Using Digital Tools to Meet the Needs of Developing Writers

Choice is the foundation of writing workshop.  Student ownership of writing is evidenced in the student’s ability to choose genres, topics, mimic ideas from authors, deciding whether or not to apply the advice from peers or teachers, exploring and utilizing craft techniques, and making decisions for publication.  Choices are ubiquitous in writing workshop, and as a teacher in a workshop, it’s essential that we are aware of the options our writers have and how they can guide the writers to the curricular goals set for them while still meeting the individual needs of the writer.

When writing with digital tools, students have the opportunity to design and share writing in a variety of ways that not only add a new aesthetic to writing but more importantly they offer teachers the ability to skillfully and intentionally scaffold writing development. The magnetism of digital tools makes it necessary for us to deliberately think about how we will guide writers to interact with digital tools to capitalize on their capacities rather than using the devices to replicate old ideas with new tools.

Let’s begin by taking a careful look at what our writers need and then how digital tools can bridge the demands of writing and the abilities of the student.  

Story Planning

For writers who need support recalling details, finding a topic, or just enjoy dramatization, audio or video recording can be a strong support.  Writers can revisit the recording as they write to recall details, language, and expression that might have been omitted from the story.  
Crafting and Creating Pieces of Interest

Digital tools add the ability to include photographs, stickers, frames, and filters to our writing, which is a new possibility.  This is a feature that requires careful planning and teaching. Writers need to learn how these features can add to voice and expression in writing. Just as we prepare our writers how to use punctuation, illustrations, and language to share our message, we must teach them how to use these new abilities in purposeful ways.

The audio recording feature of digital tools enables the audience to understand the messages of our youngest writers.  The opportunity to layer writing with voice helps the audience read inventive spelling, interpret illustrations, and hear the emotions of the writer.  

Audience

The audience’s enjoyment of the piece provides positive feedback to the author and encourages writing.  For the writer, the act of recording audio with the writing often brings out the inner voice of the writer. This releasing of inhibition brings more expression and adds details to the piece.

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