With these simple online writing tools and apps, students get to practice writing informally in settings that won’t be too daunting.

Being able to write clearly is an essential skill for all students. With these simple online writing tools and apps, students get to practice writing informally in settings that won’t be too daunting.

This information comes from Common Sense Media and its new Graphite service, a free collection of teacher-written reviews of websites, apps, and digital games for the classroom. To join the Graphite community, got to http://beta.graphite.org.

 

Primary Pad

Grade range: K-3

What is it? Makes peer editing a breeze with adequate teacher modeling.

Pros: Encourages critical thinking and collaboration among young learners.

Cons: Might be challenging as a learning tool for kids who struggle with writing or accessing text.

Bottom line: This valuable tool offers a fun and interactive way for kids to collaborate and practice writing.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/website/primarypad

 

Toontastic

Grade range: K-5

What is it? Writer, actor, director: Kids play all parts in this riveting storytelling tool.

Pros: Kids can learn the process of effective storytelling and create impressive animated cartoons.

Cons: With no way to lock in the voice-over, kids might need to repeat narratives several times.

Bottom line: A fantastic digital storytelling tool that empowers kids to organize ideas, transforming them into entertaining animated cartoons.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/app/toontastic

Storybird

Grade range: K-12

What is it? Social storytelling fun, but denies kids their own art.

Pros: A huge collection of curated art provides kid-authors with distinct and inspiring illustrations.

Cons: Kids can’t add their own art to stories, which limits creativity a bit.

Bottom line: For anyone interested in kid-authored storybooks, it’s a great resource with substantial free features.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/website/storybird

 

Voicethread

Grade range: K-12

What is it? Easily collaborate and create with voice, video, or images.

Pros: Versatility is off the charts here; kids can put together multimedia projects that integrate image, voice, text, and much more.

Cons: Bandwidth can be a problem if an entire class is working on wireless.

Bottom line: A powerful tool for kids to create, collaborate, and share all kinds of multimedia.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/website/voicethread

 

CAST UDL Book Builder

Grade range: 1-5

What is it? Sensitively designed so any student can write and share books.

Pros: UDL Book Builder’s commitment to a variety of learning styles makes the site a great tool for kids and educators.

Cons: There aren’t too many bells and whistles in Book Builder—no font choices or ways to resize photos, which means the books aren’t as visually appealing as they could be.

Bottom line: CAST UDL Book Builder is an excellent resource to get kids started on digital content creation: It’s simple, straightforward, and caters to a variety of learning styles.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/website/cast-udl-book-builder

Kidblog

Grade range: 1-8

What is it? A straightforward way to set up safe classroom blogs.

Pros: This is an easy way to get your class, or even your school, to collaborate on creative writing projects.

Cons: After the buzz of publication wears off, some kids will find they still struggle with writing.

Bottom line: By simplifying the blogging platform, Kidblog prompts students to write for an audience.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/website/kidblog-0

 

Story Dice

Grade range: 2-8

What is it? Accessible story starters spark creativity for all ages.

Pros: Simple concept is versatile and highly accessible to almost everyone.

Cons: Requires adult leadership at first, and fun factor isn’t built in.

Bottom line: A catalyst for creative stories, poems, songs, and skits, but requires adult leadership to get the ball rolling.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/app/story-dice

 

Pixton

Grade range: 2-12

What is it? Challenge kids with lively blend of comics and learning.

Pros: Intuitive design with plenty of options for sharing work and adding multimedia.

Cons: Limited potential for creating original artwork, and available art depicts mostly human characters.

Bottom line: Students will be motivated to share subject knowledge using the fun language of comics.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/website/pixton

Edublogs

Grade range: 3-12

What is it? Create a classroom blog to get students writing and collaborating.

Pros: Teachers will find it easy to communicate with parents about the work that students are doing.

Cons: The annual fee might be hard to meet for teachers in budget-strapped schools.

Bottom line: This rich and safe blogging tool makes it easy for teachers and students to extend the classroom into a wider community.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/website/edublogs

 

Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Grade range: 5-8

What is it? Captivate classes with real journalism for kids, by kids.

Pros: The kid-friendly content is really high-quality and covers a wide range of newsworthy topics.

Cons: You’ll have to come up with your own classroom ideas; no extension activities accompany these great stories.

Bottom line: It’s well worth your while to use this appealing news site to get kids motivated about journalism.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/website/scholastic-kids-press-corps

 

Animoto Videos

Grade range: 7-12

What is it? Snazzy video slideshows are a snap to create.

Pros: Eye-catching final projects are fun to make and simple to share.

Cons: Presentations won’t have much depth.

Bottom line: Slick music videos and slideshows are easy to make, but students need more control to personalize them.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/website/animoto

Youth Voices

Grade range: 7-12

What is it? Vibrant online community hosts authentic student writing.

Pros: Empowers students as writers and thinkers, and multimedia elements open the door for further digital composition.

Cons: High school writers sometimes submit questionable content as they explore personal and provocative issues.

Bottom line: Supported student writing, collaboration, and communication make this a healthy space for kids to express themselves.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/website/youth-voices

 

Google Drive

Grade range: 9-12

What is it? A nifty tool for collaboratively editing docs and syncing files across devices or online.

Pros: You get much of the functionality of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and it seamlessly keeps files in multiple locations.

Cons: It’s not as stable or capable as a desktop application, and competitor products support more syncing.

Bottom line: Google Drive is a smart choice for budget-conscious schools, with its free productivity tools and file syncing.

Review: http://beta.graphite.org/website/google-drive

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