Creativity and Technology Transform Georgia Students' Writing Skills

When Denise Lewis' language arts students at Woodstock Middle School in Georgia were struggling with writing, she addressed the problem with creativity and a new Web-based learning tool. Within weeks, improvements in her eighth graders' writing skills were so compelling that they wrote a proposal for a technology grant that reaped a $1,000 award for their school. By the spring, nearly all of Lewis' students had passed the state writing assessment.
The transformation followed Lewis' adoption of Pearson's award-winning Web-based writing and reading comprehension learning tool, WriteToLearn ™, and the purchase of laptop computers for her classroom by technology-forward Cherokee County School District.

"The difference was like night and day," she said. "The kids were running to my classroom to get on WriteToLearn."

With WriteToLearn, students practice essay writing and summarization skills, and their efforts are measured by Pearson's state-of-the-art Knowledge Analysis Technologies™ (KAT) engine. The KAT engine is a unique automated assessment technology that evaluates the meaning of text by examining whole passages, not just for grammatical correctness or spelling.

With WriteToLearn, Lewis guides her students in developing writing strategies, which they immediately apply with WriteToLearn.

"They can actually see that what I'm teaching them will work, which is otherwise difficult to do, especially with the struggling writers," Lewis said.

With every WriteToLearn assignment, students are eager to see the feedback they receive and are more engaged in what they're learning, she continued. "They work and work to get the best possible feedback, and they're very competitive."

For the grant-writing project, the students conducted research, created surveys, interviewed each other and even made a movie that showed them using WriteToLearn. "They learned that they have the power to write for a purpose," she said.

This year, Lewis is teaching seventh graders at all skill levels, and is finding that WriteToLearn is effective at differentiating instruction to make it more personalized for each student. "It works for everyone - from our writers who need extra help to our high-achieving and gifted students."

At another Cherokee County school, F. D. Johnston Elementary School, sixth-grade language arts teacher Jeff Pence doesn't hesitate to acknowledge that using WriteToLearn has changed his life.
"I spend my time teaching writing instead of drudging through papers," he said. "WriteToLearn changes the attitudes of teachers because grading papers was killing us."

With teaching six classes a day of approximately 25 students per class, Pence was previously only able to assign and grade about three writing prompts during the entire school year. Now, he assigns as many as two writing prompts per week, "and by Friday afternoon, they are both in the gradebook for all my classes," he said. "My students get so much practice with WriteToLearn - something I never could have given them on my own."

Pence points out that the best part of WriteToLearn is how it motivates his students. "My students absolutely eat it up," he said. "Wow - it's a great time to be teaching."

Pat Kearns, Ph.D., the district's director of academic standards, professional development and career pathways, said, "Cherokee County School District boasts a team of creative, talented teachers who have found ways to use technology, such as WriteToLearn, to ensure that all of their students achieve at the highest level. When I visit classrooms around the district, I am amazed at the new enthusiasm for writing that I see when students are practicing with WriteToLearn."

More information about WriteToLearn is available at