Encouraging Reluctant Writers
Do you have ipads in your classroom this year? Are you looking for ways to encourage your reluctant writers? I am always on the lookout for fun new activities for my young writers.
So, how could I motivate these reluctant writers?
Make my writing tasks both more engaging – and less overwhelming – to students who shut down at writing time.
Luckily, I was able to use what they already loved – technology.
I discovered that the most effective apps to use with my students were the ones that used writing in the form of comics. This became a whole new way for me to engage those reluctant writers!
Just like with other writing tasks, they are still required to come up with logical dialogue, edit their spelling, create a storyline, or communicate their ideas in writing.
Here are a few examples of the apps that I’ve used to incorporate this kind of writing. I downloaded the free versions when possible to try out before upgrading any of them.
1. Comic Life – My students are young, so they need an app that is very simple. This one is simple enough for them to figure out on their own with a bit of exploration time. Students first had to choose a comic book template, and then they click on one frame to add a photo.
I was amazed at the creativity my students showed!
First, with no prompting from me, they thought of using the ipad’s camera to take pictures of each other as characters in their comic. They also used pictures of the playground and our classroom as background images in a story about our school. One student even took a photo of his own drawings, instantly making usable digital copies of his own characters to drag into a frame! Once the picture is selected, they can simply drag a speech bubble where they want it and enter text. They were all very eager to write!
2. Captions: To cover all the required writing goals for our grade, we also used comic-style apps to explore non-fiction. With this app, students were given a picture and simply used the tools to write captions for different aspects of the picture. Here is one of a picture I took while visiting the farm with the class. The task was to write five different sentences about it.
3. Comics Creator. This app simply adds speech bubbles to any picture. Its simple enough for grade one students who are just starting. Once the students got used to it, we took photos of students on the playground and also of students dressed up in costume! All students were very eager for a chance to write dialogue for those pictures. They quickly learned to take a snapshot of each picture they made to save it.
4. Superhero Comic Book Maker
This is a fun app that actually has many more features than I’ve used so far. I asked my students to simply choose one of the scenes, and then choose a character or two to drag into the scene.
Once that is done, I asked them to choose a crayon tool to write some text (with their finger) right on to the screen. This can be as simple as starting a story, labelling the picture, or drawing their own characters (you can differentiate as needed). In the example below, the student chose the halloween background, dragged an octopus onto the moon, and then used a white pencil tool to write a sentence about the picture. I could then take a screen shot to use for assessment!
5. The last app I have to show you is called Toontastic. This interactive app walks students through the creation of a story: Introduction, Conflict, Challenge, Climax and Resolution. Students choose a setting and drag in some characters from below for each part of the story. The next part is amazingly engaging: students move the characters around with their fingers and verbally narrate what is happening. The app records the action and the students’ voice as a small video clip! This becomes the first “scene” in the story.
All of these apps can be used in many different ways, especially to challenge older students to use more of the available features. I’ve only scratched the surface!
Emergent Writers and Comics
I also use the comics theme in my writing centers. This set of farm comics are laminated and used with a dry erase felt, and I also use them as printables to write on and color. Click here to download all seven pages!
I’d love to hear about your methods of encouraging reluctant writers, or apps that you’ve used in class to motivate learning.