Do you remember when I wrote about organizing the unorganized learner? That post really struck a cord! It seems many of us have at least one child who needs, let’s just say…a “little” bit of help getting organized. Those daily strategies have gone a long way in helping my boys to stay on task and be organized with their materials.
You won’t be surprised, though, to know that children who struggle with organization of their supplies and such also tend to struggle with organized writing. Did I just hear an amen?
Writing is not the favorite subject of my high school son. I venture to say, writing isn’t at the top of the list for a large chunk of the teenage male population, but I digress. My sweet son wants to write as little as possible…with as little research as possible…with as few edits as possible. Sound familiar?
Considering the lack of zeal and tendency toward unorganized writing, I set a goal that this year’s writing instruction would focus heavily on no-hassle methods of organization. So, I set the goal – yay me! How would it be accomplished???
(I received a one-year subscription to WriteWell for free and have been compensated for sharing how we’ve been using it in our homeschool. All opinions are my own.)
Organizing the Unorganized Writer
After lots of research to no avail, a friend suggested I take a peek at WriteWell. It was exactly what I had been looking for – online writing templates specifically designed to keep students organized!
Since you can sign up to write two documents for free, it was a no-brainer to give the program a shot. When I found out there were templates for THIRTY-EIGHT different styles of writing, I was already sold.
The templates are organized in levels of age-appropriateness for convenience, but I feel just about any of them can be used from 4th grade on. Caleb’s first project in WriteWell was a biography.
In the historical figure biography template (pictured above), you can see Caleb was provided with five suggested sections for writing focus: “introduction”, “early life”, “their journey”, “their big accomplishment”, and “closing.” In other words, WriteWell set out a basic outline for him!
For the unorganized writer, these preset suggestions are gold. Pure gold. If we hadn’t liked the suggested outline, we could have deleted any of the sections – or added our own – or rearranged them with a simple drag and drop feature.
Caleb didn’t really use the helpful hints (pictured above), but they are available at any time. The “prompt” gives advice on what types of information might be included in the particular section. “Sentence starters”, “useful words” and “sample sentences” get the sluggish writer moving.
Whether I expected Caleb to write a paragraph or several paragraphs, a word count monitor kept track of the goal within each section. And, at any given time, he could click on “full view” to read the the essay in its entirety – and was even able to make necessary edits in the full view.
Like all biographies, Caleb’s required a good deal of research. I’ve been teaching him how to take notes on lined paper and note cards, but WriteWell added another layer of note taking within the template (see above.) He could easily keep track of each source in the provided bibliography and open virtual note cards on which to type research notes. He found it very handy to have all his notes in a click.
Caleb prefers typing WAY more than writing an essay by hand, and he’s typed most of his papers for years. He hasn’t, however, translated the easier task of typing to more words in a paper. With WriteWell, he IS typing more! I think it’s because he only has to focus on one section at a time and can clearly put his thoughts together within that section without worrying about the rest of the paper. Because of that focus, he isn’t working so hard to purge all his thoughts at once and getting overwhelmed with the entire thing. This. Is. A. Good. Thing!
There was a slight learning curve transitioning to WriteWell after being used to typing in Word. While there is an autosave feature in each section of the WriteWell templates, it’s a little too easy to lose writing by clicking the back and x buttons before autosave kicks in. If you manually click “save” this won’t be a problem, but it’s something Caleb had to retrain himself to do after being an avid Word user.
Once finished with a paper from start to edit, Caleb clicks a simple little button in the template to transfer it to Word or PDF to save and print. As long as we maintain our subscription, all his work will be saved at WriteWell, too. As you can see, since the biography, he has also completed a persuasive essay and science lab, and has started a personal narrative!
Try the WriteWell App for Free
I’ve been very thankful for an easy, online answer for helping my tech-loving kid learn how to become more organized in writing. After Christmas, I plan to have him work on a paper WITHOUT WriteWell to see just how much more capable he is of pulling together a good outline and organizing his own writing. I think the difference will be staggering.
If you decide to give WriteWell a try and like it after your two free projects, you can subscribe for a pretty reasonable fee. The Pro Plan gives one student unlimited access for $5/month, while the Group Plan gives five students full access for $8/month. For You! Our Journey Westward readers can get 20% off the subscription rate by using the code BTS20!
WriteWell is also giving away 15 Pro Memberships! Enter using the form below by 10-21-15 at 11pm EST.
Want More Writing Tips?
I’ve put together a series of writing posts with middle and high school kids in mind that you might find helpful. Yes, the lesson ideas DO use PICTURE BOOKS to teach older students! I think you’ll be surprised at how invaluable these little books are!