Of the four language skills (reading, speaking, listening and writing), writing is said to be the hardest to develop. Perhaps because it is the least used compared to the other three, learning it can be quite complicated. Nonetheless, learning how to write well is important because most of us (not only newcomers) will need it for effective workplace communication (emails, reports, memos) or for academic purposes.
Here are several online tools and websites as suggested in our Teaching with Technology series. Most of them are free (at least for the basic features). Try them out and see which ones can help you best:
Journalate – Writing can be intimidating when you are tasked to write a report or a formal letter. But most of us love writing about personal things like a vacation, our settlement story, or life events. Journalate is a tool for writing, storing, and sharing these memories. You can also store ideas, thoughts and other musings that you want to keep private. With each journal entry, you develop your writing skill and keep thoughts and ideas for later reference.
My Storybook – This is a website where you can write stories, add images, and even draw figures and develop it into a book. You can share your books with storybook members or to the world at large. But to save and share your storybook, you would have to register. You will be provided with a web address which you can share with your teacher or friends.
Plinky, Toasted Cheese and Oneword – These are websites that can bring out your creative juices or get you unstuck from a writer’s block. Plinky and Toasted Cheese provide regular “prompts.” These are questions, situations or phrases that you can answer or write about. Some prompts are serious, difficult, or funny so you can be as creative as you want. If you sign up for an account, you can share your pieces on Plinky and get critiques from other members.
Oneword, on the other hand, will give you a one word prompt which you have to write about in sixty seconds. It urges you “not to think, just write” which is a good exercise from time to time. If you click “submit” (and write your user name, email address and website, if you have one) users will see what you wrote. You will need to create an account.
Storybird – This website is a “visual storytelling community”. It is a platform where people of all ages are inspired to write stories about the curated artworks available on the site. You can share your stories or read the materials created by the community by following the member writers.
Poetry Station – Participating poets deliver their poems (some including a short introduction about their work), which you can view, comment on (which is great writing exercise), share or add to favorites. It has a large archive of poems arranged by topic or titles (in alphabetical order); however, everything’s on video. You would have to listen intently to the delivery and transcribe to have a written version. Poetry Station is a project of the English Media Centre in the UK. It was created to provide an easily accessible hub for various forms of poetry.
Spark – Spark is a student paper and academic research kit developed by York University, Ontario. It is designed as an interactive and user-friendly tool that guides academic writers with tips and strategies that are easily accessible online. It has modules on understanding the assignment, time management, academic integrity, choosing a topic, and selecting sources.
Citelighter – This is a tool to help you write in steps, part by part, following the outline it provides. It is almost like a map that tells you how to arrange your writing. It even has a tool for conveniently arranging your citations. Your teacher can also get involved at any point of the writing process by providing comments or encouragement to help you out.
Wordcounter – This is a free online tool to check if you use the same words over and over again in your writing or see if some words are redundant.
Adapted from English Online’s Teaching with Technology webinars: Online Presentation Tools and Websites for Developing Writing Skills, by Tatiana Nedelko and Language Skills 2.0 by Margarita Berezyanskaya.
Online resources for developing your writing skills
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