Tag: 21st Century Learning (page 1 of 3)

How COW supports the Writer’s Workshop

An effective approach taken by many teachers in teaching the complex skills of writing is that of the Writer’s Workshop.  This approach can take many forms, as each teacher will adapt the Writer’s Workshop to the particular needs of their students and their own teaching style.  Generally speaking, the Writer’s Workshop includes some or all of the following elements:


During writer’s workshop time, students work independently on their own writing projects.  The organization of the class is generally flexible, with students working on various stages of the writing process.  A student’s writing project generally carries over from one writing period to the next.


Teachers will give students short lessons which focus upon one particular writing skill.  The skills taught in such lessons may be a response by the teacher to a perceived need in the class.


Students are presented with texts which model the types of writing they are undertaking themselves.


Students have the ability to choose the genres or topics they write about.


Students will share their writing and confer with a wide variety of readers, including other students, their teacher, or guest editors.

Whole Group Sharing

Students share their writing with the entire class.  In this way, they are writing for an authentic audience of peers.

How COW Supports the Writer’s Workshop

COW has been designed to be a flexible, adaptable, relevant tool for classes engaged in learning the complexities of writing.


Students can access COW at any time and from any location.  Their writing does not need to be limited to the classroom during Writer’s Workshop time, but can continue at home or at other times during the school day.  Keep in mind that each session of writing in COW has a minimum word goal (the default set at 100 words).  Be sure to allow enough writing time for students to achieve this minimum word goal.  COW allows students to return to their writing later to add chapters or to edit.


Teachers can use the text analysis statistics generated for each piece of writing in COW to focus the students’ attention on particular aspects of writing.  (For example, variety of sentence length, use of adjectives and adverbs, or consistency of tense.)


Teachers can create their own models of exemplary writing using COW, themselves.  A live writing demonstration on a SMART board or projector is a very effective means of modelling how a writer thinks as they write.


Teachers can create a variety of writing challenges, giving students choices. In addition, COW has a weekly writing challenge, as well as offering a free write option with a huge bank of prompts and thousands of bonus words.


Using COW’s edit mode, students can pair up for peer-to-peer editing.  Also, teachers can leave comments on each piece of writing, guiding students as they launch into editing their writing.

Whole-Group Sharing

By sharing their writing to the class bookshelf, an entire class can read an individual student’s work, thus providing an on-going forum for whole group sharing with an authentic audience.

COW provides teachers with the flexibility they need to facilitate the Writer’s Workshop, and provide their students with an engaging platform for writing and sharing.

Can a Writing Assignment Change Lives?

Never underestimate the importance of a teacher in the lives of children.  Although it may feel like you’re swimming upstream against a strong headwind, your efforts have a profound and lasting impact upon the lives of your students.

This applies even to what may seem like a small part of what a teacher does:  the writing assignment.

Here is a an amazing article about the profound impact felt in the lives of those students fortunate enough to receive one particular writing assignment.  It shows how writing can have a powerful effect upon the way we move forward in our lives and radically alter the way we see ourselves.

No End to New Features in COW 2.0 At least, that what it seems like . . .

Over the past three blog posts, a number of new features of COW 2.0 have been highlighted.  But there’s more!  Many, many more!

  We’ve streamlined the method of setting up student accounts.

•  Passwords are auto-generated for increased security.

•  Teachers have the option to pre-approve student writing posted to the class bookshelf.

•  Teachers can now make a comment on a student’s story.  In turn, the student can reply to the comment.

•  The Editing Mode has been greatly improved by providing statistical feedback to students upon completion of revised writing.

•  We’ve improved the calculation and display of writing statistics to provide more meaningful feedback to students and teachers.


Every new feature in COW 2.0 is intended to achieve our fundamental goals of:

1.  increasing motivation for students to write more words more frequently.

2.  giving teachers additional tools to enhance instruction in writing.

Yes, we really do feel that COW 2.0 has jumped over the moon.

Still More New Features in COW 2.0 Writing Goals

The Monthly Writing Goal

One of the goals of COW is to motivate students to write more frequently. With this in mind, we’ve created an all new Monthly Writing Goal. Students are challenged to write at least twelve sessions a month. They can chart their progress as they write their way through the perils of Alieo’s Universe toward a final reward– a special free item from the avatar store!

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The Class Writing Goal

There’s nothing like a common goal to build teamwork and keep a class writing throughout the year. In COW 2.0, we’ve taken the Class Writing Goal into the stratosphere and beyond! Entire classes can strive to write their way towards a bronze asteroid, a silver moon, a golden planet, and finally to arrive at a platinum star. At each new stop along their journey, they’ll be rewarded with the ability to buy a special avatar item.

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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.

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.

How to Become a Better Writer according to a few people worth listening to . . .

Listen to what some of the greats have said about writing.  Can their words of wisdom provide insights to inform our instructional practice as teachers?

Here are five quotes from eminent writers to give us food for thought:

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

Louis L’Amour

“[Be] willing to write really badly.”

Jennifer Egan

“The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt.”

Sylvia Plath

“You fail only if you stop writing.”

Ray Bradbury

“It is only be writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.”

PD James

What can we take from these musings? What important aspects of writing instruction can be drawn from these words of wisdom? Here are some possible takeaways:

  1. Encourage your students to write frequently
  2. Provide opportunities for them to experiment with their writing
  3. Establish an atmosphere where students feel safe in taking creative chances

Who’s one to argue with a collection of writers such as this?

Can Technology Help Students Become Better Writers? Food for thought in the brave new world of Ed. Tech.

Although the question posed by an article in EdTech Magazine was, “Can Technology Help Students Become Better Writers?” a much more compelling question is, “How are teachers using technology to help students become better writers?”

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the National Writing Project, technology is used to teach writing by the use of wikis, websites, blogs, interactive whiteboards and various tools to help students edit their own work and review the work of others.

Missing from this list are a number of key elements for effective writing instructional programs.  The use of technology in writing instruction should also address:

  • how to motivate students to become engaged in the writing process.
  • how to develop the all-important skill of writing fluency (i.e. the ease with which a writer is able to generate ideas and put them into words.)
  • how to develop original ideas and think critically.
  • how to give students feedback on their writing so that they can become self-regulating learners.
  • how to cater writing assignments to individual needs.

All of these elements have been key in the development of the writing app COW.  Our goal is to provide educators with a practical and effective tool that enhances writing programs with the use of technology.


Number Crunching a Writing Streak A "Write Every Day" Writing Challenge

An important part of improving writing is to write as often as possible. Many writers have a rule that they write every day. Here’s a writing challenge that encourages students to develop the daily writing habit.

This writing challenge will take a number of days to complete. In fact, eager writers will NEVER finish this challenge. Here’s why:

Students are challenged to write at least 100 words a day (or the teacher can set a higher total) for as many days in a row as they can.

Here’s the Challenge

  1. In your Bonus Word List Manager, go to the Shared tab and copy over the “Numbers” Bonus Word List. You may want to add some of your own Mathematics vocabulary words to the list. Be sure to assign the list to your class. 
  2. Writers begin their writing streak with their first story, using the Numbers Bonus Word list. They are to begin their first story with the word, “One . . .”
  3. On the second day of writing, students are to begin their story with the word, “Two . . .”
  4. On the third day of writing, students are to begin their story with (you guessed it), the word “Three . . .” and so on until they miss a day.

You can keep a chart of the wall of student writing streaks. Who can write for the greatest number of days in a row?

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