Writing Success For Older Learners

Help struggling writers overcome barriers to progress with DocsPlus – Crick Software’s exciting new writing tool for secondary schools.

DocsPlus gives students with high incidence special needs the support they need to independently tackle curriculum writing tasks. It can also be used by many learners who require additional access arrangements for tests and exams.

Organizing ideas and planning writing tasks 

Organizing ideas is a vital first step in the writing process, and it’s something that many students find difficult. DocsPlus includes some fantastic tools to help students capture their ideas and refer back to them as they write, including a built-in mind mapping tool and an audio note creator.

Organizing ideas and planning writing tasks

Organizing ideas is a vital first step in the writing process. DocsPlus provides students with built-in planning support tools to help them prepare for writing.

Voice Notes

The DocsPlus Voice Note tool gives students the opportunity to record their own audio notes before they write. Simply click on the microphone icon and start recording. Once you’ve finished, a speech bubble icon will automatically be added to the document. Students can click on the icon to listen back to their note, and also have the option to re-record it as many times as they like until they are happy with it.

Voice Notes offer a powerful way to record initial ideas, giving students who struggle to express themselves in written form an opportunity to capture their thoughts without being distracted or held back by the mechanics of writing.

You can add up to six color-coded Voice Notes to a document. Your students may find it useful to create a Voice Note for each section of their document, creating an audio essay plan to refer back to as they write.

All of DocsPlus’ support features are available within WorkSpace. Listen back to your text with the speech tool, use the word predictor to help find the right word, and correct any spelling errors with the help of the talking spell checker.

Ready to start writing? Students can instantly transform their mind map into a word bank that will sit at the bottom of the document as they write, providing instant point-and-click access to key vocabulary, sentence starters, connectives, etc. The bank will mimic the structure of the map, helping students to organize their paragraphs and transfer their ideas to the page in a logical order.

You are also able to send your mind map straight into the document as either an image or an essay outline.


Struggling writers often find essays much harder to organize and structure. Problems such as a short-term working memory deficit, or slow information processing speed, can make it very difficult for them to express their initial thoughts and ideas in the form of a logical, flowing document.

Students can use the WorkSpace tool to create their own mind maps, manipulating and linking any combination of words, pictures, and sounds. To add text, just drag in a shape from the objects palette and start to type. Drag and drop pictures right in from your folders or via your web browser. Students also have the option of adding Voice Notes to their mind map.

Creating structured, coherent, subject-specific pieces of writing

There are so many new writing challenges to master as students move through secondary school, from writing in different genres to incorporating subject-specific vocabulary. DocsPlus users benefit from intelligent word prediction, writing frames, and curriculum vocabulary banks to help them demonstrate their knowledge and achieve writing success.

What sets DocsPlus apart from other word processors is the extensive support it offers to struggling writers.

Intelligent word prediction

DocsPlus’ intelligent word predictor is always there to help students write more independently. The predictor suggests words based on the context of the student’s writing, enabling them to give their full attention to what they want to write and encouraging them to use more adventurous vocabulary.

Use of the word predictor results in greatly improved coherence, spelling and grammar, and helps to increase the writing productivity of learners who struggle to transfer their knowledge and ideas to the page.

Both the predictor and the customizable spell checker are speech supported, so that students can hear a word before they use it.

Curriculum vocabulary banks and writing frames

For students who experience significant literacy barriers, completing the writing tasks that are an integral part of every curriculum subject can be a real challenge. DocsPlus enables you to provide these students with curriculum ‘Wordbars,’ giving them instant access to the specific words and phrases they need for their current assignment.

Use A-Z Wordbars for your word banks, or categorize your words by labeling your tabs with any text you like. Students can right-click on any word to listen to it first before using it in their writing.

Another real learning curve for secondary students is understanding how to structure different genres of writing. Using a Wordbar, you can teach them those structures by offering paragraph starters and the relevant supporting vocabulary. Here is an example of a discussion frame:

Create your own or access our extensive Wordbar bank!

When you buy DocsPlus, you also get free access to hundreds of ready-made Wordbars via our LearningGrids website.

The resources cover a wide range of curriculum topics, and more are added regularly by our curriculum team. They are very easy to edit, enabling you to tailor activities to your exact requirements.

It’s also incredibly quick and easy to make your own resources from scratch with our intuitive Wordbar Wizard – just decide if you’d like a topic or A-Z grid layout, type or paste your text in, and click create. In a matter of minutes, you’ve created a curriculum-specific support grid to help your students scaffold their writing!

Proofing and reviewing work

Actively reviewing your own work is such an important part of writing, but getting students into the habit of doing this can be a real challenge! DocsPlus’ speech feedback tool enables learners to listen back to their work and encourages them to find and correct errors for themselves.

Realistic speech feedback

Each time a sentence is completed in DocsPlus, it is automatically read aloud in a clear, human-sounding voice, with each word highlighted as it’s spoken. This encourages students to punctuate their work, and ensures that they review each sentence before starting the next one. Those needing more support can have each word, or even each letter, read aloud as it is entered, providing instant feedback. You can even customize the pronunciation of unusual words via the DocsPlus Word Pool – particularly useful for student’s names or specialist curriculum vocabulary.

In addition, DocsPlus’ predictor, spell checker, and Wordbars are also fully speech-supported, enabling students to check that they are selecting the right words before using them in their writing.

DocsPlus comes with two new adult voices in American English. We also have a selection of other voices available for free download, including children’s voices.  

Hear the Sharon voice

Hear the Will voice

Document Analysis tool for teachers

It’s great to have students hand in a well-presented document. The document analysis tool enables you to find out more about how the document was produced and any difficulties the student faced while they were working on it. By giving you this information, DocsPlus helps you to target your teaching where it’s needed most.

Document history – In addition to the basic statistics of the document, number of paragraphs, average sentence length, etc. The Document Analysis dialog shows you a complete history of the document. It shows you when work on it was first started, the number of sessions it was worked on, and the total amount of time used (it shows the active time spent actually working).

Pasted text – It can be very tempting to paste a chunk of text from another source into an assignment, but DocsPlus will know and record this information! Of course, students can make good use of pasting too (pasting quotes, for example). Either way, you have the information and the freedom to choose the action to take.

Spelling corrections – Spell checkers are wonderful tools, but by their very nature they conceal any spelling problems the student has. By viewing all the words where the spell checker was used, and seeing the original spellings, it’s easy to identify possible patterns so that you can plan your teaching to address specific spelling issues.

Accessing curriculum content 

Many students struggle to read worksheets, which can affect their ability to access the curriculum, develop their understanding of a topic, and complete related lesson tasks. DocsPlus’ built-in DocReader will read aloud any PDF or Word document (including exam papers) in a clear, realistic-sounding voice.

Many students struggle to read worksheets, which can affect their ability to access the curriculum, develop their understanding of a topic, and complete related lesson tasks.

DocsPlus has an integrated ‘DocReader’ that will read aloud any PDF or Word document, providing equal access to worksheets, exam papers, and more.

Simply select the text that you want to hear and click ‘Speak’ – the words will be read aloud in a clear, American English voice, and each word will be highlighted as it is spoken.

DocsPlus also includes an innovative screen tiling feature that enables students to pin worksheets to the bottom of their screen so that they can listen back to the questions as they write, rather than toggling between two documents.

(Top tip – convert curriculum PowerPoints into PDF documents to make these accessible for your struggling readers too!)

If you are working with editable PDFs, DocsPlus can also be used to write into these – you can find out more about this on our Using DocsPlus in exams page.

Using DocsPlus in exams

If a student qualifies for additional access arrangements in exams, they can use DocsPlus (as long as it’s their usual way of working). In addition to the DocReader, DocsPlus also includes customizable ‘Exam Mode’ settings and an innovative screen tiling feature that enables students to view the exam question as they write their answer.

DocsPlus Exam Mode

It’s very simple to switch on Exam Mode in DocsPlus. Simply open the Exam Mode tool, select the features that you wish to disable when a particular student is taking an exam, and click OK. This area is password protected so that only the relevant people can make changes.

When Exam Mode is turned on, the student will no longer be able to access the support features that you have opted to disable. These preferences will be tied to each student’s individual computer profile.

Exam-friendly options

In addition to the DocReader, DocsPlus also includes a number of ‘exam-friendly’ features:

  • Smart tabs provide one-click toggling between the document you’re writin