Tuesday, January 31, 2017

RESOURCE REVIEW: Write About – A One Stop Digital Writing Community

By Dr. Rose Reissman

Write About www.writeabout.com
OVERVIEW: A Great Destination for Any Teacher who wants a quick start safe , secure and multi-optioned student writing community anytime anyplace- right away!

You are a brand new teacher educator with teaching writing as one of your grade school or ELA Middle school or SS Middle School or Secondary school responsibilities.  You are a competent as needed writer for your own professional level, but are not a writer per se.  Yet suddenly you have a slew of writing genres- informational, reflective, memoir, lists, persuasive, narrative and argument- which you not only must teach but will also have to maintain portfolios of your individual students’ work .  In addition, you have to develop growth metrics and data analytics of the students’ growth.  You want them to be truly engaged in their writing as well as develop a set of English writing conventions skills and have an authentic audience of their class, you and other readers you prescreen.  You want to supply them with writing ideas that stimulate varied credible imaginative responses and or detail backed reasonable positions on interesting topics.  But you are brand new to teaching writing per se and especially  writing genres that align to rigorous standards plus you worry about the privacy of their writings, how frequently you can make private comments on them and the danger of their being subject to unwelcome and inappropriate resources or reactions to their writings.  Of course , you are required to have a student digitally connected writing community with authentic feedback up and running within a few days and you must start accumulating data to substantiate your individual students’ writing skill progress plus your aggregate class process for school administrative and district review.  Your literacy coach is deep into test analytics, where are you to turn?

Go to www.writeabout.com.  This rich and ever evolving resource was built three years ago by two teachers who were grappling with the same issues that challenge you and even your veteran colleagues who are suddenly being asked to teach a specific genre of writing –informational or procedural or argument or reflection in their middle or secondary school content classes.  The site has a vast and growing collection of what they term IDEAS which are also prompts which are conveniently set up according to grade and topic or writing genre.  You can filter and choose those which fit to your necessary writing skills or curricula focus or other thematic goal.  You can easily set up individual student accounts with your managing them and levels of viewing them which include you and the student alone, other students in your class, selected invited others for authentic feedback and finally the public.  You can leave voice comments on your students work as well as written ones and your students can add in audio detailing their process, challenges and key points as they share their writing with you.  During the ongoing process which also allows for students to just post as they would journal their daily thoughts or experiences on their own demand and allows others if they like within your group to react to that post.  You the teacher will edit and control the sharing of the posts but as in any writing community student members can as they desire log in posts or react to a variety of idea posts you have shared or look among other groups whose work you preselect for them to comment on distanced peer class study.  What piqued the reviewer’s interest was a group writing about tech applications and one of aspiring authors, student community members can within groups you share select those they want engage with as digital writers.  For ESL newly arrived students or spatial learners or auditory learners there are available a spectrum of ideas that are visually delivered and students can react to them plus to other peers who have chosen the same Idea.

The site includes two case studies featuring teachers and students who are engaging successfully using the resource and loving it.  For the highly creative teacher who is perhaps also a writer outside of education or a veteran with tons of ideas he or she has evolved, the site welcomes contribution and commentary to grow its site resources as would any virtual writers’ community.  Teachers can become what the site terms as “Rockstar” contributors, plus students having difficulty with online writing can enhance their writing with visuals and audio in their native language.  Even more important for both student writers eager to build a portfolio of digital writings that evidence growth in metrics and in skills over time for high school and college  and for teachers who get transfer or students moving up a grade or academic class, the student portfolios can be transferred intact from school to school or within district.  A true authenticator and necessary product based outcome for students and teachers.

From me the veteran teacher reviewer and lifelong writer from childhood to you the new teacher or you the teacher new to mandated teaching of writing in ESL or SS or Science- This is such a rich source that you can so come to own, that it will excite and engage not only your students representing a broad spectrum of writing and reading achievement levels and interests, but will also captivate your veteran mentors as well.  So beat them to it and get started with Write About.  Let them follow your lead.

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