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Help please? What digital tool would I use?

Posting on behalf of:

I have just collected some data and several of my students are tracking ‘below standard’ for writing (end of year 6). After observing their work, undertaking some OTJs and talking with the students, I’ve realised their greatest needs are to develop the following knowledge/skills:

  • Select vocabulary that is appropriate to the topic, register, and purpose (e.g., appropriate vocabulary, descriptive words to create a mental image);

I also want them to develop self-monitoring skills such as:

  • Proofreading to check the spelling, grammar, and punctuation, using appropriate computer-based or print tools.

What apps/software programmes and/or digital tools would you recommend to help my students develop these skills? Can you also suggest how they can do this independently or with each other?

Thanking you in advance...

Image source


  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 28 Sep 2017 11:17am ()

    Thanks for the super tip Suzanne. This looks super easy to implement, which is great as most teachers don't need to be tied up with anything too technical - that way the students can help each other.

    I'd love to see an example of your student's books (if you were able to share digitally) and wondering how the collaborative aspect works too? Have you tried that as well?

  • Suzanne Harris (View all users posts) 09 Sep 2017 8:01pm ()


    If you would like your students to use their own artwork there is also story jumper  https://www.storyjumper.com that my Year 3 students are using.  You can use your student's drawings to match their writing and then record themselves reading their writing.   The books can be shared online with whānau and then they can give feedback.  This is motivating my students to use richer vocabulary because other people are reading their books and they want their books to be like real books.  This is making them really work on spelling, capital letters, and full-stops too.




  • Allanah King (View all users posts) 24 Jul 2017 1:19pm ()

    For your goal - 

    • Proofreading to check the spelling, grammar, and punctuation, using appropriate computer-based or print tools.

    a simple idea that works is the keyboard shortcut- to check for too many - ands, thens, double spaces etc go Command + F a Mac or CTRL + F on a PC

    Then type the search word into the doc and it highlights it so you know to replace or add different words if there are too many boring ones!!!

    Like in this web page it tells me there are seven 'writing' and you can see they are highlighted.

    CTRL F



  • Allanah King (View all users posts) 24 Jul 2017 1:12pm ()

    For your goal I think Storybird would be a great motivator for your learners.

    Nice and simple- stunningly illustrated and easily published.

    Kids don't get put off with a blank page they have to fill.

    I put a link to a blog post I wrote about it.

    'Select vocabulary that is appropriate to the topic, register, and purpose (e.g., appropriate vocabulary, descriptive words to create a mental image)'



    Storybird Image


  • traceycringle (View all users posts) 24 Jul 2017 12:39pm ()

    On a lighter note - have you trialled Wordle (or similar) apps? Students can list words (for example - connected to current topic), and then create a fun shape using those words (eg train if topic is transport). Students find this fun and engaging, and you are actually encouraging them to create a comprehensive topic word list. 

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 29 May 2017 2:03pm ()

    Hi Dave, sounds like a win win to me, thanks for sharing. What a success for that student - why struggle to get your ideas out when you don't have to? It's also an example of how technology can help learning, when some wonder if this is possible at all...

    Also my stepson taught me - you can speak punctuation in there as well. Just say "full stop", "comma" extra and it adds those as well. He used this technique to write his Yr 8 speech.

  • Dave Knapman (View all users posts) 28 May 2017 9:01pm ()

    Hi Tessa

    Sorry it has take so long for me to respond.  We have not tracked the students but we know there are changes.  For example, a boy who hand wrote three lines of difficult to decipher text on a study topic was able to complete a printed page when using google voice typing.  There were mistakes because of pronunciation but these were easy to fix.  The student was proud of his achievement.

  • Lynne Silcock (View all users posts) 22 May 2017 8:21am ()

    Hi all

    My post on text-to-speech across all operating systems is here: /blog/view/927591/text-to-speech 

    Tessa the tool you added up there is voice typing (the opposite to text to speech) - I also have a post about this across the operating systems that can be found here: /blog/view/928728/voice-typing-speech-recognition 

    Text to Speech in summary:

    • Windows - add to the quick access toolbar
    • Mac - turn it on: systems preference → speech → text-to-speech tab → speak selected text when key is pressed → set key.
    • iPad/iPhone: Settings → general →accessibility →speak selection. Once enabled, simply select any piece of text and the pop-up menu will offer the “speak” option. 
    • Chromebooks - there are a number of options listed in the blog above including ReadWrite for Google and Select and Speak - these both work in Google doc's. Note that many of the text-to-speech extensions listed in the Chrome store don't actually work in doc's (only on the web). My personal preference is ReadWrite for versatility as Select and Speak has a daily word limit and can't handle longer documents.



  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 19 May 2017 11:51am ()

    Hmmm you've REALLY peaked my interest now Dave... I know teachers often talk about, does e-learning really add value to learning and how would we know? Do you track these students at your school? 

    I reason why I ask is because I'm working in some schools a the moment and we're about to do just that - with a small group of students, looking at their e-asTTle writing data (quantitative) and what they (and their parents) have to say about their writing (qualitative). Veerryyyy interesting. We're just starting to collect some base-line data now and want to trial some of the ideas shared in this thread.

    Have you been able to show shifts (attitude, aptitude achievement) over time in certain literacy areas, especially for originally disengaged learners? And if you don't mind me asking.... how did you go about it?

  • Dave Knapman (View all users posts) 19 May 2017 11:37am ()

    Hi Tessa

    Yes, we have some students who have real difficulties writing for all sorts of reasons.  They have the ideas in their head but become disengaged when the need to write stories etc comes up. Google voice typing allows them the opportunity to be successful writers.

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