Featured Applications: Building Good Writers Using Powerful Writing Apps

By Cathy Buyrn, M.Ed.
May/June 2012

In the spring of 2013, Virginia students in grades 5, 8, and 11 will complete all direct writing tests online.  In preparation for this change, schools started field-testing the online writing Standards of Learning (SOL) tests in February 2012.  As writing assessments shift from paper-and-pencil to digital formats, teachers must be prepared to teach all aspects of writing with digital tools.

Word processing tools have been available to both students and educators for more than a decade.  While maximizing the use of basic word processing tools is an important step, teachers should also explore more innovative writing tools in the form of mobile device applications and interactive software programs.  Such applications have the power to provide flexible support across the writing domains and prepare students for a workplace that expects them to be fluent users of digital tools.

The applications listed in the chart below may be used to support students across the domains and features of writing used to evaluate student writing in grades 5, 8, and 11 according to Virginia’s SOL.  Apple’s “Apps for Learning to Write Collection” includes additional tools for Apple devices.  Further information about the roll-out of the online direct writing SOL assessments may be found at English SOL Online Writing on the Virginia Department of Education.

Domains of Writing
Applications Description


  • Central Idea
  • Elaboration
  • Organization
  • Unity

This writing prompt generator uses current events, scene elements, words, sketches, colors, genres, and writing types to inspire writers.

kidspiration  kidspirationstar

Kidspiration and Inspiration


With Kidspiration and Inspiration, students use graphic organizers to express thoughts and explore ideas and relationships. They create graphic organizers including webs, concept maps, and Venn diagrams to clarify thoughts, organize information, apply new knowledge, and build critical thinking skills.

Written Expression

  • Vocabulary
  • Information
  • Voice
  • Tone
  • Rhythm


The Visual Thesaurus

The Visual Thesaurus is an interactive dictionary and thesaurus that creates word maps that blossom with meanings and branch to related words.


iDiary for Kids

iDiary for Kids is an ideal platform for children ages 5-13 to plunge into journaling. Keeping a journal helps students improve their writing skills, develop their creativity, and boost their self-confidence.

Usage & Mechanics

  • Sentence Foundation
  • Mechanics
  • Usage

sentence builder

Sentence Builder is designed to help elementary-aged children learn how to build grammatically correct sentences. Explicit attention is paid to the connector words that make up more than 80% of the English language.

english grammar

This grammar study tool includes a massive library of fun grammar activities written specially for intermediate learners of English.

Additional Resources:

Apps for Learning to Write Collection


English SOL Online Writing