The writing process can be so taxing for students. Literautas.com frames the writing process into a game while simultaneously scaffolding the experience for students by offering insightful prompts.
posted by: Ryan Schaaf
Do your students suffer from writer’s block? I’ve found a cure for what ails them: Writing Challenge for Kids, an app by Literautas. After reading several positive online reviews, I tried this app with my students and got results that surpassed my wildest expectations.
With this app, the task of brainstorming a story introduction, scenes, and characters becomes a game. Working against the clock, students respond to specific prompts that guide them through the story-writing process. It’s fun, it’s fast, and, as the name suggests, it’s challenging. Read on to discover if this challenge is right for your students.
Tech-savvy kids as young as seven have no trouble progressing through the steps of this intuitive app. Any literate child or adult can partake; simply press “Start” when you’re ready to begin. Beating the clock is the most difficult part of Writing Challenge for Kids, but it’s also the most fun. Students can’t be perfectionists with this app; the goal is off-the-cuff creativity and originality.
To bypass frustration and tears with my young students, I find it helpful to play up the “game” aspect of this activity. If you teach elementary school, you might want to increase the timer length in the settings menu before your students begin.
This app teaches creativity within guidelines. It’s an exercise in following directions as much as it is an exercise in writing. Some students find this aspect of the game more confining than others. I like to remind my kids that guided ideation is just one of many ways to brainstorm a story.
Depending on the grade you teach, you might decide to supplement app sessions with your own instruction about how story arcs are formed. Writing Challenge for Kids does not teach specifically about tension, climax, and resolution; hence I subtracted one point.
Literautas.com has made a conscientious effort to translate all of their Spanish apps and blogs to English so others can enjoy their products. You might find the English-translated website a bit choppy, and for this reason, I subtracted one point. However, the syntax on the app itself is easy to understand.
I started the review process by downloading the adult version of this app, called Writing Challenge, from Google Play for $1.99 to my Android tablet. A writer myself, I found this app to be an excellent way to get my creative juices flowing.
My interest piqued when I discovered that Writing Challenge has a sister app specifically for children. I downloaded Writing Challenge for Kids onto my set of classroom iPads and used it in my Writer’s Workshop for three weeks. Each day, students spent 15 minutes with the app, their journals, and a pencil. My kids rated the app highly on a rubric of user-friendliness, and I spent some time reflecting on the worthiness of this app as a teaching tool and source of support in my classroom.
Literautas.com describes this app as a way for teachers to “improve creativity and writing skills,” but kids also learn time management with this activity. The timed countdowns are pre-set to one minute, but you can change that in the settings menu if you wish. Because students don’t actually input their ideas on their iPads, the countdowns are not really enforceable. Still, a ticking clock is a concrete reminder for kids to focus on the task at hand.
This app won’t teach your students how to end a story. The prompts would go on forever if you let them. Examples of prompts I’ve seen include “Add a character who always lies” and “Write a scene that takes place in a restaurant.” I still had to teach my students how to complete their story arc using tension, climax, and resolution. However, I didn’t have as much trouble motivating my stubborn writers as I usually do.
All you need to enjoy Writing Challenge for Kids is a tablet, paper and pencil, and a lesson plan that incorporates the app into your curriculum. One of the Common Core benchmarks I’m working on with my fourth graders is the ability to brainstorm. This is the perfect tool for that. If you’re a third-grade teacher who wants to expand your students’ range of writing or a seventh-grade teacher who wants to focus on topic development, you can tailor your activities accordingly.
Whereas Writing Challenge for Kids takes a linguistic approach to brainstorming, the app Foldify is more pictorial. Edutopia’s Monica Burns prescribes a Foldify lesson plan in which students create a virtual cube with six different images on the iPad. These are then printed, folded into a physical cube, then rolled like a die across the desk. The image that turns up serves as a writing prompt.
This hands-on activity is great for the younger set, but it requires close supervision and guidance due to its ambiguous nature. Visual learners, kids with certain learning disabilities, and those on the AI spectrum could benefit the most from the writing activities you derive from Foldify.
The adult version of Writing Challenge received a favorable nod from Edutopia for the way it gamifies the storytelling process. Edshelf lauds the kid version of the app for the fun and creativity it delivers. If you’re thinking of using this in a K-8 classroom, I recommend you download Writing Challenge for Kids instead of Writing Challenge. iTunes hasn’t collected enough customer reviews to declare a rating for the child-friendly version yet, but Common Sense Media cautions that some of the adult version prompts could lead to the creation of stories that aren’t appropriate for children.
Writing Challenge for Kids is the best app for germinating story ideas and opening kids’ minds to the concept of brainstorming. If you have students who resist creative writing, this app makes it easy for you to turn the entire process into a game. No matter what grade you teach, you can adapt this handy app to your curriculum and benchmarks, and you and your students will have a lot of fun in the process.