Writing Across the Curriculum

One of the fundamental skills that we all work to develop in students of all ages and in classes across the curriculum is the ability to write well. There are hundreds of websites and online tools devoted to developing this skill from every possible angle. The ICATS have collected many of these tools in posts like the ones below:

Web Tools for Teachers: Writing

Web Tools for Teachers: Blogging

Web Tools for Teachers: Digital Storytelling

Web Tools for Teachers: Online Publishing

Web Tools for Teachers: Spelling

Web Tools for Teachers: Vocabulary

A Few Favorites

Today, I am going to share a few favorites that might be unfamiliar to you. I’ve tried to select tools for all ages, so hopefully, you will find one that fits your classroom perfectly:

Haiku Magnetic Poetry– It’s an online version of the refrigerator magnet game, but it teaches younger students about syllables by having them create Haiku poems with the magnets. This tool is from the folks at PBSKids. If you are looking for an online poetry magnet tool for older kids, check out the Magnetic Poetry Site.

Daily Writing Prompts– These prompts are written for students of all ages. Find a prompt for every day! You can access this month’s prompts by clicking this link. Some other places to find writing prompts are Dragon Writing Prompts, and Sunday Scribblings.

Scholastic Story Starters– This is an engaging tool for randomly generating story starters in a variety of genres for learners from K-6. It’s from the folks at Scholastic, so it has its roots in the classroom. You can learn more about this tool by exploring the Scholastic: Story Starters Teaching Guide. While this is aimed at younger grades, older writers could make use of this as well. You might also want to check out The Story Starter, Jr.

I Write Like– Check which famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers. While this is amusing in itself, older students might use this to start developing their own voice. Helping them to see the similarities between the books they read and the works they write will help them to think of themselves as writers.

OhLife– This is a really cool journalling tool with a super-simple interface. Basically, learners sign up and OhLife sends them emails asking them about their day. Users can decide how often they get prompted. At any point users can export a text copy of their journal for download, which could then be printed and turned in or shared digitally. Until then all writing is private only to the user. If you like OhLife, you might also look at Penzu. Another online journal, Penzu has a few more bells and whistles, but still has the functionality of OhLife including the ability to write to the journal from email reminders. Penzu also has an Classroom Account for $50 per year that allows teachers to manage student journals.

Off the Charts Web Karaoke– This is a really engaging tool from PBS. Basically, the user writes a set of lyrics and the web tool creates the music. Then you can record your voice singing along. This would be a great collaborative project for any subject.

EssayMap– This tool is an essay organizing tool for the standard 5-paragraph essay. Students enter their name and topic and then are invited to enter information in the digital graphic-organizer. This tool could be useful for students who are still learning to organize their thoughts and provide evidence for their claims.

PaperRater– This is a great tool for getting feedback on writing prior to turning it in. PaperRater checks grammar and spelling, checks for plagiarism, and offers suggestions for improving style and vocabulary. The analysis students see includes a letter grade for the paper. Students can run a printable report as well. Teachers might ask them to turn the report in with the essay as a starting point for conversations. Another great site for checking grammar is Grammerly, which has many of the same features.

Your Challenge

Look over the various writing tools listed here and share your thoughts in the comments below about how you might use one of these tools to help students develop writing skills in your class. Also, if you have a favorite writing tool that we haven’t included here, we would love it if you would share that tool and explain why you use it.


  1. I have not used the Scholastic story starters before, but I think those would be fun. I like the fact that they can make a postcard and even add a drawing. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am finding many activities that are normally hand-outs that I can have them do on the computer. I think the students will enjoy being able to make the postcard online rather than on paper. I also like the magnetic poetry site. That could easily be incorporated in to Spanish as well.

  2. I have been trying blog like entries for weekly learning reviews. Each week, each student summaries the topics, activities, discussions, labs, … into a journal entry that is stored in Evernote. Basically it is a blog or journal, but they need to reflect on the learning that took place during the week and summarize it in writing. Included in this summary needs to be how the activities and labs we did help support the topics we are covering.

  3. As a Language Arts teacher, this has to be my favorite challenge. I have had an absolute blast looking through all of these websites. Each one offers something different that I could utilize in my classroom.

    First, Daily Writing Prompts will be used in my classroom starting in January. I think this is a great way to get the students motivated to write and it’s easy. The fact that they only have 60 seconds to write, makes things easier for them, because some students just don’t like to write, but they can for 60 seconds. I think this site will help the students become more confident in their writing.

    Second, I Write Like is a great tool for my students at this point in the year. We have done a lot of free writing time, so this will be beneficial for them to see. They can realize that their writing style is like someone else, who writes for a living. I’m going to have them submit one section of their free writing and then do a little research on the person they write like.

    Third, OhLife seems like a great way for the students to just journal. It is a chance for them to write about their day, which could help some of them vent about their day.

    I think all of these tools are vital, because they all just get the students writing, which is the main goal. Many students aren’t comfortable with writing, so each of these sites will help them become more confident, which in turn will help them become better writers.

    • I said Daily Writing Prompts, but I meant One Minute Writer. I plan on using Daily Writing Prompts, but I really like the 60 second aspect the best.

  4. The resources listed are great. I use daily writing prompt in my Marketing Class to discuss current events. I put it on the overhead for them to discuss.

  5. I love the Dragon Writing Prompts website! With standardized testing, prompt writing is such a necessary thing to focus on throughout the years. I really like how the topics on this website are just odd enough to appeal to middle/high school students and force them to think outside the box, while still giving them practice in addressing a prompt.

  6. This post is full of great sites! I enjoyed playing with “I Write Like.” It told me I write like Shakespeare. What an awesome confidence builder for students!

    I also like the “Polish My Writing” site. If students used sites like this to edit their writing, not only would the mechanics of their writing improve (research supports instant feedback as an excellent learning tool), but both students and teachers could spend more time focusing on the content of the writing as opposed to identifying all those passive verbs, spelling errors, and coma splices.

  7. I am always looking for ways to engage my kids in Science vocabulary. I really focused on looking through the vocabulary building sites. Snappy words is great. I can see using that site with some of my visual learners. I also regularly use quizlet and studystacks.com for vocabulary building and practice.

  8. My favorite writing site is Kidblog.org. A teacher can give each student an account for their own blog. It is very simple for both teachers and kids to use. In the past, I would often give students a topic to write about or left them write something of their own choosing. It is also a good way to get feedback about a certain topic or assessment or explain their thinking in regards to a topic of study. Students can also comment on their classmate’s writing/blog posts. It is a free website. http://kidblog.org/home/

  9. I think I will try Paperrater with my class. I am finding they often have spelling errors and a few grammar errors on their blogs which are made public prior to me reading them. This will help draw attention to these errors along with improve their writing. As we work on expanding our blogs to more informative pieces, this will be an excellent addition to our classroom digital toolbox.

  10. I have used the Story Starters from Scholastic with as young as 2nd grade. They enjoy this tremendously. I like the write your own lyrics. I can see incorporating this with our Music teacher. I like to work with as many teachers and classes as possible to show students that technology can be used in a seamless manner in all areas. I have added all of these to our Protopage for easy access for students and teachers. I will for sure use the Paper Rater and Grammerly for my own daughter as she always is asking me to check her Achieve 3000 essay response questions and will for sure share this with our 6th grade teachers to have their 6th grade students use this too. I used daily writing prompts when I had a homeroom as a bell ringer or when students had free time. It would have been great to have this resource. I like the magnetic tile resource as many of our teachers use magnets as stations with the younger students and this will be a nice transition for our older students. Thanks for all the great new Writing Resources.

  11. Wow! Looking through all of the sites for writing is wonderful! We are a K-8 school and needed sites for the lower grades. I was really impressed with the Magnetic Poetry site, and the Scholastic Story Starters for the younger students. We were using Essay Scorer, which came with our reading series for the older students. Daily Writing Prompts is definitely a have to for the older students. I will be passing these along to all of our teachers.

  12. I have used various websites for finding writing prompts and i post them on MBC on the discussion tab for students to respond to in my class. I will definitely use the new sites also to add to my resources. I also like the EssayMap. I can use that with my special needs students who need help organizing their ideas and paragraphs. I can’t wait to try Haiku magnetic poetry as well. I had students make up Haiku’s last year and this will help us out.

  13. When my second and third graders were learning about the elements of a story in their home rooms, I found Scholastic Story Starters to be a great tech tool. The kids liked the animation of the random story prompts and the ability to illustrate their story. The only thing about this program I couldn’t figure out was how to save their work; so when I use it, I make sure they complete and print their stories before class-end.

    There’s definitely a noticeable improvement in overall writing ability from doing daily prompts.

  14. I checked out Knoword and had a hard time getting off. I think I will use this for days when there is a minute or two left at the end of class. Flashcard stash looks good. I’ve never used an online flashcard program. Bubblebrain had a rock review that I think I will do in class tomorrow, or have students work on when they are finished with their other work.

  15. Since I teach the journalism courses, publishing is always a big deal to me. I like to see tools that allow students to publish their work for an audience. And when students do publish their work, it pushes them more. So often when students turn in homework, they know that only the teacher is going to read it, so their need to do well is not as great. But when they know that others will see their work, even if it is just others in the class, it tends to motivate them more.

    On the flip side of this, I have discovered that when students blog, they tend to open up more. Blogging is like a diary for them and when they know that only I will read it, it gives them the opportunity to be more revealing.

    To be specific, I have used ISSUU to publish work. It is easy and the finished product is really like a book. And I had thought about MailChimp before. I had heard a radio commercial once and thought that would be a great tool to develop regular notes home to parents or nifty ways to preview upcoming assignments or to send updates and reminders about long term projects.

    Another good source listed here to use in the classroom is the Daily Writing Prompts. Not only does it give a starting point for the students to start writing, but it also would allow me to expand my horizons. So often I get stuck in a rut with the same writing assignments or topics. Here, I get fresh ideas and new directions for my assignments.

  16. I use MBC discussion posts for my students to answer in sentence form questions I leave them, usually once per unit. I also use an exit card strategy for students to answer questions than they know it should be no longer than the index card. Most of the time in math our writing is explanation of what they just did mathematically. I go over how it should look the first time (First, then, Next, Last, etc).

  17. My daughter recently used Off the Charts Web Karaoke for her 9th grade Chem/Physics class. She and her group were struggling to agree on some creative ideas, so I suggested this. They thought it would be too young for them, but it gave them a great starting point. They were able to critique each other and the way it sounded before submitting their assignment to their teacher.

    I have started using My Big Campus discussions as a way to assign writing prompts. I post the discussion/prompt and my students can reply when they come into class. The best thing about this is the opening it has created for peer editing. I can also respond to them in real time to help them edit their writing. It has greatly improved what they are producing each day.

  18. As a math person, I have to admit that finding interesting topics to have students write MLA’s about is fairly difficult. Daily Writing Prompts is going to be my new “go to” source when I must do MLAs with the students.

    I normally make up my own MLA paper topics. Some research based, some persuasive, etc. These topics will now make it fairly simple to get some good topics going in class.

  19. I’ve found several new and exciting writing resources in this post. Daily Writing Prompts and One-Minute Writer are both great sources for daily writing activities. I’ll be using MixedInk almost immediately in my classes. I love the ease with which students can collaborate in their writing. PaperRater will enhance our study of sentence structure and writing style in a very practical manner.

  20. Lots of resources here! Looking for to going through all of them and sharing with others. I used Giggle Poetry when teaching second and fifth grades. So many fun examples and activities there. I have also found tons of resources in http://www.readwritethink.org

    Totally stealing the idea of bell-ringers to begin each day. So much to implement, so little time!

  21. I love the idea of using the Scholastic Story Starters for those students who just are stuck. If they didn’t like the initial prompt, you can change one piece of it or the whole thing. I’ve passed these along to my whole Language Arts/Humanities department. I think kids would enjoy seeing how their writing style is similar to some famous writers, especially if they are studying a specific style. I know one of the teachers here does incorporate some of Poe’s writing so I would be interested to see how some compare.

  22. I love the idea of a daily writing prompt for Biology..unfortunately I haven’t found a good source for ideas on this yet. If anyone has ideas, please share :)

    Vocabulary activities…I’m always looking for new ones. However, finishing sites that have many Biology terms has been a challenge as well.

    Pam Lindsey (our teach/teacher liaison) introduced my students and myself to a nice app called SAS Flashcards. I really like how it incorporates visual, sound, written, & supporting information for a word. Students can set up a set of Flashcards, then use it to randomly sort words to review.

    A second app, Flashcards, allows students to type word and definition on a card. Students can create their own deck or use decks already crested in Quizlet. This app doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of SAS Flashcards app, but sometimes simplicity is good.

  23. I LOVE scholastic writing starters. I love how it encourages the students to write. It gives them flexibility, but excitement in writing. The final product can be captured and saved in a variety of ways that will mae the students proud of their final copy. As i am thinking about writing in my own classroom, I am thinking about how I can incorporate these things in order to help promote writing, and accountable thoughts during art and music. I think it could also fit into the student portfolios I was talking about in an earlier post. If I used MBC to create their portfolios, we could save digital files of art and response to art that could travel with them everywhere! hmmm……… I would need technology in my room to accomplish this, I just need to figure out what would be best to fit the need. Any ideas? (I have approx 150 a day.. ) My goal would be get art onto their account, with the ability to type a response to go along with it.

    • If you use MBC, have the students post to a discussion and attach the artwork to the post with their comments on the artwork and/or music file (legal copies only of course ;>)

  24. The more ways a student can interact with words the better. I’ve use the Magnetic Poetry site with Android tablets and kids love it, because many of them have the magnets on their refrigerators at home. And the Scholastic site…I recommend that one to every teacher I talk to. Incredible for that pesky illness, “writers block”, that so often inflicts so many students. Who can argue with learning that is fun?!?!?

  25. I see some incredible tools that teachers can give to students as they progress through writing a paper.

    Planning: Essay Map and Simple Minds, Daily Writing Prompts

    Development and Draft: MixInk, I Write Like

    Final Editing: PaperRater, Off the Charts Web Karaoke

  26. I think it’s important for students to stretch their skills by responding to a wide variety of writing prompts on a consistent basis. Bellringers are probably the easiest way to incorporate writing prompts into a class.

    I’ve used One-Minute Writer to find bellringer writing prompts over the last year. When I taught tenth grade honors English, I knew students needed practice with a variety of prompts that might appear on the ECA (narrative, quote response, etc.) I taught a class of over thirty, and many of them told me that the writing section was easy because of how much we prepared.

    I’m going to give Daily Writing Prompts a shot, too. Most of my bellringers are either writing prompts, grammar questions, or responses to shorts articles, so I’m always looking for new prompts to try. I like the fact that DWP has themed writings based on times of the year. My students love writing prompts that fit with current seasons and/or topics.

    • Agreed. Bellringers are awesome ways to integrate writing practice into any classroom. There are even more online resources for finding great prompts beyond the ones listed here. A quick Google search will yield a lifetime’s supply.

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