Easy Writer (Delxue): Interactive Software for ESL Students


Frequently Asked Questions about Easy Writer and Easy Writer Deluxe: Interactive Software for ESL/EFL Students and  the Grammar HELP! Student Handbook

1. Is this suitable for classroomwork or for individualized work in the computer lab?
2.What level student will find Easy Writer and the Grammar HELP! Student Handbook helpful?
3. I teach native speakers of English.  Can people whose first language is English use the software and the book, too?
4. Who wrote the essays that are included in the software?
5. Tell me about the "Write Your Own Story" option.  Can students enter their own essays?  I would like to know if the computer will correct their essays.
6. What is in the Teachers' and Students' Resource package?  What is the Checklist of Stories  and the  Concordance of Errors? What type of supplementary and support material is available?  How can I use the Grammar
HELP! Student Handbook to complement our use of the software?
7. I understand that this software is influenced by "Fluency First." What is "Fluency First"?
8. How much time can a student spend working on this at one sitting?

9.Easy Writer seems very challenging.  I like this, but do the students ever become frustrated in this process?
10. Is there tracking available?
11. What pre- or post-assessment capabilities in Easy Writer?
12. I teach in Canada.  What attention is paid to the differences between American English, British English, and Canadian English in the software and the handbook?
13. What's next?

1. Is this suitable for classroom work or for individualized work in the computer lab?

We recommend advanced beginner through high intermediate.  Learners should have some ability to read and get meaning from what they've read. The software is designed to be flexible and versatile, and to work excellently in both teaching environments.  Teachers like how it provides structured follow-up after classroom group work and how it allows students who need to do catch-up to work on their skills.  Students also enjoy using it as a stand-alone package for individualized work when a lab aide and tutor are present as well as when they are not.  Many use it at home.

Each grammar unit begins with an "Introduction to...(name of that grammar unit)" component, full of interactive explanations and exercises.  Each unit also contains a "Grammar Book" component, in which a user or teacher can link directly to grammar pages that teach specific points.  Or the user can go directly to essay menu.  Now it is easier than ever to use Easy Writer in the classroom, or to prepare them for individualized work in the computer lab.

The Grammar HELP! Student Handbook makes it even easier to work individually or in the classroom.

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2.What level student will find Easy Writer helpful?

The readings range from over 100 words to over 500 words.  They range from 4th grade reading level to college-reading level.  Each reading is color-coded (red, black, blue) to indicate the difficulty level so that the student can work at his level, and progress from there.  Students from low intermediate to advanced should benefit greatly from Easy Writer.  The new audio feature makes Easy Writer accessible to those who have stronger listening skills than reading skills.

(Readings were rated according to Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level and Flesch Reading Ease Level and then additionally rated according to the level of challenge that learners of English would experience in editing the given reading, with consideration given to grammar, vocabulary and rhetorical style.)

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3.  I teach English to native speakers of English.  Can people whose first language is English use this too?

Absolutely!  Many native speakers also need to improve their skills with punctuation, passive voice, reported (indirect) speech, conditional sentence, certain verb forms, correct use of plural nouns, and more.  In fact, a number of the essays in this software were written by native speakers who were taking remedial writing classes and even Freshman English classes!  So while Easy Writer was developed primarily for ESL learners, there is something here for everybody, because there is something here from everybody!

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4.  Who wrote these essays?  For the audio versions, who recorded these essays?

My students at several City University of New York campuses wrote them as classroom writing assignments.  They are happy that you are using their writing because they're happy to be helping other ESL students like themselves.  The essays included were chosen for two reasons.  First, each essay included was stimulating! Secondly, each one demonstrated a particular recurring problem with grammar, punctuation, spelling, or sentence structure. 

The essays were recorded by professional actors and actresses.

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5. Tell me about the "Write Your Own Story" option.  Can students enter their own essays?  Will the computer correct their essays?

Yes, a student can enter his own essay.  We recommend, however, using the "Write Your Own Story" feature after the student has done the activities with the essays and Grammar Help! pages of the software.

Will the computer correct your students' essays?  We performed a casual study.  We submitted thousands of sentences that had relatively good syntax but that also had a significant grammar error (subject-verb agreement, singular nouns instead of plural, etc.) to a major grammar editing software program.  The computer consistently identified no more than 35% of the errors.  This means that even under the best of circumstances (relatively good sentence structure) over, 65% of a student's grammar errors are going through!  When we submitted sentences that specifically had problems with parallel structure and run-on sentences, the computer was picking up almost none of the errors. And yet these are the most annoying errors to teachers and to those reading cover letters in the hopes of getting a job and are automatic red flags to those in the position of hiring.

The goal of Easy Writer is for the student to become a more successful  and a more independent writer.  In the end, his strengths with English will be his passport to good jobs and to academic success. 

Working his way through the various four levels and the many grammar categories helps him to do this.  It helps him to develop better intuition about English, to relate the rules of grammar to real language, to take his time when writing, to review what he has written, and more.  He uses the "Grammar Reference" as a resource. By using Easy Writer, he will become a more independent and successful writer, and will be in a better position to advance in the career and academic path he aspires to.

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6. What is the Teachers' and Students' Resource Package?  What is the Checklist of Stories and the Concordance of Errors?  How can I use the Grammar HELP! Student Handbook to complement our use of Easy Writer software?

The Teachers' Resource package contains very helpful aids for classroom situations and individualized instruction.  It includes the Checklist of Stories  to help you determine which grammar units and which stories to have your students do next; and to keep track of what the students have done.  It also includes the Concordance of Errors to help you when you want your students to work on locate specific grammar points, such as "past perfect tense" or "going to vs. gonna"".  The Concordance will indicate exactly where you can locate essays in the CD-ROM that work on the target grammar point.  And our new Grammar Help! Student Handbook is just what every teacher and student needs to make the learning experience complete; click on the above link to learn more about how to make this a powerful learning package.

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7. I understand that this software is influenced by "Fluency First ".  What is "Fluency First"?

In the "Fluency First" approach, the grammar taught comes out of the nature of the errors that the student is producing.  In Easy Writer, when the student sees or produces an error, he can ask for a grammatical explanation, and the computer will give him one.  It's like having a teacher right there!

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8. How much time can a student spend working on this at one sitting?

Students can use this for any length of time from 1/2 hour to 2 hours.  Students become highly involved and lose track of time.  I used to have to remind my students to take a break after one hour, or to log off after two!  The activities are also structured such that they can be used successfully for short periods of time, in situations where classes are short.  The listening activities add additional opportunities for involvement.

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9.  Easy Writer seems very challenging.  I like this, but do the students become frustrated in this process?

Students love the process and they love challenge, because it is not threatening!  As one student said, "Don't worry!  I'm going to get it!"  June Van Slooten, Instructor, wrote, "I was especially pleased to note that all of the students refused to click on the correct answer function.  Instead, they persisted until they found all of the errors on the page.  When they checked their work, the program noted how many answers they had located and how many more they still needed to find.  This particular challenge led the students to thinking on a much deeper level than they might have applied if we were correcting sentences as a group in a book."  Another instructor wrote, "(t)he ability to show all the answers and to do the exercises again provides a way to relieve that frustration; it also provides repetition so crucial in reinforcing the lesson."

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10. Can I keep a record or log of my students' work?  Is tracking available?

Learners are able to initiate a record-keeping log every time they work with Easy Writer.  The user can view and/or print the log while working with Easy Writer and/or before logging off; this can help him decide what to work on next or what to do the next session. Teachers who want to know what their students have spent working in the computer lab are now able to do so.

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11.  What assessment is available within Easy Writer?

The goal of Easy Writer is for the student to become a more successful writer.  In general, we do not want the user to feel pressured in the learning situation,  a feeling which assessment often produces.  However, we realize that many ESL and learning programs require such assessment.  As such, the soon to be released diagnostic will provide the assessment that some teachers and ESL programs desire and require.

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12.  I teach in Canada and we want our students to use Canadian English spelling. What attention is paid to the differences between American English, British English, and Canadian English?

The essays were written by students in American colleges and therefore the spelling and grammar within these essays reflects American English.  Nonetheless, by popular demand, Easy Writer software now accepts responses that use British and Canadian spelling. And the Grammar HELP! Student Handbook has one entire chapter devoted entirely to British and Canadian spelling and grammar. Easy Writer may be one of the only software programs to accept responses in both spelling traditions.  So, whether you or your students are in America, in Canada learning Canadian spelling, or in the United Kingdom or overseas learning British English spelling and grammar, everybody will be able to enjoy and benefit from the many lessons and interactive exercises that are contained in our learning package.

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13.  What's next?

Every year we add a component to our Easy Writer package that will enhance the learning experience and learner involvement.   After our audio Deluxe version, we added the Bridge to Grammar to help students to use the book and the software together. We are currently adding the complete "Grammar HELP! Student Handbook" grammar lessons online.  Check our to access these pages.  When we have completed this task, we will be publishing an e-book under a new name. Stay tuned for more information.

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