How Humans Write

Language Magazine offers a roundup of some of the most interesting products that can aid teachers in the instruction of writing

Teaching students how to write may well be the most valuable lesson that educators can offer. Writing can be an arduous task for students, and grading papers can be equally exhausting for tired eyes after a long day in the classroom. Not only do writing programs mainstream the way writing is taught, but computer-based systems can foster computer literacy among students who will be tapping on a keyboard for the whole of their academic careers. Many new programs are even aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

Writing Alive
Writing Alive develops all six components of writing to meet and exceed the Common Core State Standards. Hands-on manipulation of sentence components helps students understand and master sentence structure. Students build on their understanding to create organized paragraphs, compositions, essays, and stories. Every Monday, teachers instruct a new skill engaging multiple learning channels and sentence shape manipulation to address grammar. Throughout the week, that skill is practiced in daily speaking, writing, sentence styling, and revision. Daily Sentence Styling gives students opportunities to master revision strategies to improve organization, content, word choice, voice, fluency, style, conventions, and presentation. Explicit instruction and interactive lessons prepare students for independent writing and revision across the curriculum. Writing Alive’s process provides students with multiple means of planning and rehearsing writing pieces. Verbal rehearsal and guided interactive writing engage students at a deeper level. Students can view proficient and advanced writing models, set goals on diagnostic rubrics before drafting and assess goals after drafting. Students celebrate success as they graph their scores and take ownership of their writing progress.

Writer’s Workspace
Writer’s Workspace is an online, integrated language arts program for grades 6-12. The program offers students rigorous language arts instruction to meet the Common Core State Standards within an exciting, interactive environment.
Writing workshops support writing and grammar instruction through three consistent steps:

Interactive Reading: Before beginning each writing workshop, students read literature in the genre of study. Interactive Reading selections provide opportunities to read and respond to professional models with scaffolded support.

Reading-Writing Connection: Reading-Writing Practice activities provide a bridge between reading and writing, as students develop writing skills by completing short, focused writing activities.

Comprehensive Writing: Students write longer compositions within the online Workshop Editor. Step-by-step explanations scaffold writing instruction for students, while a Conferencing Tool allows teachers to comment at all stages of the writing process.

The program is designed to help develop students’ writing fluency and proficiency to handle the demands of high stakes assessments, including the ACT and SAT, while mastering the Common Core State Standards. It also supports students in need of intervention, including English Language Learners, providing personalized instruction to help all learners acquire the language usage skills necessary to be effective communicators.

Writer’s Workspace has been named as a finalist for several prestigious industry awards, including the 2011 CODiE Awards in the category of Education Technology: Best Reading/English Instructional Solution, the 2011 Association of Educational Publishers’ AEP Awards in the category of Curriculum: 9-12 Reading and Language Arts, and the 2012 EdTech Digest Cool Tool Awards.

WriteToLearn is a complete online tool for building writing skills and developing reading comprehension for students in grades 4-12. This innovative web-based tool provides students the opportunity to practice their essay writing and summary writing skills; select reading passages also include vocabulary enhancing activities. The program instantly assesses student work by evaluating the meaning of text, not just grammar and spelling so that teachers can assign students more reading, writing and vocabulary practice while reducing time spent on laborious editing and scoring. As a result of which they can spend more time on lesson planning and focused, individualized instruction. WriteToLearn is an online writing instruction tool developed to reinforce the required interplay between reading, writing, and vocabulary — the bedrock of literacy. It includes adaptive vocabulary exercises within reading passages. Its built-in language tools include text-to-speech throughout the product, an embedded cross-language dictionary, spot word translation, and new read-aloud translated instructions and student feedback in both Spanish and Chinese, which are designed to help struggling readers, writers, and English language learners improve more rapidly. As it is a flexible, web-based system, it can be used on laptops, desktop computers, and tablet devices in a variety of locations, including classrooms, computer labs, and at home. Students, teachers, and administrators can log in from most Windows and Macintosh computers and iPads (keyboard recommended) with current operating systems, web browsers, and plug-ins.

Write Source
Write Source is a comprehensive digital language arts program for grades K-12 featuring complete coverage of the Common Core Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language standards. The program offers a motivating student-centered approach to writing instruction, with integrated grammar practice, detailed coverage of all key forms of writing, and formative assessments incorporated into every unit. Students engage in all aspects of writing and language literacy, from writing for different purposes to responding to nonfiction and fiction, and from conducting meaningful research, to understanding the conventions of language. The program uses digital applications and interactive tools to help students learn at their own level and pace. These include Net-text, an online text that walks students step-by-step through the writing process and enables peer-to-peer collaboration; GrammarSnap, a multimedia application that reinforces and extends grammar, usage and mechanics instruction through video podcasts, audio-enabled mini-lessons, games, and quizzes; and ePortfolio, an online workspace for students to share and publish their work. For educators, Write Source features engaging, customizable interactive whiteboard lessons for each writing form. Its innovative teacher features include a Virtual File Cabinet with thousands of printable resources. The Assignments and Notifications Manager allows teachers to create classes, post notifications to the student dashboard, and assign homework automatically. The goal is to help teachers recharge their language arts classroom and engage students with cutting-edge technology tools while helping learners master the literacy skills needed to be successful in the 21st century.

Teach Me Writing
Teach Me Writing is a school-wide sequential writing program for kindergarten through fifth grade (Levels A-F) that provides teachers with daily lessons at every grade level. It provides a consistent scope and sequence, as well as, a consistent language, presentation and expectation for teaching the process of writing. It incorporates the six traits of effective writing to teach paragraph development, narrative, epository and persuasive writing, conventions, and poetry. Non-consumable, scientific-researched based, peer reviewed, cost effective; The program is available in hard copy or on CD-ROM and also provides teachers with Word Wall Posters — 43 color posters providing enriched vocabulary for Over-Used Words, Vivid Verbs, Emotion Words and Five Senses. The program is designed to promote language acquisition, comprehension and literacy from the first day of kindergarten. Teacher Handbooks provide detailed instructions and lesson plans. A grade level specific training presentation and school-wide training presentation is provided on every CD-ROM.
It is not only a useful tool for middle school and high school students struggling to master the process of writing but is also suitable for after-school and tutorial programs. Along with the detailed, day-by-day instructions, benchmarks, standards and assessment, included is a nine-week tutorial built into Levels C-F that teaches the most basic principals of the process of writing. This ensures that every teacher is empowered with the right tools and that every student can write, regardless of their reading level.

Inspiration 9
Inspiration is a visual thinking and learning tool that gives students a new approach to writing. Whether brainstorming, researching or organizing, students can create visual mind maps or diagrams to illustrate and capture their thinking. With the ability to show all of their visual work in outline form, the software helps students move from visual representation to text organization. Outlines can be exported to a word processing program, giving students a head start on essay writing. Getting started is as simple as point and click. Students can capture ideas in symbols and pictures for a brainstorming exercise or use one of the many templates to provide a graphic organizer. Then, they can add images, hyperlinks, video, or audio; append notes, organize using colors and shapes so that a simple visual map becomes a detailed document. Now, they can get ready to write while the program turns diagrams into outlines (and back again) with a click. In outline view, students click and drag to rearrange order and hierarchy of topics. Outlines can be exported to a word processor and easily turned into a final essay. Included is a Word Guide, providing definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and audible pronunciation for thousands of words. Word Count enables students to determine whether their writing is an appropriate length for the assignment at hand.

PLATO Advanced English Literature and Composition
This course is built around discrete learning objectives. Each learning module, or lesson, is focused on one individual objective. Each module includes an introduction to the new material, a chance to practice or apply new knowledge, and an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the objective before progressing to the next module. This structure is built into units of related material and includes pre-tests to assess prior knowledge, as well as post-tests and end-of-semester tests to confirm mastery for broader levels of content beyond the lesson. The courses are designed to align to state, national, and Common Core standards.

This methodology and pedagogy is in evidence in the Advanced English Literature and Composition course. This online course teaches learners to become skilled readers and writers through the study, analysis, and evaluation of literature. The course teaches learners how to perform close readings of literature, as well as develop and strengthen their writing skills. Advanced English Literature and Composition follows the curricular requirements described in the Advanced Placement English Course Description.

Each of the ten units across two 18-week semesters addresses some aspect of writing and provides representative samples of literary work. Each unit begins with an exemptive pretest, making learning more effective by making it more efficient and engaging. The course emphasizes writing as a process and assignments run a wide gamut, including critical essays, explications and interpretations of poetry, fiction, drama, timed writings, and more.

To generate skills for lifelong learning and to employ the most appropriate learning approach for each topic, twenty-five percent of the lessons use student-driven, constructivist approaches for concept development. The remaining lessons employ direct instruction approaches. In either case, students will take full advantage of the online learning environment, linking to rich online, multimedia, and interactive resources.

Clicker 6
Clicker is a proven reading and writing tool that is designed to help elementary students of all abilities to achieve rapid and permanent gains in their levels of literacy. It is also widely used to support English language learners. The software includes a child-friendly talking word processor, painting tools, a curriculum-based picture library, and the tools to create on-screen books and supportive writing grids, tailored to each student’s individual needs.

The flexible nature of the software enables educators to provide a variety of resources that support classroom teaching and also motivate learning. Talking books, modeled sentence building activities, matching activities, and multimedia presentations can also be used to build ELL students’ confidence in reading and writing. There are also hundreds of free resources available to download.
Clicker 6 combines customizable student support tools that enable children to work independently with intuitive activity wizards that make it easier than ever before for teachers to create and edit activities.

Traits Writing
Inspired by 25 years of research and aligned to the Common Core State Standards, Traits Writing is a revolutionary new core writing program for grades K-8 from Scholastic and Ruth Culham, beloved educator and president of The Culham Writing Company. This new program is designed to help every student become a capable, confident writer, and prepares them for the demands of college and the careers of the 21st Century. The Common Core sets in stone the notion that students should be able to write while expressing opinions and ideas while revising and editing their work through a wide range of writing projects, and educators need tools and materials to help their students meet these more rigorous standards. Built on the cornerstones of solid writing practices — writing process, writing workshop, and writing traits — Traits Writing presents a systematic way to effectively teach writing.

Writing Planet
Writing Planet with Project Essay Grade (PEG) is the only comprehensive writing program with built-in writing assessment with scoring rubrics designed specifically for English Language Learners (ELLs) and native English speakers. The program includes interactive tutorials, engaging exercises, and instant feedback on writing, giving students more writing practice.

Writing Planet is powered by the artificial intelligence writing assessment engine developed by academic experts, Project Essay Grade, which has been tested against human scorers and proven to have more consistent results. Included is the unique PEG scoring rubric that has been trained using thousands of essays from around the world to recognize errors unique to English language learners. The international rubric was built to mimic those of the IELTS and TOEFL exams, assisting students in developing the critical writing skills necessary for advanced academic study.

The program incorporates a teacher-driven class portfolio that provides real-time snapshots of how the class is performing, as well as data on individual students. The teacher accesses detailed information on student performance and progress on tutorials, exercises, and writing assignments, as well as how they perform in specific areas of writing. It is simple to deploy so it starts working with and for teachers immediately.

Writing Fundamentals
All Essential Skills programs are developed by teachers with years of practical classroom experience and are based on the knowledge of what works. Writing Fundamentals uses a structured approach to teach key concepts of the writing curriculum for grades three to five. Among other skills, students learn how to create clear, concise, interesting sentences, thesaurus and dictionary skills, how to proofread and edit, and how to write a paragraph with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Targeted skills include parts of speech, sentence structure, perfect punctuation, vocabulary, dictionary skills, satisfying sentences, paragraphs, and dialogue.

The program is available on CD, or as a web-based subscription. Additional language arts titles from Essential Skills include: Grammar and Creative Writing.