Good writing skills are critical for today's students, here's a few online tools to help develop and reinforce them.
As teachers, I think we’d all agree that communication is pretty important. In fact, it’s a necessary component of education, livelihood, and basic functionality in our society. It’s also fairly obvious that there are two main ways to communicate, although more obscure forms exist. Basically, we talk and we write. That’s how we let other people know what’s going on, and it’s an important skill to have. Just about every student can talk, but how many can truly write well?
Why Students Need to Write Well
Writing is not for turning out cookie-cutter essays in AP Lit & Comp. It’s not for texting friends, keeping diaries, or even for getting a better SAT score. Writing is important because it’s used extensively in higher education and in the workplace. If students don’t know how to express themselves in writing, they won’t be able to communicate well with professors, employers, peers, or just about anyone else.
Much of professional communication is done in writing: proposals, memos, reports, applications, preliminary interviews, e-mails, and more are part of the daily life of a college student or successful graduate. Even if students manage to learn the material in their college classes without knowing how to write well, they won’t be able to express their knowledge to the people who are making the big decisions. Potential employers won’t know whether or not head knowledge can be applied to everyday demands unless it’s through a spoken interview. Even the majority of certifications and licensures require basic writing skills to obtain. The inability to write makes for a stillborn career.
Introducing Online Writing Tools
There are several different ways to help develop students’ writing skills, but implementing online tools is one of the best choices. This is due to many students’ inherent interest in all things technological – a lot of students have a fascination with any new tool that can simplify a basic task (like writing). If you’re interested in using online tools to help students with their writing, the following list contains some useful ideas and websites.
Blogging: Let’s start with something simple: give your students a blog. You can have each student start his or her own page, or you can assign pairs, groups, or an entire classroom to one blog. This isn’t a fancy tool that will do part of the writing legwork for your students, but it’s a huge motivator and it’s fun. You might consider assigning blog topics, or you can have students research and propose their own “blog identities” before they start to write. The more you can get them invested in the idea of blogging, the more they’ll learn from the experience. Click here to learn more about getting started with free student blogging.
ReadWriteThink's “Student Interactives”: Head over to this page at readwritethink.org for the handy Webbing Tool, Notetaker, Printing Press, and more. Many of the “Student Interactives” like these are useful, and they’re also indexed by grade level appropriateness. These types of tools can be a great interactive way to gain useful writing skills.
Model Bank: Introduce your students to Model Bank, a website with interactive versions of successful writing in common middle school and high school formats. For example, students can find a sample of a good poem analysis with notes in the margins and a printable “Writer’s Guide” to help implement the successful parts of the sample. The concept of “leading by example” does have merit in writing, and Model Bank is a great way to accomplish that.
These are just a few of the many types of free writing related tools and resources available on the web. Do you know of some other tools like this? Please comment and share!
Guest writer Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching areas of online colleges and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.