Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Apps Help Improve Writing Skills (as Does Wide Reading)

Big news lately: Doctors are prescribing reading books to babies.

l can tell you from experience that reading to kids from infancy fosters a love of literature that will last a lifetime. Not only that, but the earlier we start reading or being read to, the more we can read and absorb, and the more we will know.
Perhaps some people need to see a formal article or scientific study to back up the claim that increased exposure to books helps kids develop literacy skills (I would think this would be a no-brainer!), but, for the rest of you: just try it. You can't go wrong reading books to your kids.
I can also tell you--as a teacher and as a person who learned how to write and developed a desire to write because I was, and still am, a wide reader--that reading helps with writing.
What I did not know is that all those apps out there now (like the ones my children charge to my AmEx from their iPods, or apps you can buy for your iPhone or iPad) include some great, fun tools that can actually help kids improve their writing skills.
Guest writer / teacher Elaine Hirsch has the details:
Top Five Apps to Help Improve Writing Skills

Helping your children with their writing used to mean repetitive writing exercises in notebooks and endless piles of grammar worksheets, but technology has changed the way in which kids can learn how to write. Tablets and smartphones have been instrumental in this change, so check out these great apps which can help improve your child's writing skills in an engaging and fun manner.

Chronicle for iPad
 (see screenshot, above) is an app that allows your children to create individual journals that are carried on their tablets. Kids can record short items like lists or scraps of conversation, or they can fully describe an important event. Not only will this app help child writers organize their thoughts, it will also allow kids to record a written snapshot of their lives and improve their writing skills at the same time, a skill which will reap dividends later on.  

Essay-Czar is a professional app that is helpful to your kids as they get older (high school and college). This app is often purchased by schools to help students find answers to questions about essay writing. Essay-Czar explains how to write more than 40 types of essays while also giving students an idea of what to expect on the SATs.

My Writing Spot is the solution when your student wants to write but is away from his or her desk. This app has the full functionality of a good word-processing program, including features such as word count, document groups, dictionary, thesaurus, and spell-checking. It is fully compatible with Bluetooth keyboards, and it also allows your child to lock writing work with a password.

Chapters is an app that allows each child to keep his or her own notebook on your smart phone. These virtual notebooks get different cover styles with their own passwords, and you can also separate notebooks by category. Consider how much fun your kids will have creating notebooks on their lives, on their schoolwork, and on their personal projects. (Sounds like an easy way for a kid to start writing a novel or book-length work!)

Grammar App HD takes your children back to the basics. This app is oriented around getting better with grammar, which helps children pick up the basic building blocks of writing, making communication easier. This interactive app quizzes students and helps them become more comfortable with grammar and what it can do. (This is a great choice if you need to entertain younger students on long car trips but want to steer clear of time wasters such as Angry Birds.)

A definite link exists between students' writing and their capacity for success, so don’t underestimate the help your iPhone or tablet can be. Many of the apps mentioned provide enjoyable ways for children and students to exercise their writing skills. 

There are plenty of tools out there for parents who want to help their children become better writers, so consider these apps when teaching your children or students.

(And don't forget to keep reading!)

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