There are several free websites that allow you to write any type of text collaboratively, illustrate it, create a comic or a storyboard, or even to design other more sophisticated forms of writing such as interactive stories. Most of them, however, require student registration and therefore parental permission may be needed, and they tend to be time-consuming for short writing tasks. Even so, there are still a small number of web-based applications to publish different types of writing that are extremely easy to use, supported by all operating systems and web browsers, and which can be lots of fun! This last step in the writing process is often saved as a picture, which can be then shared on a flash drive or by email — and no registration is needed.
This application allows students to write their own opening crawl and play it later. Just enter your text in each of the spaces available, including the title and a sub-title, then copy the url at the end, and finally paste it for it to be shared.
This crawl creator offers multiple publishing possibilities for creative writing. So far I have used it to have the students publish short writings based on their daily routines (waking up early in the morning can get the most epic and dramatic narrative effects from teenagers!) Introducing your lesson or project objectives, or even providing a summary of the work done at the end, are also attention-catching and memorable ways in which this tool can be used in the classroom.
Both applications allow you to create newspaper-looking articles just by filling in the blank spaces with the newspaper name, the headline, the date, and the article itself. One of them even allows you to upload a picture to go with the article. Click on the “Generate” or “Make it” buttons and save as a picture.
These articles can be follow-up news to something the students have read, either fictional or factual, or perhaps a news item that they would like to see in the near future related to new discoveries and inventions — even some big change that will contribute to make our world a better place! The students could also use these newspaper generators to write and share what they did over their summer or spring holidays, or during a school trip, either on their own or after interviewing other classmates.
Use ifaketext to have students write simple phone text conversations to exchange personal information or make arrangements with friends, introduce grammar or vocabulary in context (perhaps using some of your students’ names and the information you have about them to make it even more personal and meaningful), or to check comprehension of a story by having the students write a dialogue between two or three characters in it. Once again, all you need to do is enter the text, add as many lines as needed, and then save the conversation as a jpeg image.
Simply upload an image, add speech and thought bubbles to it, and save the whole thing as a picture. Create a story or a comic, show understanding of a text by writing key sentences on a picture that is relevant to the text, compare what the people in the pictures are saying and what they could be thinking — the sky’s the limit!
We all know about the summarising power of tweets, limited to just 140 characters. Apart from summarising a text, this tweet generator could also be used to write your personal reaction to a text, your opinion about an issue that will be discussed in class, or to highlight what each student has learnt during the lesson and share their reflections with the rest of the class. I also use it as part of a interdisciplinary project after reading some extracts from Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days”; the students then design their own trip around the world in 8 days using a variety of means of transport and writing one tweet a day in which the students provide clues about the place they are visiting that day but without mentioning the place name. At the end, the students work together to trace each others’ routes on world maps and even assess whether travel times and time zones are used correctly.