Review by Jason Shiroff, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2017

TenMarks Writing

One-size-fits-all approach drains the heart and soul out of writing

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4-8
Common Sense says (See details)
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Pros: The site is well organized and can provide a starting point for writing instruction, but shouldn't be relied on as the primary writing curriculum.

Cons: Students using this site will miss out on the joy, challenge, and importance of indulging in a culture of writing.

Bottom Line: Machine learning can provide feedback for students, but only a passionate writing teacher can convey a love for the craft.

Teachers could selectively use the lessons in TenMarks Writing to support struggling writers. The platform can be used to provide scaffolded one-paragraph and five-paragraph assignments. Some students will benefit from the site's instant feedback. The Bursts could also be used for fun creative writing assignments. Using a Burst at the beginning of the class might help get the writing juices flowing in a low-stakes learning environment.

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TenMarks Writing attempts to teacher-proof the writing process by providing comprehensive online writing instruction and feedback. The site includes lesson plans, graphic organizers, anchor charts, writing prompts, and natural language processing technology, which gives instant feedback to writers. The curriculum covers three genres of writing: opinion, informational, and response to literature. In addition, short lessons, called Bursts, are available. Bursts are short writing assignments in the form of text messaging, commenting on pre-selected images, and freewriting. Teachers can assign individual lessons or whole writing genre units to students. Once lessons are assigned, the students move through them independently, getting feedback on their writing from the website. Once a first draft is written, teachers are notified to add their own feedback by writing comments, editing the auto-generated feedback, or deleting the computer's comments. Teachers also grade the assignments based on rubrics that come with TenMarks Writing.

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The website is well organized and designed. It can provide a starting point for writing instruction but shouldn't be relied upon as the primary writing curriculum. The system lacks the customization that most writing teachers rely on, such as locally crafted rubrics and the ability to adjust the amount of scaffolding each student receives. The biggest oversight in TenMarks Writing is the importance of creating a culture of writing in the classroom. Using writing journals, peer feedback, and live audiences and breaking from formulaic writing are all aspects of a vibrant writing culture. TenMarks Writing doesn't help students discover that their words have power.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The website trains formulaic writers who won't enjoy much creativity. The Bursts, while fun, dumb down the writing process to instant messaging and meme creation.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

One-size-fits-all approach to writing instruction limits the teacher's role and overlooks the importance of building a strong culture of writing in the classroom.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Writing assignments are scaffolded for everyone with graphic organizers. More independent writers won't be fed by this highly structured process.


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Jason Shiroff Classroom teacher

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