Educators in Texas Work to Improve Student Writing Skills with Voki

Educators in Texas Work to Improve Student Writing Skills with Voki

Last week, when we came across a video of students using Voki to edit their writing, we had to find out who was behind the great production, interesting lesson, and big smiles found on every student’s face. The search led us to Chase Young, a second grade teacher, and Lynda Swanner, the language arts coordinator for McKinney ISD.  Chase and Lynda are from McKinney, Texas  and have worked together to create interactive and informative environments for students to develop as confident writers. We got in touch with Chase to find out more about how he uses Voki to motivate and improve literacy and he was more than happy to share his and Lynda’s tricks of the trade. Check out the great ideas below!

Conferring with an Avatar

Teachers can use this 21st century method for proofreading when students do not read over, or are unaware of revision or editing needed in their stories. Lynda Swanner and I devised this strategy to motivate students to actively revise and edit their own writing. This strategy helps students discover what they need to revise and edit and also empowers student as writers. They become aware of their own problems in writing, and they can self-regulate the writing process. Students use this self-discovery strategy of revising and editing to privately critique their work before conferring with the teacher. Here are a few brief steps to get you started using this strategy.

1.  Students create an avatar using We suggest limiting the time because students and teachers could spend all day creating the perfect avatar.

2.  Students type a sentence, paragraph, or section of their stories into the Voki text box.

3.  Students listen to the speech and read along several times.

4.  Students make corrections.

Consider the following example. The student noted a lack of punctuation after conferring with an avatar.

Mr. Young:  What changes are you going to make?

Student I need more periods.

Mr. Young:  How do you know that?

Student:  …It wasn’t very good, because it went in one fast glob.

This next example shows how a student caught a spelling error from listening to the avatar.

Mr. Young:  What changes did you make?

Student:  I needed to fix some spelling errors.  I needed to spell “grabbed” correctly.

Mr. Young:  How did you know it was spelled wrong?

Student It sounded wrong.

Mr. Young:  Do you remember how the avatar said it?

Student:  “grabed” (Student uses a long a sound.)

Mr. Young:  We know that you have to do WHAT to the consonant?

Student:  Double it!

Based upon the avatar’s rendering, students were able to reflect and make changes to their work without teacher direction.

*The full chapter is currently being published by Corwin Press and will available soon in Writing Strategies for All Students in Grades 4-6: Scaffolding Independent Writing Through Differentiated Mini-Lessons.

Chase Young is a second grade teacher in McKinney, TX. He holds a MS Ed with a specialization in literacy. He is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of North Texas. He has written for the Reading Teacher and Education Review, published a book entitled Teaching Texas History through Readers Theatre, and contributed several chapters to educational books.  When he is not teaching, studying, or writing, he is wondering where his free time goes. He enjoys playing the guitar, paintball, racquetball, grilling, concerts, billiards, pools, and golf carts (not to be confused with golfing).

Lynda Swanner has been a teacher, library media specialist, and literacy staff developer. She is currently the English Language Arts and Reading Coordinator in McKinney Independent School District in McKinney, Texas.  She coordinates the curriculum, instruction, and assessments for all elementary teachers in the district.  She is also a literacy consultant for many Texas school districts.  Over the years, she has presented many workshops that integrate technology and literacy for the International Society for Technology in Education.

If you would like to share your tips and tricks on our blog, please email us at We always love to hear how Voki is being used to enhance students’ experiences in the classroom!