Chris Drage looks at three CD-Roms aimed at encouraging children to write creatively
Channel 4's publishing arm: 4Learning has released three new and attractive CD-Roms that aim to inspire children to write: The Writing House (key stage 1: ages 5 to 7), Write Away! (KS2: ages 7 to 9) and Just Write (KS2: ages 9 to 11). Each title extends the writing themes of its associated television series The CDs feature fiction and non-fiction writing at differentiated levels, using "drag and drop" and dynamic text. Writing is supported with word banks and spell checks while speaking and listening, reading strategies and writing composition are all interrelated.
The Writing House encourages pupils to use a range of different writing tools and techniques, such as writing instructions, writing a description of a character and writing a traditional tale. It features animations of the characters Mr Write, Violet and Word Bird from the TV series. It offers three levels of differentiation.
Write Away! sets writing challenges for the child. With help from the animated Writing Rescuers Mousey and Larry, children embark on their journey across the Isle of Write. Each island is inhabited by a different character who requires writing assistance. There are five modules, each with a different focus.
Each of the units comprises several practice activities, generally drag and drop or cloze tasks, followed by a longer Writing Rescue activity. It sets writing challenges for the pupil, such as writing persuasively, writing an explanation or descriptive writing.
Just Write develops ideas and strategies which extend children's confidence and skills in writing even further and uses a range of colourful characters to guide them through various forms of writing.
Concerned primarily with non-fiction writing, it uses a graphic style reflecting the contemporary feel and a realistic context in which the activities take place. At the heart of the CD-Rom is the mobile "writing room", filled with hints and tips to improve writing quality.
The quality of the graphics throughout is very good, with colourful and animated pictures. Each title uses repeatable, spoken prompts to support children's reading and printable activities provided at the end of each stage.
There's an additional facility for teachers or carers to check children's writing. Each disk is clearly linked to the National Literacy Strategy.
They can easily be used with individuals or groups or for whole-class shared writing and would be ideal used with an interactive whiteboard.
Although each title complements its relevant Channel 4 TV series, children do not necessarily have to view the programmes. Each CD is a most enjoyable way to consolidate core writing skills in key stages 1 to 2.
The Writing HouseWrite Away!Just Write
CD-Roms for primary-age pupils to encourage writing
Price: pound;35 + VAT, single user (additional CD-Roms only with initial order pound;10 + VAT each); Class licence (up to 30 pupils) pound;75 + VAT; site licence (unlimited) pound;100 + VAT 4Learning, Tel: 08701 246444