Please help me in welcoming Susanna from Whimsy Workshop! She’s got some great ideas for motivating reluctant writers through technology that will work at a variety of grade levels! She’s also been gracious enough to offer a freebie!! Read on to check it all out.
Hi everyone! I am Susanna from Whimsy Workshop. Thanks so much to Heather for inviting me! I’ve brought along a freebie for you, but first I’d like to tell you about how I’ve encouraged my reluctant writers to participate with enthusiasm in writing projects, and how you can do the same!
Just like many of you, I have some students in my class who just love to write. Ask them to write a sentence, and they’ll write five. Give them a few scrap papers and they’ll create their own fully illustrated story. So easy to motivate!
On the flip-side of that, I have some students who avoid anything that has to do with writing. They’ll always lose their pencils as writing time begins, fidget in their desks until writing time is over, and just generally avoid completing any assignments. Usually this is because they don’t feel confident, or they have fine motor issues with writing, or sometimes it’s because they’re just not interested! What are they interested in? Usually playing outside and playing on some of our borrowed ipods.
So, how could I motivate these reluctant writers? I had to make my writing tasks both more engaging and less overwhelming to students who always shut down at writing time. Luckily, I was able to use what they already loved – technology.
This year I was given an ipad to use in my class. Yes, just one! But I made very good use of that ipad. First, I searched through the myriad of writing apps that are out there, and tried a few out in class with moderate success. However, I discovered that the most effective ones with my students were the ones that used writing in the form of comics. This became a whole new way for me to engage those reluctant writers!
What is is about making comics that kids love so much? Just like with other writing tasks, they are still required to come up with logical dialogue, edit their spelling, create a storyline, or communicate their ideas in writing. The difference seemed to be that using the comics format ensured that the writing would not be too overwhelming; they write primarily in small speech bubbles; bite-sized chunks that felt “doable”. And as far as providing engaging material, the comics format was instantly accepted and caused a great deal of excitement in my class.
Here are a few examples of the apps that I’ve used to incorporate this kind of writing. I downloaded the free versions when possible to try out before upgrading any of them.
1. Comic Life – My students are young, so they need an app that is very simple. This one is simple enough for them to figure out on their own with a bit of exploration time. Students first had to choose a comic book template, and then they click on one frame to add a photo.
I was amazed at the creativity my students showed! First, with no prompting from me, they thought of using the ipad’s camera to take pictures of each other as characters in their comic. They also used pictures of the playground and our classroom as background images in a story about our school. One student even took a photo of his own drawings, instantly making usable digital copies of his own characters to drag into a frame! Once the picture is selected, they can simply drag a speech bubble where they want it and enter text. They were all very eager to write!
2. Captions: To cover all the required writing goals for our grade, we also used comic-style apps to explore non-fiction. With this app, students were given a picture and simply used the tools to write captions for different aspects of the picture. Here is one of a picture I took while visiting the farm with the class. The task was to write five different sentences about it.
3. Comics Creator. This app simply adds speech bubbles to any picture. Its simple enough for grade one students who are just starting. Once the students got used to it, we took photos of students on the playground and also of students dressed up in costume! All students were very eager for a chance to write dialogue for those pictures!
4. Superhero Comic Book Maker
This is a fun app that actually has many more features than I’ve used so far. I asked my students to simply choose one of the scenes, and then choose a character or two to drag into the scene.
Once that is done, I asked them to choose a crayon tool to write some text (with their finger) right on to the screen. This can be as simple as starting a story, labeling the picture, or drawing their own characters (you can differentiate as needed). In the example below, the student chose the halloween background, dragged an octopus onto the moon, and then used a white pencil tool to write a sentence about the picture. I could then take a screen shot to use for assessment!
5. The last app I have to show you is called Toontastic. This interactive app walks students through the creation of a story: Introduction, Conflict, Challenge, Climax and Resolution. Students choose a setting and drag in some characters from below for each part of the story. The next part is amazingly engaging: students move the characters around with their fingers and verbally narrate what is happening. The app records the action and the students’ voice as a small video clip! This becomes the first “scene” in the story.
All of these apps can be used in many different ways, especially to challenge older students to use more of the available features. Explore the possibilities – I’ve only scratched the surface! Even if you only have only one ipad in class like I do, it can be well used in small group collaboration. I hooked it up to my projector and we completed tasks as a whole group together.
My freebie for you today is a set of printable comics that I created to use as a literacy center during my Spring Farm Animals unit. I laminated them for multiple uses with a dry erase felt, and I also use them as printables to write on and color. Even if you don’t have access to an ipad, you can still take advantage of comics as an engaging alternative writing task. Click on the image to download all seven pages!
I’d love to hear about your methods of encouraging reluctant writers, or apps that you’ve used in class to motivate learning. I can be reached in the following ways:
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Thanks again to Heather for giving me a chance to share new ideas and meet new blogger friends!