Product Review of Writable
Writable is an extensive web-based writing program. It focuses on a recursive writing process with a lot of peer and educator feedback. Content covers all major writing genres taught in grades 3 to 12: argumentative/persuasive, narrative, and informational/expository. As they complete assignments, learners learn how to respond to prompts in quick writes, short responses, multiparagraph essays, and extended writing projects with multiple revisions. Schools that use six traits, writing workshop, and other instructional methods will find that the program works with any of those methods in multiple content areas. Educators manage the peer feedback and revision process and can jump in to provide additional feedback and assistance. In the anonymous peer review process, learners use the rubric to assist with evaluating the writing, assign stars, and provide written feedback. Writers receive and incorporate the feedback, and then the writing goes back to the reviewers for another look. In addition, educators can assign evaluations of the peer feedback.
In addition to peer feedback, Writable has added a new tool called RevisionAid that analyzes writing and provides automatic, specific feedback, adding another layer in the revision cycle. Learners click a button in the writing area and receive recommendations with color-coded stars that categorize the type of feedback. Educators enable RevisionAid when assigning a writing prompt or project and then review that data as part of the dashboard reports. There are also some additions to support virtual and hybrid learning, including recording and embedding video, providing video and audio feedback, printable reading passages, and differentiated prompts for any assignment as well as more grading control over multisection assignments.
Schools that use Chromebooks and Google Classroom can import their rosters into Writable and set it up to sync with Classroom assignments. Learners can write and submit from Google Docs and save the writing to their drive. If schools use the Canvas or Schoology learning management systems (LMS), educators install the Writable app and then create assignments. The process is slightly different for each, so make sure to verify the steps for your LMS. Learners will see their assignments when they log in.
Educators can use Writable as the foundation for their school writing program. To get started, have learners join with a class code, or import and sync your classes with Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology, or HMH. Co-educators can also join the class with an invitation. The intuitively organized Explore tab is a great place to begin. Educators can quickly click through the Featured sections for contemporary cross-curricular short articles, videos, and prompts for a specific lesson or check out the Short Response section for argumentative, informational, and narrative prompts. Take note as well of the SEL-focused prompts based on the CASEL framework, covering narrative writing for Self-Awareness, Responsible Decision-Making, and Relationship Skills. These prompts could serve as great class openers. When you find a suitable prompt, copy it to your assignments, modify the prompt, supports, and rubrics as needed, and then assign out.
As learners practice writing in response to prompts and participate in peer review cycles, educators can manage the class through the dashboard and provide feedback to learners throughout their writing journey. The dashboard shows info on individual learners as well as the class, drilling down through categories, skills, standards, and even checklists and rubrics. Learners who need extra help and practice are flagged for educators. Educators can also work together as grade- and content-level teams to align assessments using exemplars for different writing levels.
Educators will also want to check out the accessibility features and make sure learners are aware of their options. All learners can toggle on audio instructions for each writing prompt, and educators can enable additional scaffolds such as starter sentences or paragraphs and prefilled graphic organizers for specific learners. Learners can also respond to prompts with video or audio recordings or images. Spanish-speaking learners who are learning English can toggle the navigation menu between English and Spanish.
Writable’s biggest strength is in its scaffolding of each step of the writing, revision, and feedback process, and how it supports the assessment of both writing and feedback. It helps learners by organizing the process and helps educators monitor the learners as writers, revisers, and reviewers. This focus on learners as reviewers — not just writers and revisers — is particularly notable. While drafting and revising one’s work is an important part of the writing process, research supports that peer review is an equally important skill. Writable supports this focus with its Practice Peer Review assignments, and in the way that giving feedback is integrated and assessed alongside drafting and revision. It’s a unique approach among competitors in the edtech writing space and is laudable.
Writable also gets other things right, like making sure there are accessibility features and detailed graphic organizers that support all learners, including ELLs and those who struggle with focus and executive function. In addition, the reports that educators get provide valuable information that’ll shape instructional decisions, and the “team grading” feature — which provides groups of educators the ability to norm grading and identify exemplars — also shows a keen understanding of how tech can support educators. Although this leads to the big caveat with Writable: There’s a lot to it, and learning how to use all of Writable’s features requires a significant time investment. But since it’s a tool that educators can rely on to anchor their curriculum, that initial investment over, say, a summer, will be worth it. Every element of the program is useful and thoughtfully designed to support effective writing.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Educators can find a relevant topic among the pile of prompts spanning all genres. Learners can choose freewrites that interest them, and they’ll get feedback that’ll drive them forward.
Curriculum and Instruction
Exceptional scaffolding for learners, and revision is elevated to a place of prominence — as it should be. The writing prompts align well with curricula and state assessments.
Learners get tons of feedback and can write responses or submit video or audio recordings. Educators get actionable data, and educator teams can calibrate assessments. Tons of support videos and courses.