The Learning Hub

Finding a Quality Writing App for the 1:1 Classroom

BY: Daisy Marino

Last April my school embarked upon the new adventure of 1:1 iPads in the classroom.  Of course, we all went on a mad app buying spree.  We bought all the cute educational games, a few apps for class management and productivity, and we deemed ourselves ready to roll.  It didn’t take me long to realize that this was not what was intended for a “1:1” classroom.  The whole point of this new technology was to seamlessly integrate the iPad into the class while making it seem as normal as possible.  In most cases, the iPad would now be the pencil and paper.  The iPad was to be used as a tool to enhance productivity and learning among students, not as a baby-sitter or a place for games to be played.

Once I had my epiphany, I started looking and searching…searching and looking…for any and every writing app that could possibly help in my 4th grade writing class.  And I did not find ANYTHING!  When conducting my search I found grammar games and actual writing apps (the ones where toddlers trace letters) that were much too young for my nine and ten year olds.  I was bummed.  Then I went to iPadpalooza and was introduced to “Write About This” by @iPadSammy and @TechChef4U.  And it was for ME!  It was for every writing teacher in the room.  This was our app.  I seriously wanted to do cartwheels down the aisle.

This is the perfect app for any writing teacher and lesson.  It integrates the iPad smoothly into the class.  It is not a game.  It is not a baby-sitter.  This is a true blue app for writing that can be used daily to work on any skills or standards that we need to attack that particular day.  The wheels started turning in my head that day in July, and right then and there I started making lesson plans.  This was one of the first apps that I introduced to my students this year.  It is so incredibly user friendly that I only needed to teach how to use the app once.  After that, the app has transferred into our pencil and paper.  We use it for poetry, grammar skills, and of course our narratives and expository papers.

students writing

I think sometimes teachers are so concerned with having to teach the “tech” that they do not branch out and bring new things into their classroom.  I urge any teacher to take just one day and teach a quick how-to on Write About This.  You will be amazed at the possibilities.  Not only can my students write their papers and poetry in app, they can then e-mail it directly to me.  Easily!  I love this app because it is easy for my students to use, and it targets the key components of writing.  My students love this app because it is bright, colorful, it’s on the iPad, and they can e-mail their work to their parents.  It makes them feel very grown-up, and that’s a good thing.  They want to send their parents a great paper, so they work extremely hard.

Not only does this app have built in prompts and pictures, it also has the option to import your own picture.  As a 4th grade teacher in Texas this feature has been indispensable.  Some days we build our own prompts to mimic the STAAR test, but most days we use the vibrant, detailed pictures that Write About This already has included.  So much creativity.  So much imagination.  And so much love for Write About This.


Daisy & Angela Moses rocking their iPad carts!

Daisy & Angela Moses rocking their iPad carts!

 

 

 

Daisy Marino (@daisyray215) is a wife, mom, teacher and chocolate chip cookie baker extraordinaire!  Check out her blog at staartechers.wordpress.com

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Wonder Wednesday: Why Are Snowflakes So Unique?

Whether you live on the east coast, west coast, or especially anywhere in between, you are familiar with the harsh winter we have all been experiencing. Temperatures have dropped at record lows where most of us live. The term polar vortex is a regular discussion in our conversations. Finally, most of us have received a fair share of snow this winter. Beyond playing in it, making snow ice cream, and anticipating its’ appearance, let’s have students explore what they are and how they are formed!

WriteAboutThis-Winter
Students can find the above visual prompt in the Write About This gallery by searching the term snow. Have students select the picture and choose an appropriate prompt to start their planning.

  1. The best part about snow is… The worst part about snow is…
  2. What emotions do you feel from looking at this photo? Why do you think that happens?
  3. Do you believe every person is as unique as a snowflake, or is there someone else out there just like you?

Have students share their responses and discuss any similarities they hear from each other’s responses. Students can now work to generate their own main investigative question for further research. This can include questions on how snowflakes are formed, what is the math behind the snowflake patterns, why are all snowflakes unique, and so forth. Students can find additional question ideas (and further information for when they conduct their research) on Wonderopolis’ Snow Day Related Wonders: http://wonderopolis.org/wonder-year-2012/snow-day-related-wonders/ Younger students can choose one of the prompts for further research. Once students have decided on their investigative question, have them complete a KWL chart. They can then generate their research questions/topics from the “What I Want To Know” column in an I-Chart (http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/printouts/Inquiry%20Chart.pdf). This is a great way for students to organize the evidence they gather during their research! They can take notes in the Write About This app and add their own audio interpretations to their notes as well.

Finally, have students review their original writing response from the Write About This prompt and write a report on their chosen investigative question in the Write About This app. They may want to build upon what they originally wrote and/or tie it in to the investigate response.

There are many amazing cross-curriculum tie-ins you can integrate with this investigation including art projects, math symmetry studies, and poetry. Students will enjoy having a closer study of something they get so excited seeing falling from the sky!

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

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Lesson Idea: My School is A Community Scavenger Hunt

Starting in Kindergarten, students learn their role as an individual and further develop an understanding of their part in a larger group such as their families and their school. In this lesson, students explore the ways their school is a community and how everyone plays an integral role in its function and success.

TECHi TiKES: Write About This - www.techitikes.com

TECHi TiKES: Write About This – www.techitikes.com

The Activity

Discuss with the students that there are many individuals that help contribute to the school community. These can be individuals who work within the school and volunteers. Invite students to share their thoughts and brainstorm who makes up the school community (principal, nurse, custodians, teachers, students, etc.) and make a list of their ideas. In pairs or triads, assign students an individual from the list. Allow groups time to take a picture of the individual using and iPad or the teacher can acquire a picture in advance. If students are taking the picture, invite them to take a picture of the individual performing their job for the school if possible. Students will then use the Write About This app to collaborate on the ways this individual contributes to the school community and write their response as a team. Responses can then be shared to the class.

Key Questions for the Writing Response

  • Who is your school community member?
  • How do they help the school?
  • Why are they important?

The Product

At the end of the activity, students can email responses to the teacher to create a portfolio of their school as a community. The student writing responses can be printed for a hallway display or included in a multimedia presentation to celebrate all of the amazing individuals that contribute to their school.

What’s Next?

Supplementary extension activities can include:

  • Have students write a letter of appreciation to a community member of their school
  • Ask a community member of the school to visit the class and serve as a guest speaker to share more of their role in the school. They can also answer questions from students about the ins and outs of their work!

Subject: Social Studies
Grade(s): K-2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.2 Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.6 With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

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Wonder Wednesday: What is Love?

One of the greatest gifts of teaching is being able to inspire, ignite, and satisfy the curiosities of our students. We are always striving to instill the need to ask questions, craft them well, and seek to find the answers. We will be offering Wonder Wednesday posts to provide strategies and creative ideas on how to incorporate inquiry-based learning and literacy into your classroom using the Write About This app. So in celebration of February’s most popular holiday, this week we offer a Wonder Wednesday on the topic of love.

Every child’s first relationship is that with his or her family. Family is our first experience in feeling comfort and fear, sadness and joy, and other emotional highs and lows. Family is the first training ground in communication for a child. So in honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s get students to explore the feeling of love through the lens of their family.

WriteAboutThis-Love

Students can find the above visual prompt in the Write About This gallery by searching for “love”. Have students select the picture and choose an appropriate prompt to start their planning.

  1. What are seven things hanging on your refrigerator?
  2. I love my family because…
  3. What can you tell about this family from everything in this photo?

Have students share their responses and discuss any similarities they hear from each other’s responses. Many of the responses may involve reflections of how family members relate and appreciate each other. Tie this in as possible examples of showing love.

Students can now work to generate their own investigative question for further research. This can include investigating why love makes us happy, how the brain processes love, why is the shape of the heart a representation for love, and so forth. The possibilities are endless! For younger students, there is a great Wonderopolis wonder on “Is There Such a Thing As Love At First Sight?” (http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/is-there-such-a-thing-as-love-at-first-sight) that you can use as a whole group investigation! Once students have decided on their investigative question, have them complete a KWL chart. They can then generate their research questions/topics from the “What I Want To Know” column in an I-Chart (http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/printouts/Inquiry%20Chart.pdf). This is a great way for students to organize the evidence they gather during their research! They can take notes in the Write About This app and add their own audio interpretations to their notes as well.

Finally, have students review their original writing response from the Write About This prompt and write a report on their chosen investigative question in the Write About This app. They may want to build upon what they originally wrote and/or tie it in to the investigate response.

It should be interesting to see what students come up with. Have fun investigating and “spreading the love”!

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

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Let Your Imagination Lead Your Fingertips!

BY: Angela Moses

Students often say, “I’m just not a good writer” or “I just don’t know what to write.” They will sit and stare at a blank sheet of paper as if the words will suddenly appear.  Sometimes they need a little inspiration to get their pencil moving…or shall I say their “fingertips” when it applies to Write About This. Some complain that students are getting away from handwritten work and that they just use devices all the time.  I feel, however, that it does not matter what platform a student uses to spark creativity in their writing… that it’s the final outcome that matters. If we can find what drives a student to write from within, use it! I have found that with Write About This.  I no longer have blank stares, complaints about writing, or the question about how long the paper has to be. What I do have is excitement for writing. Can my students still write on paper? Yes!! Write About This has enhanced my students’ writing skills!  It is fostering a love for writing in my students that will last forever.

2nd Graders write letters

 

Our first project was very simple and the app is very easy for students to use for the first time.   We started with writing about baking cookies. They had an image of a cookie to help visualize the process and the students were engaged and learning during the lesson.  We then collaborated on a project with a few classes around the world. They re-told the Grinch story from his point of view.  We used Write About This to send “The Grinch” a letter. Let me just say…awesome! The thought that “The Grinch” might read their letters, was driving some amazing questions! Inferencing and predictions were popping like lightning across my classroom! The lesson became meaningful to the students.

 

 

“How to make PB&J Sandwich” was our next project. We had so much fun thinking of the process of how to make the sandwich.  They would laugh when they realized the steps that were left out! The students searched and found images of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to insert in their project.  I had them close their eyes and visualize the steps of making the sandwich.  When they started writing, it was so quiet in my room. You know what amazes me each time we use Write About This? I get to see imagination at work!

2nd graders write on the ipads

 

My students are collaborating, communicating, and learning while using Write About This.  We write the stories of our lives.  It makes me happy that I can show students the importance of writing.  It is a powerful tool- we can reflect, share with others, and leave our mark with our words! I also love being able to share my students’ work with parents and they love to see their child’s writing…it’s a great feature! My kids are an inspiration and it shows in their writing. They are becoming better writers each day!  I’m thankful for this wonderful app that has sparked creativity within my students and I could not imagine my classroom without Write About This!

Anglea Moses (@AngelaKMoses) is a wife, mom, 2nd grade teacher, tech enthusiast, connected educator & accomplished brownie baker!  She has a passion for teaching & loves unexpected teachable moments!  Check out her blog at staartechers.wordpress.com

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