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Web based apps to raise engagement for a RANGE of learners.

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Started by Thomas Bigge 23 Mar 2015 2:41pm () Replies (16)

This is the skeleton of my inquiry question:

How can I improve the engagement of my target students in order to lift their (literacy achievement) by using (web based app here) for writing?

I am having trouble finding a web based app that will help a range of learners. My target students are below and above the standard. This is because my inquiry is primarily based on engagement. Does anyone out there have any ideas of good web based apps that engage students with their writing? Students in my class use Chromebooks. 

Any help, thoughts, ideas much appreciated! 



  • Hamish McLean (View all users posts) 23 Mar 2015 2:47pm ()

    I think you may be looking for: Read&Write



    You can get the paid version for a few dollars per student, each year.  But the free version also has excellent features. 

  • Holly Bradshaw (View all users posts) 23 Mar 2015 6:32pm ()

    The Literacy Shed would be a great start. Not a web based app, but a very useful website. I used it a lot as part of my intervention for target students in writing last year. Highly enagging and motivating topics.

  • Kerri Thompson (View all users posts) 23 Mar 2015 6:45pm ()

    To put in my two cents worth... I carried out an Inquiry similar to this a couple of year s ago too. Something I found very engaging for kids is a personal blog. I guide my students to set up through 'blogger' app (we use chromebooks in our classroom too). They can customise their blog to be just what they want it to look. The key for their success is connecting with other classes so they get regular replies/comments on their writing. I found kids love an audience for their writing other than us...so blogs have been VERY motivating and engaging.

    The other thing I can suggest is booktrack.com   This is a site where kids can upload some of their own writing and add 'sound effects' to it and publish! I have not used this yet but a colleague has and has said how engaging it is for his boys especially.

    Good luck,


  • Thomas Bigge (View all users posts) 25 Mar 2015 4:26pm ()

    Kerri, just started to have a play with booktrack. What a great site - lots of potential for students. Thanks. 

  • Allanah King (View all users posts) 23 Mar 2015 7:25pm ()

    If you want to try booktrack this blog post might help.


    And I would agree that Blogging would be great.


    And now you can embed Booktrack on your blog.


  • Vish (View all users posts) 23 Mar 2015 8:22pm ()

    I use a range of apps to keep children engaged. I primarily use blogging and I use Wordpress because then you can protect posts with a password if the children have a personal photo. My class blog is here:


    If you check out the read and write page, you will see a range of options to use to improve writing. I don't ever rely on just one app because otherwise it would limit creativity.


    There are also pages under Read and Write for poetry and articles etc to use for teaching and engaging students. Under poetry there is an onomatopoeia page. https://hubforce.wordpress.com/read-write/poetry/onomatopoeia/  I use Youtube Videos and interactive games on to introduce topics and inspire them. We then use blogging and online story apps like Story Bird, Lark, etc to liven things up. 

    Also, using the blog post comments to provide feedback is really useful. A group can sit with the teacher, reading the post and providing compliments and feedback. It's very motivational.




  • Sarah Johnston (View all users posts) 23 Mar 2015 8:56pm ()

    I have used storybird which is shown here in the writing section of classroom examples with heaps of success. I am working only with a group of below and well below writers...did the trick!


  • MrsB30 (View all users posts) 24 Mar 2015 8:56am ()

    We have been using Night Zookeeper this month. It has had amazing levels of engagement from the least reluctant writer (I won't 'accept' his characters unless it has writing to go along with it) and my highest writers. It's free this month due to it being World Creative Writing Month. You can also download a resource pack. My students have been using it in to groups (as we're not 1:1) One day half the class are on the iPads/computers and I work with the other half on one of the downloadable resources. Currently there is the competition factor which helps with the engagement, we like to see where we are on the leaderboard! I haven't enquired it to how much it costs once the free access runs out.

  • Jane Armstrong Bos (View all users posts) 24 Mar 2015 3:16pm ()

    Hi Thomas,

    There are some useful videos and school stories about teacher's inquiries on Enabling e-Learning into improving student writing outcomes, where engagement is one part of the equation.

    Using Spirals of Inquiry to transform practice and raise literacy levels for boys - this snapshot of learning describes a teacher inquiry and the different digital technologies used. A key outcome from the inquiry was that it was not the digital technology alone that improved the boys’ writing, but the way it was used to develop partnerships to support their learning. 

    The English and e-Learning page, contains several videos describing and demonstrating different digital technologies to improve writing, including: Google docs, blogging, digital stories, and Storybird.

    Hope you find something helpful :)

  • Thomas Bigge (View all users posts) 25 Mar 2015 4:25pm ()

    Jane, I just had a look at the 'spirals of Inquiry' link you provided. I thought it was exceptional. Using the digital tools to get the boys to talk about their learning goals and seek feedback from their parents. I really was blown away by this. Thanks so much for the link. The movenote app looks like a fantastic way into student voice. 


  • Jane Armstrong Bos (View all users posts) 27 Mar 2015 7:35am ()

    You are welcome Thomas, thanks for the feedback. We are publishing another 4 teacher snapshots using spirals of inquiry in the next couple of weeks. I'll post as they are made live :)

  • Becksnewton (View all users posts) 25 Mar 2015 4:49pm ()

    I kind of looked at this last year.  I can wholeheartedly agree that individual blogs motivates reluctant writers.  Especially if you get them to create content in a variety of ways and then get them to add it to their blogs.  

    I would also recommend taping into their interests.  For example one of my students was really into Lego.  So i got my students to plan a story (or retell one) and the had to choose the 4 most important parts and make those parts out of Lego.  They then took photos and used these photos as the frame for each paragraph of their story.  I also adapted this same concept with a much lower ability student and allowed him to use the photos in Puppet Pals (iPad App) where he was able to tell his story.  Listen to it repeatedly, and write some parts down. 

    When they finished they added their work to their blog, where they had an authentic audience to engage with what they had done.  

    There is so much research that shows engagement helps raise achievement and I certainly found this to be the case.  


  • Jill Hammonds (View all users posts) 27 Mar 2015 9:10am ()

    I have been on the road in my campervan so am a bit slow to enter this discussion.  However Thomas I'm hoping that you have been through all the ideas in the Engaging students in writing section of this group, and have experimented with many of the ideas there.  Engagement is a huge part of raising student achievement, and there are many apps and websites accessible from your Chromebooks, some of which have been mentioned by others here.  However, my favourites are still Etherpad, Storyjumper, Write About This NZ (iPad app so not relevant to you but will be to others) and using the Research tool in Google presentation.  I have linked back to the relevant section in this group for you.  

    While engagement is hugely important, so too is the emphasis on the literacy teaching of skills.  Having a great tool will not make a great writer without increasing that writer's confidence and know how, and that needs specific teaching.  You will find a lot of help with this aspect in the Etherpad Recipe writing and in the Different styles of writing, but also specifics under vocab, organising ideas and editing.  The relevant eTools are listed as part of these sections. Good luck in your work in these areas with your students while you engage them with the tools.

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