We use WPP Online to teach writing skills at my school. It’s a wonderful online writing program from the folks at ERB with instant feedback and age-appropriate online tutorials to strengthen a student’s weak areas. Teachers have a dashboard with data on each student, their progress, how much time they spend on the lessons, with an opportunity to write notes back and forth.
Students sign in to the site, enter their narrative, then push send for immediate feedback in the six major areas of writing. We’ve been using it for about two months now. As much as I like it, here are a few things I wish I’d been aware of before starting. Mind you, I still would have signed up, just would have liked to be more informed:
- The program does better with longer submittals. Which makes sense. It needs sufficient text to grade the six areas of writing proficiency. Now, when a teacher assigns a one-two paragraph entry, I warn students who get a lower score that it is partially the result of the shortness of their essay. There just wasn’t enough in one-two paragraphs to include the details, support, transition phrases, etc., to satisfy the requirements of a higher grade.
- Students must finish each entry before the program will allow them to move on to the next. At my school, we try to complete one a week. Students who didn’t finish entering their essay during class time must come in on their own time or finish it at home (I love online programs) before the next week’s class. There’s usually about 10% of the students who don’t finish and are stuck with a difficult decision for the next class: find last week’s essay and finish it, submit it incomplete and suffer the inadequate grade, or discard it and start over. Tough choices when you’re a third, fourth or fifth grader.
- The categories (Overall development, Mechanics, Word Choice, Organization, Support, Sentence Structure) are based on ERB testing. My school uses 6+1 traits. They’re close, but not exact, so the teacher’s grades differ from the online program’s.
But that’s it. Overall, WPP Online gets an A. The kids love the immediate feedback, and the tutorials are engaging and useful. They cover topics such as:
- topic sentences
- narrative time words
- correct use of apostrophes, commas, etc.
- the narrative paragraph
- transition words
- narrative sequencing
and more. If you have experience with this program, let me know.
Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and four ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.