by Deborah Newton

SUBJECT AREA: Language Arts

PUBLISHER: Sunburst (800)321-7511

COST: $99.00 single copy, 5 computer Site License $198


EDUCATIONAL GOALS: Expression is designed to help students organize their ideas and to facilitate the writing process.

DESCRIPTION: Expression is a flexible, easy to use graphic organizer. Its three major components - a Graphic Screen View, a Text View, and a Word Processor View - support organizing and planning for process writing as well as other cross-curricular activities.

In the Graphic Screen View Expression helps transform brainstorming into a visual, non-traditional outline. Students create graphic plans using frames, tie-lines, and notes. A click of the mouse creates frames in any of 12 geometric shapes, to which brief text and/or pictures can be added. Students customize their plans by selecting the style, color, font, and size of text and importing graphics from the library provided. If lengthy text is desired, it can be added as notes by clicking on the note icon in the desired frame. Frames are then connected by tie-lines which add structure to the plan.

Selecting Text from the View menu allows users to see their graphic presentation converted into a traditional text outline that utilizes the text from frames and notes. The levels of the outline are determined by the order in which tie-lines were drawn, but the order can be rearranged, if desired. When the writer is satisfied with the text outline, selecting Word Processor from the View menu will change the outline into a word processing document that can be edited and expanded into a final paper.

This program offers speech feedback in each component as an additional support to students. Users can select the voice the computer will use to read the text. This speech feedback enables students with reading difficulties to access text written by others, or to hear their own work read back to assist with editing tasks.

STRENGTHS: Expression supports students who are not linear thinkers by interpreting their graphic plans and presenting them in outline form. It also supports students with reading difficulties, or those who are strong auditory learners, by providing speech feedback. Being able to switch back and forth effortlessly among the three views is a helpful feature. Expression allows printing from the Text, Graphic, and Word Processor Views. Teachers can capitalize on this by creating webs and concept maps that can be printed and completed by students. An extensive teachers guide offers detailed activity plans and also addresses the mechanics of using the program.

WEAKNESS: Because of the many options provided, younger students or those with learning difficulties may require extensive practice before they are able to use this program independently.

SUMMARY: This graphic organizer is a valuable tool for both teachers and students. It is useful for facilitating the writing process as well as for planning and organizing activities across the curriculum. It is suitable for use by individual students or small groups, or for teacher-directed, whole class activities. The variety of options allows users to customize their work for maximum effectiveness.

EasyBook (Sunburst) (800)321-7511
Price: $79

Another writing program available from Sunburst is EasyBook. This program simplifies the book making process so that even students in kindergarten can author and publish stories in book form. Automatic page layout makes EasyBook hassle-free for young students while more advanced students can quickly and easily customize the layout if desired. A collection of hundreds of stamps and a built-in paint program make it easy to create illustrations to match the text. In addition to providing instructions for using EasyBook, the teacher's guide includes writing activities for grades K-6, tips for book binding, and a variety of reproducibles.

Stanley's Sticker Stories (Edmark) (800)362-2890
Price: $59.95

Part of Edmark's Early Learning Series (preK - 2), Stanley's Sticker Stories lets students create their own animated storybooks featuring Millie, Bailey, and other popular Edmark characters. Readers and non-readers alike can tell their own stories with over 325 stickers of familiar friends, objects and colorful backgrounds. Animation, sound effects and music bring these stories to life. Children can even record their own voices and hear themselves narrate their story.

Deborah Newton is a graduate student in the Department of Special Education at the College of New Jersey.

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