Educator uses technology to teach writing to 7th graders


Online program improves students’ writing skills, preparing them for jobs of the future

The biggest challenge that Jeff Pence, a 7th-grade ELA teacher, faces is getting his students past the task of writing. His students get so hung up on the process and mechanics of writing that they have difficulty communicating their thoughts.

To address this problem, Pence uses WriteToLearn, an online literacy program, in his classroom. Students like the program because it gives them immediate feedback, not just on grammar but also on content. And because WriteToLearn auto-scores student drafts, Pence can assign more essays to his students, giving them more opportunities to practice their writing skills. Last year, Pence’s class completed thirty-three writing assignments—a far greater number than if he had to do all the grading manually.

Pence has seen a huge improvement in his students’ writing over the course of a school year. Anecdotal feedback from parents and other teachers confirms that students’ skills and enjoyment of writing have increased after use of the online program.

According to Pence, writing skills will always be important. Whatever jobs his students will have in the future, they will need to be able to communicate.

Watch this video, and learn how technology is helping Pence’s students improve their writing skills.


With the jobs of the future coming along, writing is not going to go away. Communication is not going away. It may change form, but it’s not going away.

The biggest challenge teaching middle school students to write is helping the students get past the task of writing and into the communicating. Seventh grade students, middle school students, will talk forever. They will communicate. You tell them to write, and they freeze up. You’ve got to find them a place where they can disconnect the two, and they can take their communication skills that they have and put them in writing so that they can communicate their thoughts clearly without getting bogged down and worrying about the mechanics. The mechanics have to become second nature.

Technology helps students learn to write and to improve their writing by providing immediate feedback. I use WriteToLearn in my classroom. The students can receive immediate feedback from that program.

As an educator, my effectiveness has increased astronomically because of technology. By using online assessment for essays, I am able to assign and complete an assignment with 140 students a week—an essay. We start on Wednesday. They finish on Friday. And I don’t take home a stack of papers.

My students wrote thirty-three essays this year. Thirty-three essays and summaries they wrote in my classroom. Basically one a week. And there’s no way that could happen without technology.

Evidence of improved student writing shows up in ways and places that surprise me. I will see a teacher, who has a student who I had years ago, comment, “Something clicked back there to help them write better.” Parents will ask me, “What is it you’re doing because all of the sudden my son wants to write? He wants to be a sports writer. He used to want to play baseball.”

Writing scores go up across the board for all the students whether they’re the lower students or the higher students. Wherever they are, wherever they start, they go up. They’re able to communicate better. Even within my classroom, I see a major change from the fall to the spring.

The partnership I have with Pearson is, from my perspective, a wonderful thing. They defer to classroom teachers as the experts. And they’re the ones providing a tool to help the experts do what the experts need. And that’s amazing.

Automated online writing program

Help students develop vital writing skills with this literacy tool for Grades 4-12 that includes Common Core ELA writing prompts. As students complete activities, they receive immediate, personalized feedback to encourage, instruct, and reward their progress.
Learn more about WriteToLearn