ self-reported interests to build sentences that pretest, practice, and evaluate students’ grammar knowledge and acquired learning. Teachers can set the topic for a class, monitor student progress, and peruse the data provided by the site reflecting students’ achievement. It’s an easy and effective grammar skill tool.
The Writing Challenge App allows students to enjoy writing in the guide of a fun, interactive game. The app provides a prompt to get student writing started…then, every minute, the app supplies another prompt to add new ideas, words, characters, sentences, places or actions to the plot. Students who have a hard time getting started with creative writing assignments will enjoy the fast-paced, game-like setup of this app. And in the end, they’ll have been inspired to write an entire story!
This app generates fiction, and nonfiction writing prompts, helping students master the skill of the short write. The app uses current events, scene elements, words, pictures, colors, and even random tidbits from fiction works to inspire students to write both short and long pieces. The 600 creative writing prompts are available both on- and offline to encourage student writing wherever they may be.
Story Builder is an app from the same company that produces Sentence Builder. Story Builder was Huffington Post’s 2011 winner of Best Reading App. The app is designed to help students improve paragraph formation, integration of idea, inference, and abstract thinking and expression. The app’s use of audio clips promotes access to writing skills, even for students with special needs. The app offers a talk-to-text function, which allows students to narrate their thoughts and see them transformed into paragraphs; this is an essential scaffold for struggling writers.
Write About This is an app that addresses all genres of writing throughout elementary school, engaging students and making them feel excited about writing! Educators report that even struggling writers are engaged and motivated by the game-like feel of this writing app; by the end of its integration, many couldn’t get their students to turn it off! This app is worth investigating for teachers of reluctant writers.
Storyrobe allows writers to write, share their work, and receive feedback from others. This is a great way to integrate student editing and revision as well as teaching how to incorporate positive feedback to writers. With this app, you can easily save and upload your story to social media platforms as well!
For traditional essay writing in classrooms, there is no better app than Google Docs! Google Docs has all the traditional functionality of Microsoft Word but allows for collaboration between students and for easy-to-give and easy-to-receive feedback from teachers through the commenting and suggesting functions. When paired with Google Classroom, Google Docs makes the assigning, collecting, and grading of essays a breeze for teachers and students.
It’s time to harness technology’s strengths, instead of dwelling on their weaknesses. While written communication can, at times, be undercut by social media, teachers can also use it to motivate students to write more and write better. By tapping into these writing apps, teachers can get their students invested in improving their writing skills!