Monday, January 5, 2015

Review: Essay Express Software

Essay Express: A Teacher-Focused Review

Ages: Grades 4 through 8

Content Areas: Language Arts

Cost: Varies depending on the license purchased. More information can be found on their website. Of note, a 30-day free demo is also available for you to explore before making a purchase. 

Last year, we reviewed the software program Animation-ish, created by one of my all-time favorite children’s authors Peter H. Reynolds and FableVision Learning. While researching the animation program I discovered Essay Express, which is described as “a powerful combination of interactive strategy-based exercises which use engaging stories, humor, and music to teach students how to structure a successful short essay”. FableVision Learning teamed up with Dr. Lynn Meltzer, Dr. Bethany Roditi, and a team from the Research Institute for Learning and Development (RILD) to create a researched based, creative learning tool to help develop students’ written competencies.

As a Learning Specialist, I often assess and work with students who struggle with the writing process. Writing is a complex task that requires multiple cognitive abilities to be deployed simultaneously. The breakdown in the writing process that causes students’ difficulties can manifest in a number of areas, including challenges generating ideas, effectively sequencing information, formulating a sentence or appropriately executing standard written conventions.For many classroom teachers, it can be challenging to pinpoint the specific area of weakness in a student, and subsequently devise evidence-based interventions to strength those deficiencies.

Essay Express is one very valuable tool educators can use to bolster their students' abilities, while feeling confident that the research that backs this program is instructionally sound. This writing program provides foundational skill development by employing nine cognitive strategies which break down, teach and strengthen each skill that is critical in crafting a well-structured essay. Essay Express is designed as a step-by-step process in which students can progress at their own rate, allowing the program to meet the needs of your student at the level of their writing ability. As such, it is a beneficial writing program for both special education and mainstream settings - all students, regardless of learning needs, can benefit from continually strengthening their writing ability. Furthermore, as teachers, the program provides you with a student performance tracking system, and ability to customize your essay questions to meet the specific needs of your curriculum.

If you are curious about what this software can do, or how an educator could utilize this program in their classroom, a detailed and robust Educator’s Guide is available. There you will find detailed instructions on how to use the progress tracking portion of the software, as well as lesson extensions and printable resources included in the software. In addition, for a great video summary of the merits of this program, FableVision Learning has created an excellent animated video to showcase Essay Express. Beyond this resource, Mr. Reynolds and Fable Vision Learning also offer a variety of tools for creating a creative classroom, which are worthwhile to explore. Most are literacy based and infuse elements of high quality art or animation to inspire learning among your students.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review and excellent tool for students. I think it should be available in all schools and that includes home schools too. Whatever will encourage a child to find their inner writing voice, I am all for it! Well done Renee for bringing this to the fore front!!