As the mother of a child who has Dyslexia, I’m always looking for anything that will make my daughter’s life easier. For instance, a couple of years ago took a deep dive into accessible fonts so I could determine what was the easiest font for her to read. Last year, I taught her how to use the iPad’s voice memos app for oral rehearsal. This year, I’m helping her learn how to use a word/vocabulary prediction app to make writing on the iPad easier for her.
Isabelle began using the Co:Writer Universal app on her iPad when she was drafting a personal narrative in October. According to the website, “Co:Writer Universal (for Google Chrome and iOS) uses grammar-smart and vocabulary-smart word prediction, translation support, and speech recognition to help unstick ideas and get them to flow in writing.” Basically, it’s a program — offered as an app or browser extension — that predicts the words and phrases one intends to type even if the spelling is off. This goes beyond what the predictive text setting on the iPad can do because Co:Writer can read things back letter-by-letter, word-by-word, or sentence-by sentence. It uses word prediction that offers suggestions based on the topic. Plus, there’s a text-to-speech feature.
Personalizing the Experience
Once Isabelle got the hang of using Co:Writer, she tinkered with the settings and added personal words (of friends and teachers) so that Co:Writer would predict those words accurately when she began typing them.
While Isabelle’s work gets synched to the Co:Writer cloud, she copies and pastes it into a Google Doc she can save each typed piece of writing in her digital writing folder and/or on Google Classroom.
It’s important to provide students with language-based learning disabilities to have the proper accommodations. Some students might benefit more from voice and dictation software since it takes all fine motor skills out of the picture by allowing a child to compose with their voice. Other kids are ready to type their writing. Students with Dyslexia need more support than Word, Pages, or a Google Doc can provide. Extensions/apps, like Co:Writer, are helpful because they anticipate the type of writing the user will need. Plus, spell-checking happens in real time!
We improve a child’s chance of becoming a stronger writer whenever we provide accommodations. Of course, there will still be some struggle involved with writing! Removing stumbling blocks can improve a child’s chances of writing success.
There is a cost associated with Co:Writer Universal. Once our trial ended, we began paying $4.99/month for it. (There is pricing listed on the Co:Writer product page that includes district-wide pricing.) For me, the cost is justified since I saw the benefits immediately because Isabelle had an easier time drafting, revising, and editing her writing. As her mom and as an educator, that’s something I love to see!
I am a literacy consultant who has spent over a decade working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grade K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).