Using Technology during Writers Workshop for Emergent Writers

Happy New Year to all of you! I hope you had a safe and fun New Year’s Eve. I didn’t do much last night except hang out with the hubs, watch the Texas A&M and Duke game and drink hot chocolate. I am so excited about the promise of 2014! I love how the new year allows me to reflect on the past and plan for the future. One thing that I am planning for is collaborating with some wonderful teachers from across the globe on a new blog called Who’s Who and Who’s New. This project was headed by our wonderful leader, Hilary Lewis, of Rockin’ Teacher Materials. The idea behind the project is to have a blog post each and everyday of the year. It will be chopped full of great ideas for students of all ages. It is a must see! Check it out by clicking on the picture below:

Another project I am working on is planning for my monthly professional development sessions with the teachers of my district. One of the biggest questions I receive from primary teachers is how young writers can use technology during writers’ workshop. Many times this means how can students publish their writing. However, technology can play a major roll in developing the love of writing with students. Here are a few ideas:

1. Use a device for assessments
Being organized will be helpful in a productive writers’ workshop. Using apps such as Evernote or Google Drive would be a great way to organize assessments. Create folders for each student. Take pictures, documents, and even audio in Evernote when conferencing with students. This can be done on an iPad or even your smartphone (Android, Windows, or  iOS).

2. Create digital portfolios
If you use technology with your students it can be difficult to have a hard copy of the artifacts. By creating digital portfolios students can upload their work to the site. We have used KidBlog for this purpose. However, if your students have gmail addresses, my suggestions would be to use Google Drive. If your district still requires hard copies, just create a QR code of where the artifact is located online. Another nice thing about having digital portfolios on a site would be to create a year-around display for the classroom or hallway. Observers can just scan the QR code and see a student’s work.

3. Create an album in the camera roll of all the materials you can use as student resources.
In the past, I have created offices for my students with materials needed to assist them in the writing process. However, I like to provide the resources to the students as I introduce it to them. This can be difficult with the offices. Time is precious and I usually just make the offices by hand before school starts. So if students have iPads, they can just add the resource to their writing album. If you find these resources interesting you can find them {here}.

4. Students should use illustrations and drawings to support their writing
Teach lessons that support how authors use illustrations in their writing to support the story. Use a site such as Online Storytime. How does this work? Take a screenshot from a scene from the story online and then model how to label or write a sentence about the scene.

Use illustrations or pictures to do a Shared Language Experience with students by creating a Puppet Show in Toontastic telling a familiar story or activity that students have participated in together. It could be a field trip, science experiment, or game. As a class, create each scene from the activity. Then play back each scene and either write as a group or have students write a sentence for each scene. NOTE: There is also a free version of the app, but you only need one iPad for this lesson.

Another option is to use the new StickAround app. You can create puzzles for students to label or have students build their own puzzle labeling pictures of their own. This is a great way to encourage students to label their pictures. Students can bring pictures of activities they do outside of school or take pictures of activities during the school day. Students can also label pictures such as nursery rhymes, vocabulary, or nonfiction pictures that go with units of study.  Here are a couple of examples:

5. Allow students to publish their writing using a variety of apps or Web 2.0 tools. Some of my favorites include:

Scribble Press
Story Patch
Story Creator (free)

Examples from the Story Patch app
No iPads? Use Web 2.0 tools online such as Kerpoof and Little Bird Tales (also an app). I have created how-to videos {here}.

6. Use screencasting apps to develop students’ metacognitive skills
One of the most exciting things that I have done with emergent writers is to allow students the opportunity to use apps such as Educreations, ShowMe, or Explain Everything. When I teach a lesson using this strategy, I ask students to help me teach others on how to write a sentence. Students rehearse their sentence and then write it while recording themselves using the app. As they write the sentence, they are to explain how they are doing so. Here is an example:

Need more tips for teaching emergent writers? Check out my unit on starting Writers’ Workshop with Emergent Writers by clicking the image below:
How do you use technology during the writers’ workshop? I’d love to hear about your experiences.


  1. says

    Jen this blog design is awesome! It looks great and makes me kind of jealous (not gonna lie). Nice way to start a new year—and great post. I love the labeling with stick around. I really don’t know why, but I’m still shocked when some students don’t know typical words or definitions for everyday objects.

    Digital: Divide & Conquer

    • says

      Thanks, Matt! I decided after a year of trying to do things by myself with not a lot of luck I would just let someone else do it for me. Michelle did an amazing job! I love the Stick Around app! I am currently making a few puzzles and will be sharing soon!.

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