Review by Andrea Meyers, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2018

Writable

Smart writing platform places focus on feedback and revision

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • English Language Learning

Skills
  • College & Career Prep
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3–12
Common Sense says (See details)
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Not yet reviewed

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Pros: Scaffolds the writing process like no other product on the market; an extensive library of assignments support all kinds of writing.

Cons: Requires Google accounts, which can be an issue for some schools.

Bottom Line: While there's some room for improvement, this tool is rock-solid pedagogically and can be the engine of your classroom's writing process.

Teachers can use Writable as a kind of project management platform for the writing process. With Writable, students learn to write to a prompt, provide and incorporate peer review effectively, and substantively revise their work based on feedback. The real benefit of this tool is how it helps teachers orchestrate all of this, tracking it at a high level but then dipping in to offer assistance when needed. While students get the appropriate prompts and nudges to make their next revision or offer a comment, teachers get data on how everyone is doing and can see all feedback and revisions. At the end of a project, teachers can also have students evaluate peer feedback received.

Unlike some competitors that focus on specific types of writing, Writable is more general and addresses the major writing genres taught in grades three to 12: argumentative/persuasive, narrative, and informational/expository. It offers an expansive bank of writing prompts to choose from and supports writing practice with a wide variety of writing projects, including quick writes, short responses, multi-paragraph essays, and extended writing projects with multiple revisions. Whether your school uses Writers Workshop, Six Traits, or other instructional methods, Writable is flexible and can work with any method across the curriculum. Upper elementary teachers can use it to teach the basics of an essay, narrative, and informational paragraph. Middle school teachers can expand on those and add argument and persuasive writing for different purposes. High school teachers can help students hone their writing for AP exams, college entrance exams, and college admissions essays.

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Writable is a web-based writing platform that focuses on getting students to revise their writing and provide good feedback. Teachers select an assignment and a prompt or prompts from a large library. Each assignment is paired with a rubric (teachers can use the existing rubric or modify it). When students begin an assignment, they see the prompt and rubric. Once they submit their work, they begin a writing and revision cycle that includes anonymous peer review -- of both the written work and the peer feedback -- from classmates.  Peer reviewers see the writer's work and the rubric. As they work through the rubric, they evaluate the writing, assigning star ratings and providing comments. Writers get this feedback and incorporate it. Reviewers then can evaluate if the feedback was incorporated successfully. At the end of it all, teachers can also assign an evaluation of the peer feedback. It's important to note that teachers can monitor this whole process, and have a dashboard that helps them intervene when necessary.

Writable is well-integrated with Google and Google Classroom, making it easy to connect a class and import the student roster. Writable assignments get posted to the class stream, and when students submit work in Writable, the assignment is also turned in on Google Classroom. Teachers can sync assignment scores from Writable to Google Classroom for easier workflow. Writable rubrics can be created in Google Sheets, and students can also write in Google Docs and save their work to Google Drive. 

Writable is a new tool, so there's some room for improvement. Currently, there's no way to edit or delete a teacher-created prompt once it's published. Moreover, while it's handy for Google-enabled classrooms that teachers can import their Google Classroom roster or have students join with a Google account and class code, there's no option for teachers to create individual student accounts without a Google login.

Writing and revising can be challenging for students, and the peer review process is just as challenging. A lot of students see their rough draft as a finished product, or their peer feedback as nothing more than correcting a few grammatical errors. Yet, as teachers know and research supports, substantive revisions are where real writing takes shape. Writable is designed to support an in-depth, revision- and feedback-based writing process, scaffolding each step and supporting assessment of both writing and feedback. Writable does a good job of organizing this process for students and helps teachers monitor how students are doing as writers, revisers, and reviewers. Teachers get a bird's-eye view but can dip in and offer their own feedback as necessary. In fact, there are so many useful features and data points that Writable can be daunting, but teachers will find each element has a useful purpose. While Writable's organizational supports will be useful to all students, those who struggle with focus and executive function may find even more benefit, thanks to the student dashboard, on-screen prompts, and built-in rubrics.

 

Overall Rating

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

It's well-designed if not dripping with personality. The student dashboard effectively highlights writing and feedback progress to keep students on track.

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

Students and teachers benefit from supports in the writing and review interface. Teachers can monitor student progress over time and more easily identify areas of need.

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

The site offers on-screen writing and review support for students and help chat for educators. Video support and help files are effective, but outside the app. There are tons of templates for teachers, and customizable rubrics.


Common Sense Reviewer
Andrea Meyers Technology Assistant and graduate student in instructional technology

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