Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Colorful Writing Practice

I was thinking about how to help struggling writers using technology in the classroom.  One thought I had was about was probably the obvious choice - MS Word.  True you could use any word processor, but this is what I am given, and lots of people have it in their homes.  So, I use what I have.

Kids who have problems with handwriting (or even teachers, like yours truly) like using word processors because when you strike the key, the letters always look the same time after time. But there are other ways to use the word processor to help. 

As a primary teacher, I used to walk around the class, and I would help kids by scribing some of their work if it looked like they needed help keeping up, getting ideas down before they forgot them, organizing their sentences, or to just keep the momentum of their writing going.  Not every kid needed help, but there was only one "me" walking around.  A bit of legwork needed, for sure.

 I was thinking, what if we put a struggling writer in front of a computer.  Then, when I needed to help scribe, I could just type what the kid dictates.  I can type way faster than I can write, and as their typing speed improves they would need less help.  But, also perhaps I could change the color of my text.  If they wrote in one color, and I wrote in another color, when you zoom, back you could see how much you are helping the student, and how much they are capable of themselves.  Over time you could compare this with other assignments, and have a quick visual check by looking at the size of the color blocks to see if the student is writing more on their own, still needing the same amount of support, or needing more support.  You could see if they always need help in the beginnings, or the endings of stories - and if that were the case, you could make that a focus in your next writing lesson.

Below I have taken 3 samples (not real writing samples at this point) and zoomed out.  In the first sample we see lots of green, the teacher's writing color.  The next one has less green, and the third sample has less still, with much of the green appearing at the ends of paragraphs and the story itself.  This might mean the student is improving in being able to write more details, but needs help writing concluding statements.


Now if only I could find someone who could try this out, and tell me if it helped them and their students with writing.

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