Web-Based Writing Software Provides for Differentiated Instruction

Atlanta GA (February 22, 2007). The web-based writing process program (www.icanwriteonline.com) that was released by Shaw-Phillips Learning Associates, Inc. in late fall is getting very strong responses from thousands of teachers and students who are using the software. Aside from its motivational aspects that are making reluctant writers eager to write, the software provides for differentiation of instruction. Struggling or reluctant writers can write less text and use less sophisticated language and still write a piece that is logically constructed and includes all the elements of that mode of writing. Advanced writers may write more text at a higher level. They will be able to use more of the Traits of Good Writing than a less sophisticated writer.

Developed by two experienced writing teachers and tested by hundreds of students in its three-year development, I Can Write Online offers help to students at all levels as well as assisting teachers who do not feel confident using the writing process in their classrooms. Dr. Tom Reeves, renowned expert of learning software and professor at the University of Georgia, states, "It is clear that the developers of this program possess unique expertise in scaffolding the writing process for children, and now that expertise can be applied to any teacher anywhere."

Students are given choices not only of topics, but also how they will write about the topic (describe, explain, tell a story, or persuade someone). Teachers may also assign topics and writing genre when necessary. Verbal and written instructions on every screen assist students with different learning styles. Visual cues, which include graphic organizers, pictures to represent words, charts, and animation, are embedded in every path of the software. Prompts and tips are given at appropriate intervals to keep students focused on the task. Throughout the software students are provided positive comments by an animated frog named Freddy.

The program does not take responsibility for teaching writing out of the hands of the teacher. Students can write a complete piece on their own without teacher direction, with teacher direction or by collaborating with a peer. Teachers provide a mini-lesson before students write and give feedback through the Teacher Comments function. Teachers choose which items go on the Editor´s Checklist and set up conference schedules.

The program is almost "paperless". Teachers review their students´ work and provide specific feedback online, all of which is stored in an electronic portfolio. Teachers do not need to keep track of stacks of student papers. The response of teachers and students alike is best summed up by an elementary school principal in South Carolina who commented, "Our students love writing and receiving feedback from their teachers "on-line." The parents and teachers are thrilled to be able to access the program at school and from home. This is the first program we have seen that truly follows and teachers the writing process."

A 10-day free trial is available on the website: www.icanwriteonline.com.

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