Last spring, I discovered WriteReader. Sign-up was easy and free, and the site is very user-friendly. I was pleased to find that it didn’t take hours of my time to figure it out before using it with my students.
Most importantly, it’s “kid-friendly.” It’s designed with K-5 students in mind. They can log-in easily and the simple format allows young learners to manage the site independently. There are embedded supports for students, such as large buttons and an accessible picture bank or a safe search for photos. It’s appealing, engaging, and fun!
Emergent and Conventional Writing
Our elementary school was so impressed with WriteReader that we quickly bought subscriptions for the upgraded version. The students, parents, and teachers all love it! One thing that we really love about it is that it honors the "emergent" writing of young learners. Audio support can give either the letter name or sound to the students to encourage independent work. Also, there are two spaces for writing on the screen – one for emergent writing (child) and one for conventional writing (adult). The adult does not edit or delete the child’s work. The space below is for the parent or teacher to offer feedback or encouragement, or to transcribe the child's writing into "adult" writing (using language conventions, such as correct spelling, grammar, sentence structure, sequence, and punctuation).
Another feature that we love about this app is that it encourages fluent reading. Once students have finished writing and an adult has added conventional writing underneath, the child uses his or her own writing for reading practice. Since the writing is about the child's own experiences and knowledge, it makes word prediction much easier; not all words need to be "sounded out" because the child already knows how the story unfolds. This is known as the reading-writing connection, which is deeply grounded in educational research and is widely recognized as a necessary component of effective literacy instruction.
Cross-Curricular Tech Tool
WriteReader is a cross-curricular tech tool. Other than story books, you could also use it for math/science journals, lift-the-tab books, dual language texts, makerspace logs, cards, song booklets, poetry collections, or self-assessment statements. Check out their website for lesson plans; their blog and monthly newsletter offer lots of innovative teaching ideas too.
You’ll be amazed at how engaged the children are when using this app. They are proud of their creations and are excited to read their stories aloud. Young writers and readers deserve no less.
Vicki Den Ouden (M.Ed.) is a Reading Intervention Teacher in Kelowna, BC, Canada. She has been a sessional instructor at several Canadian universities and is the TV host of “Learning Lab.” Her blog is www.tinkerwithtext.com and you can find her on Twitter at @vicki_den .