I like using Microsoft’s Immersive Reader to show students how to improve their writing style through some simple revision techniques that translate into greater reader engagement and understanding.
There are a number of functions in the Immersive Reader that are superb supports when ramping up student editing and proofreading capabilities. A great place to start the revision process is having the student listen to their writing. Students can easily playback their writing and take advantage of their listening skills to help them edit. We often hear mistakes long before we see them, so this is a fantastic way to help students improve their writing. In Microsoft OneNote, select the ‘Learning Tools’ tab, then the ‘Immersive Reader’ tab, then just click the ‘play’ button at the bottom of the window.
Students can also hear their writing played back in Microsoft Word. There are two ways to accomplish this. One way is by selecting ‘Read Aloud’ under the ‘Review’ tab.
Alternatively, students can select ‘Learning Tools’ under the ‘View’ tab.
The Immersive Reader taskbar then appears. Notice that a ‘Learning Tools’ tab then appears and stays in the taskbar until you select ‘Close Learning Tools’ tab.
Sometimes looking at things from a different angle can really improve writing style. The part of speech function is perfect for this very thing. Students can successfully ‘pick apart’ their writing and analyze it for repetition, clarity and descriptive qualities simply by highlighting parts of speech. Whether you are writing a narrative story, an informational essay or a persuasive argument, clarity is of utmost importance. The achievement of clarity relies on word choice. Using the Immersive Reader to underline nouns, for example, not only immediately displays repetitious use of certain nouns, but it also highlights overuse of general nouns, for example, ‘tree’ could be changed to maple, or ‘dog’ to Daschund to improve clarity and make writing more interesting. Similarly, students can perform the same sort of check on their use of adjectives changing out generalized words like ‘small’ and ‘big’ for more descriptive words like ‘minuscule’ and ‘gargantuan’. Likewise, underlining verbs can be used to prompt students to improve their bland verbs with vivid ones – think about the improved depth of meaning between the word ‘walk’ and ‘saunter’ or ‘trudge’. Or consider basic speech tags, they shouldn’t always be ‘he/she said‘, but are much more effective if how someone speaks is expressed concisely in the tag – ‘he asserted’, ‘she mumbled’, ‘they shrieked’. Not only will these changes add clarity, but they add depth to characterization, tone, and atmosphere while also increasing reader engagement and understanding.
Revising to improve word choice has always been part of the process, but the Immersive Reader streamlines the task for students, making becoming a better writer less arduous and more attainable.