8 Great Ways to Meet Writers Where They Are

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 9.45.05 PMMore than ever, I am grateful for the reach and diversity of our community.  As classroom teachers, pre-service teachers, administrators, coaches, and parents we reach so many children every day.  I am confident we all have students who will benefit from what I learned about personalizing learning at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference, OETC.

In the session, Scaffolding the Writing Process for Elementary Writers, Ellen Cahill shared this quote from Peter Elbow.

What prevents most people from being inventive and creative is fear of looking foolish.

Throughout the conference, I watched, listened, and played with digital tools and all along I thought about our students and how digital tools have the capability to make all students feel successful.  I was in awe of the opportunities digital devices bring to our classrooms.

We have all experienced writers who are intimidated somewhere along the writing process.  Some students have physical challenges that make fine motor skills laborious. Other writers seem to lack life experience and have difficulty generating topics.  While others lack a vision for what writing could be.  Whatever it is holding our writers back it all comes back to looking foolish and lacking the confidence to put yourself/your story out into the world for others to see, to read, and to feel.

So how can we level the playing field for all students?  How can we meet writers where they are and equip them with the certainty and power needed to put their writing out into the world for all to read? 

1. Language

Students who are English language learners, have developmental delays in speech and language, or have not yet developed an expanded writing vocabulary can find support by accessing an online dictionary and thesaurus.  

2. Adding Details and Voice

Some students tell oral stories with rich detail and voice then write flat sentences and lackluster stories.  For these students, using the audio recording features has allowed them to transfer their voice to their writing.  Audio recording allows the reader to rehearse and plan their writing before sitting down to write.  Oral storytelling opens up the writer and captures the drama that is apparent in oral storytelling and often lost in writing.

3. Editing and Revising

Writers, like myself, who have difficulty editing their work will find the text to speech feature enables them to hear their writing read back to them. When a writer understands how their writing sounds they can hear errors that are often overlooked by the eye. This feature also helps a writer revise for clarity and voice.

4. Motivating Writers

Writers who are searching for the joy of being a writer, or are intimidated by the look of their writing, can feel empowered by the ability to add video, photos, hyperlinks, GIFs, and audio. The opportunity to create a more explicit message supports all writers.

Changing the size, style, and color of fonts gives the writer choices to set a mood, make an impact, and improve readability.  

5. Sharing

Digital tools have sharing options that take the writing outside of the classroom. Writers can amplify their voice by sharing with peers, teachers, the school, parents, extended family members, and the world.  The ability to reach beyond the classroom assists writers in building a writing community with like interests and, in turn, motivates writers.

Digital writing offers students and teachers the ability to be in contact with writers. Teachers and writers can give ongoing feedback and communication. Writers receive input during and after writing.

6. Fine Motor Skills

Students with fine motor difficulties such as low tone, poor letter formation, or low stamina will find the ability to type, or the speech to text feature, a welcomed option.  Students will be free to think about the message of their writing without the battle of the fine motor tasks.

7. Vision and Readability

For students who have vision difficulties, the ability to change the background color of the paper, the intensity of the screen light, and the font size and style are game changers. Simple adjustments like these can level the playing field for a student who is struggling with vision.

8. Living a Writerly Life

Some students need our help in building schema and finding stories.  Tools like Wonderopolis, The Kid Should See This, The Poem Farm, Mystery Doug, and video clips/ images from current events can serve as powerful ways to build schema and a bank of writing ideas.

So what are some of the tools with all this power?

  • Google Docs and Slides
  • Keynote, Numbers, iMovie, Clips, and Pages
  • Notes
  • Pixie
  • Blogs
  • Explain Everything
  • Notability
  • Paper 53

Through the personalized use of digital tools, all students will feel empowered and have ownership and pride in their work.  These are just a few tools and ideas to personalize with digital tools.  Please share how you are personalizing learning for your students. Someone reading just might need what you share, be brave and put yourself out there. Your kids will be so proud of you!