My colleague Donna brought her 5th grade class to the computer lab a few weeks ago.  She had signed up for some quality computer lab time for her students to work on publishing their major Writing pieces.  They had been working on their pieces for several weeks, as part of a Writer’s Workshop, and they were creating these on a class wiki (more about wiki writing in a future post)  Anyway, Donna has an absolutely remarkable wiki that the students can access 24/7, and they use computers to do all of their writing.  By the time they came to the computer lab, Donna had taught many mini-lessons on writing this piece, and students had applied these lessons to their pieces as the weeks went on.  Because of the wiki, their writing is also semi-public, at least to the other students in the class, and a LOT of commenting, suggestions, and feedback had already occurred.  Revisions and editing had also happened as a result of the feedback from the teacher and other students via the commenting aspect of the wiki.

If you are a primary school teacher who teaches Writing, you know that everything I mentioned above is dang-near-perfect, and just the way Writing instruction is supposed to be!  Keep reading – it gets better…..Donna is uber-involved in this Writing process and injects multiple comments and suggestions into her students’ wiki pieces every day.  She also meets with all of her students – frequently, individually, and with quality tips for improving their own pieces.  But……..and Donna will tell you the same thing……

Students are often unable to self-edit or revise, because they inherently auto-correct their own reading.

    So, when they reread their own pieces (as directed) to find errors, listen for inconsistencies, look for areas that could be improved upon, hear grammar mistakes…..the students don’t really hear them or even see them, because they often ‘auto-correct’ as they self-read.  That day in the computer lab, just before final publication, Donna and I could both see that this was still happening.  The students had self-read their own pieces so many times that they were no longer able to hear/see/find areas for improvement.  My buddy Donna doesn’t mind when I jump in a little bit, so I just kind-of threw an idea out to the class, and a whole new world of revision opened up…

Here comes the tool.  Finally. And I urge you to try this if you haven’t before:   Get your students to copy and paste the entire text of their piece into Google Translate.  I could give you the website, but all you have to do, really, is Google ‘Google Translate’ and it comes up. (Okay, I gave you the quick link if you click on those blue words.)  Now, make sure the left side and the right side are both set on English.

     Have students copy/paste their written work from wherever they had initial created it – an MS Word doc, a Google doc, a wiki, etc.  They should just paste that text in the box on the left.  The text is automatically (haha) ‘translated’ into English on the right side of the screen.  But look at this screenshot below, and you’ll see two magical things:

  First, there’s that whole “Did you mean:” thing going on below the left box.  This area automatically suggests changes for your young writers, and may get them seeing or thinking about changing things they hadn’t noticed.  But here’s the greatest part of using this web tool: the text-to-speech function!!!   Look at the box on the right.  Do you see the little ((sound)) icon?  When clicked, that actually has a computerized voice (think Siri) that READS the text back to students!  Have your kiddies put headphones on and actually LISTEN to their own pieces read back to them.  Whoaaaaa….

It won’t catch every mistake, but it sure does give students a different perspective to hear their Writing pieces read back to them when there are missing periods, or missplled words, or redundant redundant redundant words you get the idea the kids hear things that they normally might have missed, and it’s just one more AWESOME checkpoint before final publication!  (And yes, I mad these mistakes on porpoise so you culd hear how the sonde in in Google Translate!)

Google Translate.  English to English.  Text to speech.  That’s how 21st century writers roll!