Month: July 2015

More New Features in COW 2.0 Writing Challenges!


One of the exciting new features of COW 2.0 is the Writing Challenge. Writing Challenges are intended to direct students to write on a specific theme or topic. Each Writing Challenge may include a specific prompt and related bonus word list. To get an idea of specific examples of Writing Challenges, check out our blog for Writing Challenges presented over the past few months.

There will be two types of Writing Challenges:

  1. Alieo’s Writing Challenges. These are weekly writing challenges that appear automatically on a student’s writing page (the yellow button). If they choose, teachers can make these Writing Challenges a weekly assignment.
  2. Teacher-created Writing Challenges. Teachers now have the ability to create and assign their own Writing Challenges that cater to a specific instructional need. For example, a teacher may wish to create Writing Challenges on the Solar System to complement a science unit.

Writing Challenges, either Alieo’s Writing Challenges or Teacher-created Writing Challenges, enable teachers to have their students engage in a wide variety of writing experiences, and ones that integrate into a variety of curriculum areas.

Coming Soon . . . COW 2.0 New Stats for Teachers and Administrators

On August 1st, 2015, Alieo Games will be unleashing COW 2.0 upon an unsuspecting world! We’ve been working on revamping the site in a big way. Included in COW 2.0 are a number of new features to make COW an even more effective tool for improving student writing and enhancing classroom instruction. Over the next few blog posts, we’ll be highlighting some of the new features of COW 2.0.

Class and School Usage Stats

Teachers and Admins will now have a veritable smorgasbord of stats on student use of COW. These stats will include:

  • number of student logins over the past week.
  • number of words written on a daily or weekly basis.
  • number of daily writing sessions.
  • top students writers for a week and for the year.
  • a list of students who have not used COW over the past week.

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These stats provide teachers and administrators with a quick and insightful overview of how COW is being used by their students. By more closely monitoring student usage of COW, teachers will be better able to adapt their instructional approaches in writing.

The Contentious Adverb To adverb or not to adverb?

Look up the use of adverbs in writing, and the response you’ll get from many editors and writers is an uncategorical, “AVOID THEM!”

One would think that the adverb might have a status right up there with the adjective as an untouchable, revered aspect of descriptive writing. Apparently not.

Just look and see what Stephen King has to say in The Adverb is Not Your Friend.

Elmore Leonard, the New York Times writer, wrote, “To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin.”

Have a look here to see some of the reasons why so many writers are anti-adverb.  (Apparently, J.K. Rowling isn’t one of them.)

Whether you are on the pro-adverb or anti-adverb side, the text analysis tools provided by COW (Creative Online Writing) will prove useful.

I’m sure if Stephen King wrote a story in COW, he would be very happy with a stats report showing an adverb goose-egg.

The Parking Lot Monster Another Visual Prompt



A car pulls into a parking lot. The owner says, “I’m in luck!  An empty parking space!” They pull their car into the parking space, and…

The Daily Routines of Great Writers How swimming, napping, and running errands contribute to the creative process

Further to the blog post of July 9th, I stumbled over another great article that didn’t carve any rules into stone.  Rather, The Daily Routines of Great Writers culls from a series of interviews the daily habits of a number of legendary writers.  The fascinating aspect, to me, is that these routines don’t just focus on when and where they write, but also illuminates how the rest of the day serves their creative endeavours.

The Steaming Pit Another Visual Prompt


This photo lends itself to all kinds of questions to consider before writing:

1.  What would happen if you accidentally fell into this steaming pit?  Where would you end up?  Or, if you managed to escape, how would the steaming pit have changed you?  Would you emerge with new powers?  A different look?

2.  What sort of creature might crawl out of this steaming pit?  Imagine yourself admiring the pit and its lively plumes of steam, when out of the bubbles emerges a_____________.   Maybe it’s more than one creature.  Maybe it’s an army of creatures bent on world domination.

Use your boundless imagination, and write about this intriguing bubbling, steaming pit.

Discover Your Weird Writing Habit Individuality in the creative process

There are no definitive rules for how to ignite the creative process that work for everyone.  This certainly applies to writing.  The process of becoming a writer involves discovering which approaches to the writing process actually work for you. 

For example, some writers begin by spending a great amount of time developing characters and outlining plots before even writing one word of a story.   Conversely, some writers fly by the seat of their proverbial pants, inventing characters and developing the plot as they write.  For many writers, their approach falls somewhere between these two extremes.

Rather than attempt to come up with a definitive list of “Seven Steps to Becoming a Great Writer,” it’s helpful to examine habits and approaches of other writers.  As an emerging writer, it’s worth trying some of these approaches out to discover what works or doesn’t work for you.

Here is a wonderful article titled, “9 Weird Habits That Famous Writers Formed to Write Better.”  You may want to try some of these habits out.  Some of the habits are pretty quirky . . . but then, many writers are considered quirky people.  Who said quirkiness is a bad thing?

Fabulous Fables A writing challenge with a moral

Tortoises challenging hares to races…

Mice saving lions…

Wolves in sheep’s clothing… 

Just some of the well-known fables by Aesop.  Fables are a unique story form that are generally characterized by:

  1. being short stories
  2. involving animals acting like humans
  3. concluding with a moral

Some well-know morals from Aesop’s Fables include:

“Slow and steady wins the race.”

“Little friends may become great friends.”

“Appearances are often deceiving.”

In this writing challenge, we’d like you to create your own original fable.  To make this even more challenging, we’re giving you a moral.  Your fable should teach a lesson that concludes with this moral:

Two heads are better than one.

Here are the steps for this writing challenge:

  1. Use the Alieo Bonus Word List.
  2. Do not use a prompt to start your fable (unless you want to make it extra challenging).
  3. Write your fable, and conclude it with the moral, “Two heads are better than one.”

Go ahead.  Get writing and become a modern-day Aesop!

Will Technology Make Teachers Redundant?

The short answer is, “Of course not!”  Teachers play a critical role even when students are engaging with technology within the classroom or at home.  Right from day one, when computers arrived on the scene in schools, educators have been grappling with how these new technologies can be used most effectively to enhance instruction.  Here’s an article that explores the intriguing role between teachers and technology.

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