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, and pays closer attention to things like sentence structure, grammar and syntax, learning this skill 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) so 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 make it into a book. You can share your books with storybook members or to the world at large. 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. You can also use these tools to get you in the mood or right frame of mind to start writing. Plinky and Toasted Cheese provide regular “prompts” which are questions, situations or phrases which you have to answer or write about. They can be serious, difficult or funny, which teases out your creativity and imagination. You can even share your pieces on Plinky (if you sign up for an account) and get people to critique them. Oneword, on the other hand, will give you one word 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 created materials by the community by following the member writers.
Poetry Station – If you want to be inspired by various poetry styles, this website features poems performed on video. 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 considerable 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.
Writers Room– If you have always wanted to write scripts for TV, or any type of broadcast, this is the website to go to. You can get writing tips, get a step-by-step guide to writing a script, watch interviews of established writers and be inspired, read their blogs to get insights, and participate in writing contests to test your mettle.
Tildee – This is a tool for creating and sharing tutorials on anything and everything that you are interested in. You can add maps, images and videos to your tutorials and share them. It is not necessary to make an account to start writing but you will need one if you need to save and share. They will provide you with a unique short URL for each tutorial that you write.
Sylvan Paper (formerly 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. Through Sylvan Paper, your teacher can get involved at any point of your writing process by providing comments or encouragement to help you out.
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 at each phase of the writing process 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.
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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