Writing

The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills has defined 9 skills needed for work, learning and everyday living. Writing is named as one of the skills required that provides the foundation for learning all other skills. 
According to the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, writing includes,

  • Writing texts and writing in documents (for example, filling forms)
  • Non-paper based writing (for example, typing on computer)

 

Some students struggle with written expression due to difficulties with organizing ideas, spelling or grammar or handwriting. Assistive technology can be used as a tool that supports students with these difficulties. In the following section, you will find various high and low technology that can be used to support writing in and outside the classroom.

High Technology to Support Writing

 

 

Mind mapping software

Mind mapping software, also known as concept mapping, is used to create relationships from concepts, ideas and information. Creating a mind map will help students to organize and structure their writing. It is usually visual in nature, allowing students to: 

  • Brainstorm before beginning to write by creating thought webs and cognitive maps that emphasize relationships between ideas.
  • Manipulate categories of ideas and place them where they think appropriate.
  • See an outline of the topics and subtopics of their writing. Students can easily manipulate and reorganize the text at any time, allowing them freedom to express their ideas without worrying about categories.
  • Use one of the numerous templates already prepared and organized so that all they have to do is fill in the information in the appropriate area.

 

Picture Word Processor

A picture based word processor is used typically by those who are unable to use the standard word processor to write. To assist with developing your writing skills, this software may feature the following:

  • Able to click on a whole word, phrase or picture to write
  • Read aloud any text, highlighting each word spoken
  • Show pictures above words

 

Speech – to – Text Software

Speech to text software (also known as voice recognition software) allows an individual to use their voice instead of typing on a keyboard. This software is particularly helpful to students whose oral language skills exceed their written production. Speeches – to – text software allow students to:

  • Get their ideas down where this would otherwise not be possible
  • Write more fluently and can improve spelling, reading comprehension and word recognition
  • Be significantly faster than writing or typing
  • Use longer and more complex compositions with fewer grammatical errors as compared with other methods of written production
  • See and review their dictation and use what is on the screen as a cue for remembering their thoughts

 

Spell-check software

Spell checkers available in most word-processing programs are useful for both good and poor spellers. They allow students to see their mistakes, and to choose the correct spelling from a number of options.  Specialized spell checking software can provide some additional support which includes:

  • Context and phonetic spell checker
  • Grammar checker
  • Text to speech capabilities
  • Integrated dictionary

 

Text-to-Speech software

Text-to-Speech software allows you to have written text read out loud. The following features of text-to-speech software will help you when with writing:

  • Text-to-speech capabilities with tracking/highlighting of text – can help encourage increased independence in self-monitoring one’s writing. 
  • Auditory feedback can assist with proofreading work so there are no spelling or grammar errors. You can listen for anything that sounds awkward or unclear in your writing.

 

Word Prediction software

Word prediction technology is used to assist with text entry. Word prediction software will predict the word you are typing and the next word based on word frequency and context. This tool provides students with an immediately available vocabulary list, speeding up the writing process by allowing writers to find the most appropriate word. It may also include the following features to help you with writing:

  • Provide both visual and aural assistance by displaying and reading the word choices
  • Predict what you might want to write next, based on syntax and spelling
  • Dictionary and spell checker to verify correct usage and spelling of words 
  • Provide you auditory feedback as you type. This can assist with proofreading your work, so there are no spelling or grammar errors. You can listen for anything that sounds awkward or unclear in your writing.

 

Low Technology to Support Writing 


Barriers to Writing <Low Technology Solution
Unable to hold the pencil
  • Pencil grips or thicker pencils. Pencil grips come in variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They are slipped onto pens and pencils to provide a stable holding surface for right or left handed kids. Some pens have grips built-in.
Unable to stay on the lines while writing Use of speciality paper such as:
  • Raised line paper assists students by providing a physical bump to help "feel" where to stop.
  • Darker lines on paper
  • Bright line paper
Unable to start writing from left side of the paper

 

  • Use Post-Its to mark where to start and stop reading
  • Draw a line in a bright colour on the left margin

Difficulty accessing a notebook

  • Use a slant board

Has writing difficulties

  • Weighted pen or pencil
  • Slant board. A slant board provides a smooth, angled, "drafting table" work surface that helps position the wrist for writing. It can be made of plastic, wood, or even cardboard.
  • A 3D binder can be used as a makeshift slant board.
  • Portable keyboards / Stand alone word processors allow for easy and portable access to writing.
Difficulties with holding down the paper
  • Tape it to the desk
  • Use magnets on a magnetic cookie sheet
  • A slant board with a built in clip board
Difficulties with organization
  • Use templates
Difficulties with spelling
  • Handheld electronic reference tools: speaking dictionary and thesaurus

Resources

Helping Your Child With Reading and Writing – A Guide for Parents Kindergarten to Grade 6 – a guide developed by The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, Ontario Ministry of Education, that suggests everyday activities that parents and children can have fun doing together.

Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) is a Canadian organization focused on improving the literacy and essential skills of adult Canadians. OLES provide expertise, project funding, and a wide range of learning tools and other resources.

Ontario Ministry of Education – provides information and resources for parents and teachers that will support students’ reading, writing and math skills.

Ottawa Network for Education created videos for students who are interested in learning about or starting to use technologies for reading, writing and other school work. To learn more about technology to support writing, visit Ottawa Network for Education to watch videos title ‘Pre-writing: That was easy! Using AT to Organize Your Ideas,’ 'Tools for Writing and Editing' and 'Mind Mapping Tools.'

Tech Matrix – provides information and resources on assistive technology and software used by students and teachers

Tip Sheet for Writing – practical tips to help improve your reading skills