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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 ;>)

  8. 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?!?!?

  9. 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

  10. 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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