I chose to review a writing website called Story Starters designed to be used in the classroom because I feel that writing is an extremely important skill to develop all throughout elementary, into adulthood and throughout our lives. As teacher and writing guru Tom Romano states in his book Clearing The Way (1987), we as teachers have to get out of the way and “cut students loose” (p. 7) which allows students to find their voice through writing. You can find out more about Tom Romano here and buy his book here. This is a great book and every ELA teacher should have a copy of it!
Most people find writing difficult and getting started is generally the hardest part. What I found during my pre-internship is that while offering students the opportunity to free write, they had trouble coming up with an initial idea to actually dig in and start writing. I think that there is a certain vulnerability to put pen to paper and so we, as teachers need to find ways to skirt around this exposed place that students find themselves in and give them a little support to just get it started!
I had a look at the website by Scholastic called Story Starters. What a liked right away about this website is that it is a part of Scholastic and I take comfort in the fact that it is from a well-known, teacher and school utilized resource. I have ordered many books for my children and myself from scholastic and I have never experienced any problems.
The website is designed to help students get writing by helping them through idea creation. As I said earlier, sometimes this is the hardest part for students – finding an idea/topic that they think is suitable. Students can pick from four themes being adventure, fantasy, sci-fi and scrambler. Then the student just has to click on through to the next page where they enter their name and grade level. Students then click the spinner and it provides writing prompts such as “write a myth about a lawyer who discovers a talking frog”. Next, students pick their layout and begin writing. Once they are finished they can draw a picture, print or download and voila! They have created a piece of writing that is unique and fun to make.
Some of the pros about this website are:
- It is FREE!
- Easy to use
- Includes lesson plans
- Reliable source
Some of the cons are:
- Only for grades K-6
- Some of the graphics/noises are a bit irritating (but I found that noise can be muted!)
- The drawing option is hard to use – perhaps being able to insert pics from the internet would be a better option
- Students would tire of it if it is over-used
Overall, I really like this program! This program would fit in the “Modification” level of the SAMR scale because it actually re-designs the way we think about writing prompts.
I found that it was easy to use and navigate which is perfect for younger student writers. The writing prompts were quite original and would make for good story telling. I would perhaps give each student a chance to sit in the author’s chair and read their creations to the rest of the class. I can see this website working best for grade three and four where they are often very imaginative and open to new ideas. Lastly, I am excited to share this with my own kids – I know that they will love it!