September 30, 2015

8 Free Tools to Get Students To Love Writing

Elena Ontiveros
Two students smiling and writing on a computer

Knowing how to write—and write well—directly impacts a student’s success across subject areas and grade levels. Whether it’s for a book report, historical debate, scientific exam, creative essay, or school or job application, writing gives students a way to express themselves and convey critical thinking skills.

Following are eight tools you can use to get students started on their next writing assignment. While none can cure writer’s block, each can guarantee that they’re free to use, whenever and wherever a student finds inspiration.

Google Docs

With the ability to create original documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and forms, students can learn how to write in a variety of formats. Google Docs also comes with direct sharing, editing, and commenting features, making it easy for you to provide feedback. And because everything is automatically saved and stored in the cloud, you’ll never have to listen to students explain how they lost their homework...again.


When using digital tools for writing assignments, make sure your students fingers can keep up with their ideas by helping them improve their typing speed. Available online, or as an app in the Chrome Web Store, TypingClub provides a gamified way to teach students how to sit ergonomically, position their hands over a keyboard, and type completely by touch, so they can keep their eyes on the screen (and their prose).

Word Counter

As each student starts to develop an individual writing style and voice, they’ll start paying more attention to word choice. While Word Counter calculates the number of characters, sentences, and paragraphs being written, it also tallies how many times certain words are being used throughout a passage. When students get familiar with the terms they tend to repeat, they can see where to expand their vocabulary.


Once students understand which words they overuse, WordHippo can help them find alternatives. Organizing synonyms by nouns, verbs, and adjectives, students can also discover antonyms, words that rhyme, word definitions, pronunciation examples, and more—all on one site. And with a feature that translates words into various languages, students have a whole new way to transform their writing.

Citation Machine

For assignments that require research, Citation Machine teaches students how to properly cite their sources. In three easy steps, your students can select between MLA, APA, Chicago, Turabian, and Harvard styles guides; search a database of books, magazines, newspapers, websites, films, and more; then select and edit a citation to use in their bibliography. A perfect opportunity to build a lesson plan around references and plagiarism.


As any great writer will tell you, words are meaningless if they’re written with bad grammar. Grammarly supports writing practices and improvements by checking passages for grammar, punctuation, and word usage. By proofing, correcting, and reinforcing the basics of writing, this tool not only helps students ensure everything is spelled correctly; it makes sure what they’re trying to express is spelled out, too.

No Red Ink

For grammar lessons that adapt to and improve a student’s skill level, check out No Red Ink, also available on the Chrome Web Store. Created by an educator just like you, it gives teachers the ability to create five different types of assignments: Planning Diagnostic, Unit Diagnostic, Practice, New Quiz, and Measure Growth Quiz. Even better? It automatically does all the grading, so you can also leave that red ink behind.

Hemingway App

Once students have a handle on word choice, grammar, and voice, Hemingway takes what they’ve written and shows how its readability measures up. When a passage is copied and pasted into the Edit feature, a reading grade level is assigned and colorful highlighting illustrates which sentences are hard to read, where language can be simplified, use of passive voice, and more, leaving them with something that Ernest himself would approve.

Which tech tools do you use to encourage writing in your classroom? Share your favorites in the comments below!