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Take It to the Computer: Writing Sentences and Paragraphs

By Sally Finley - Posted May 1, 2005
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: Evan-Moor Products, 18 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Monterey, CA 93940; 800/777-4362; Fax: 800/777-4362; Internet: http://www.evan-moor.com/.

Price: $399—classroom version for grades 1-5; each grade is sold separately; $599—lab version.

Audience: Grades 1-5.

Format: Mac/Win hybrid CD-ROM with print materials.

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows systems: Pentium processor, Windows 98 or higher.

Macintosh: Mac OS 9.1-10.x.

For both systems: 36-MB RAM, 250-MB storage, 800x600 display, and 256 colors.

Description: Take It to the Computer: Writing Sentences and Paragraphs provides center activities for writing using practice exercises, graphic organizers, and a drawing program.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: I used the software on a Power Mac G4 computer running system 9.2.  Installation was simple and quick. Once the program is installed, the CD-ROM is not needed. The program can be set up for use by a single computer or a network. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: Take It to the Computer: Writing Sentences and Paragraphs is a ready-to-use program for students within a classroom or lab setting. A set of 48 grade-specific cards focus on activities that follow the processes of writing: prewriting, writing the first draft, responding, revising, editing, writing the final draft, publishing, and evaluating.

The 48 activity cards are used for prewriting and writing lessons. These activities are completed with software lessons from the accompanying CD-ROM. This material not only guides students through the stages of writing, but it also helps teach them basic computer skills.

The CD includes computer tools and templates such as My Toolbox, a complete drawing/painting/word processing program. The Drawing Pad is easy to use and offers a variety of colors for text, pencil, and brush. Stamps provide a variety of designs to accompany student stories. The drawing tools are easy to use, and the students will enjoy adding colorful text and artwork to their original stories.

Graphic organizers provide instruction on adding descriptive details to a narrative sentence, writing details to support a topic sentence, using Venn diagrams for writing comparisons, and generating ideas in a Web organizer.

A voice option provides students the opportunity to record their voices as they read the stories they create; an audio button will read text that
is highlighted in the Writing Pad. Students with English as a second language will benefit from the voice option.

I was disappointed, however, with the quality of the audio provided as an option for reading the text. Two voices are used within the program. One is raspy, and the other sounds as if it was generated electronically. Neither voice would help a student needing language cues with articulation and fluency.

A variety of publishing options are available. The multimedia slide­show feature combines projects with musical accompaniment and transitions. The slideshow can present a collection of works by a single student or class. These collections can be e-mailed to parents or posted onto a Web server that any Internet browser can access.

Student-written stories can be printed out and displayed within the classroom or compiled in a student/class book of original stories. Finished projects or slide­shows can be shown to parents at special school nights and during student-led conferences. 

The Teacher Menu offers printable files of the Teacher's Guide as well as administrative functions such as the ability to add or delete classes. Lists of completed student projects, class lists, and student folders are managed in a teacher database. Assignments can be viewed by student or by activity.

A Teacher's Guide and Resource Materials also are included in a comprehensive binder. The easy-to-use manual contains standards, parent communication materials, and assessment rubrics. Material for each of the 48 activities includes a teacher overview and reproducibles for prewriting, practice, assessment, and extension.

Color transparencies and student reproducibles offer an alternative method for presenting the lessons for group instruction. Consumables include a writing handbook, complete with a customizable spelling dictionary, a grammar and punctuation guide, and a writing portfolio folder to organize projects. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The software is simple to use, however teachers will need to instruct students on the use of the various tools in the software program.

The Teacher's Guide is excellent and very straightforward. Complete instructions are available in the comprehensive binder. Activities are reproduced on durable cards for center use.

A quick glance at the contents of each section will provide an appropriate activity to complement class instruction.

The spell check is extremely user friendly and provides more possibilities than most programs. I was surprised at the program's ability to provide word choices for the inventive spelling often used by younger students. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Product support, including a troubleshooting guide with a variety of scenarios and solutions, is provided in the comprehensive teacher binder. Support is also available online at the company's Web site.

A weekly newsletter offers grade-specific lesson plans, clip art, and activities. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: Take It to the Computer: Writing Sentences and Paragraphs is a comprehensive program for use at a self-directed student center.

My favorite feature was the slide­show function. It was extremely easy to use and offered a variety of options. Younger students will have no difficulty putting slides into a collection and using the music and transitions to move from one slide to another.

A major strength of this software is the option to e-mail student work to parents and to post student projects onto a classroom Web site. Directions for both features are fully explained for the teacher; even a technology novice will be able to easily accomplish these tasks.  

If you are looking for a writing program for independent access at a center, this program will definitely motivate your students and provide them with opportunities to publish their work. Highly Recommended.

Reviewer: Sally Finley, Gifted/Technology, Country Hills Elementary School, 10550 Westview Drive, Coral Springs, FL  33076; 954/341-0460; sallyfinley1@yahoo.com.


 
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