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My 35 Favorite Free Apps for Teaching

By Genia Connell on December 20, 2012
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Schools  around the country are undergoing a digital transformation. With iPads and tablets showing up in classrooms with greater frequency, trying to figure out which apps to use can leave a teacher’s head spinning. Last year, when my school debuted an iPad lab, I was thrilled, but as it turned out, I barely used it. I shied away from this new technology (which is definitely not like me!) because I honestly had no idea how to make the most of the iPads in my daily lessons. Oh, what a difference a year makes! 

Over the past year, I have found several great educational apps that I integrate into my teaching on a regular basis. This week, my goal is to save you time, energy and money when it comes to finding apps that you can start using in your classroom immediately.

Please note that since the publication of this blog post, two of the apps, Shake-a-Phrase and Stack the States, are no longer free, but are low cost and still useful tools. The prices have been noted in the descriptions.*

Apps That Make My Life Easier

Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud-based file-synchronization tool that allows you to access your photos and files on any internet-enabled device. Thanks to Dropbox, I’ve stopped using jump drives.  Free for 2G of storage space.

Evernote

Evernote is another cloud-based note-taking and syncing service. You can take "notes” in the app, and then Evernote stores them in the cloud so you can access them from anywhere. Your notes can contain audio, text, and images. 

Sticky Notes

I love these colorful notes that help keep me organized all day long. For some reason, putting my “to do” list on digital sticky notes helps me get through the endless tasks of the day. Customizable fonts, note colors and backgrounds make it all the better.

Remind101

Remind101 provides an easy way to send quick messages to your parents such as Nature Center field trip tomorrow. Dress for the weather. Teachers need to create an account, and parents can join the group by sending a text message. No computer needed. I can send group messages to my parents' phones through email or my text.  

ClassDojo

This real-time classroom management tool helps improve behavior and student engagement in a flash. You can set it up for individual students in your class or for the whole group to track expectations for group norms.

Rover

Rover is a free educational browser that allows you to stream flash content to your iPad. Through Rover, you can access Raz-Kids, BrainPOP, Starfall, and many other sites that do not operate correctly through Safari.

Flashcards

Create and save your own flashcards for any subject area or use any of the sets that others have created. Students can create cards to help them study for upcoming tests and quizzes.

ShowMe

I love this virtual whiteboard for helping students with challenging concepts. Write on your iPad using your finger or stylus and audio record your voice, and you can immediately play back a tutorial that can be used over and over. Great to use with students who have been absent and missed original explanations and examples.

Common Core

All of the Common Core State Standards are at your fingertips on this easy to use app with search capabilities. Includes math and language arts standards for K–12. 

Discovery  Education

If you have a United Streaming account you can view videos, photos, and other files on your iPad using this app. I love to use this for webquests in the classroom, especially for science and social studies.

Video Email (+Photos)

I normally don’t like to pay for apps, but this was well worth the low cost. This $1.99 app compresses your photos and videos, then allows you to email up to 50 photos at once directly from the app. Great to have when you want to share any large file. A video I took last year was compressed from 107MB to 6MB in about a minute, and I use it every single week for the pictures on my blog posts. 

Language Arts

Running Record Calculator

 

Doing my running records is easier than ever with this app. The free version that I use shows the student’s reading rate, percentage of accuracy, and self-correction ratio with the push of a button. The $2.99 version allows you to do an audio recording that you can flag and come back to for further study.

Kidblog

I love using this app for student-generated reading responses. Aimed at elementary and middle school students, it is so easy to use that my kids were blogging within minutes of its being set up. For privacy and safety, students' blogs can only be viewed by the teacher and classmates.

Pixntell

This is a great storytelling app. Students can use their own photos or those from the web along with their recorded voice to create a personalized video that’s ready to share. The free version allows you to use four images, but you can add more with the paid version.

Storia

Storia is an e-reader app that works as your digital classroom library. I now purchase e-books monthly to add to my virtual library and student enthusiasm has never been higher for reading time! This app includes audio/visual dictionaries for lower and upper ELL and has highlighting and note-taking capabilities. You receive five free books with your first download.  

Fry Words

Fry Words includes the 1000 most common words used for teaching reading, writing, and spelling. The words are broken up into sets of ten each.

Toontastic

This app is designed to walk students through the storytelling process of choosing a scene, climax, setting, conflict, and characters. Students even choose music to match the characters’ emotions and create a digital storytelling video that is shared with authentic global audiences on the online channel ToonTube.

StoryKit

Students can edit and rewrite classic fairy tales on this app.

Vocabulary/Spelling City

 

My class loves the convenience of practicing their weekly word study words using this app. Students can write their own list or use one that is computer generated.

Shake-a-Phrase

 

My students love to shake the iPad to come up with story starters, vocabulary, and parts of speech practice exercises. One shake and you never know what you are going to get!

*$1.99

Bluster

Students build their vocabulary while they battle the elements. This has different beginning levels which makes it great for easy differentiation.

Grammaropolis

 

This app has been called Schoolhouse Rock for the 21st Century. The parts of speech are animated characters whose personalities match their function from the sly pronoun always trying to replace the noun to the conjunction who just wants everyone to get along. Students earn badges after following a curriculum map that includes songs, books, videos, and quizzes.

Mad Libs

The classic word game comes to the iPad. My students practice their parts of speech and stretch their vocabularies loving the funny payoff that is generated at the end.

Math

Mathmateer

This is a huge favorite in my room because students can customize their rockets with each successful math mission. Missions include number sense, time, money, geometry, computation, and square roots.

Sushi Monster

Strengthen reasoning strategies for whole number addition and multiplication by helping monsters make a target sum or product. Earn points with each correct answer, but watch out for distractions! To be successful, plan ahead and strategically select numbers from the sushi counter.

 

ScootPad

This app allows students to proactively work on both math and reading skills related to the Common Core. Teachers can fully personalize the learning path for their students to meet their specific needs and track student progress in real time on a teacher dashboard.

Singapore Math

 

This free Singapore Math app uses signature Singapore Math methods that focus on problem solving and reasoning in a fun, interactive way. Other grades available.

Science and Social Studies

Google Earth

Put the world in your students’ hands with this app. Great app for virtual field trips.

Speed Geography Lite

This makes tackling geography concepts fun. Students can learn and review specific regions. The lite version includes countries in North America, South America, Europe and Oceania. Try Speed Geography Full Version for the worldwide experience!

TourWrist

This app makes your iPad a 360-degree portal to just about anyplace you would like to go. Great for virtual reports and field trips. A crowd gathers around the iPad everytime this app is activated.  

Stack the States

This educational game helps students learn state capitals, shapes, geographic locations, flags, and more. It also teaches the comparative size differences of the states as students attempt to stack them to reach the goal line.

*99¢

Amazing Alex

This is a physics-based thinking game that students love. Casey has a houseful of toys that students set up to create an elaborate Rube Goldberg device. I love that there is more than one way to solve any puzzle. It was formerly an app named Casey’s Contraptions until it was purchased by the makers of Angry Birds. That alone should tell you a bit about its addictiveness for students and sometimes their teacher! 99¢

Visual Brainstorming

Popplet Lite

Popplet lets you get all your ideas out, then categorize and rearrange them. Students can do collaborative mind mapping, plan out projects or reports, record their thoughts, or make mood boards, plus much more. The free version allows you to make one popplet at a time while the paid version allows you to save and store your popplets.

iBrainstorm

While I haven’t used this much with my students, it is a great professional development tool for teachers. No more lugging chart paper and sticky notes to meetings because with this app, notes and information can be shared between up to four iPad and/or iPhone users by using your finger to “flick” information from one device to another.

For Reports and Presentations

Prezi

Prezi allows your students to turn out slide-style presentations with flair. With a little modeling they can easily add text, images, and animations to share what they have learned about any given topic.

FaceTalker

 

The possibilities are endless with this app. Make still photos and images talk using this app along with your voice recording. Easy enough for an elementary student to use. Imagine having a raccoon narrate his own animal report. 

Pic Collage

 

Have your students create collage-style  posters for their reports and presentations. 

With nearly a million apps available, I know there are other great ones out there. Please share your favorites in the comments section below, and let us know how you are using them in your classrooms. 

Comments (40)

But I prefer to keep my file types organised into different
locations like flicker for pics db for word files and a more secure server for excel files

Some really good apps on this list but it is a bit old now i love dropbox

Great post and great list of apps, Genia!
I learned about a lot of new apps and got several new ideas.
"Face Talker" looks like fun! Now comes the hard part:
I have to choose which apps to download and test.
Thanks and keep up the wonderful blogging.

I love using Edmodo! My students love watching educational song videos that relate to our learning goals. They also really like the Common Core Rap app. Science/SS scores have significantly increased since I implemented this into my classroom.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/common-core-rap/id880498165?mt=8

I would like to recommend a free iPad app called Schoolkit Math. It is a collection of several common classroom math teaching tools. These tools allow elementary school students and teachers to model math facts quickly and easily in several different ways.

The app currently contains:

1. Number Line
2. Hundreds Chart
3. Ten Frame
4. Arrays
5. Money
6. Math Challenge
7. Fraction Kit
8. Number Houses
9. Tether Math
10. Number Tiles
11. Multiplication Table
12. Dot Grid
13. Bar Graph
14. Shapes
15. Algebra Tiles
16. Ruler

As noted above, Schoolkit Math is free. And it does not contain any in-app purchases. The only advertising in the app is on the main page and currently only relates to another free educational app.

I'm a teacher from Kuwait ... thank you these app are very useful for both me and my students

I have been on the hunt this year to find interactive websites for my 5th graders to keep them engaged. I recently found Nearpod (it's almost like creating a PowerPoint or smart board presentation, but students use a code from an electronic device to have real-time interaction with responses), EPIC! (I believe this is only for the IPAD, but it has free access to books (current popular books) for children up to age 12 in many different genres. It keeps my most reluctant readers engaged and you can save the book to the app for offline reading!

Great!So useful! Thanks for sharing. I do also recommend paperlessteacher, myclssstable, teacherassist, teacherkit. Hope it works 4 u too.

Thanks so much! I'll check them out. There are so many new apps I use since this list came out--I should really do an update! Thanks for reading! Genia

Great list of apps! Please also take a look at Tutor Notes - the first teacher assistant app made specifically for private (1on1) teachers. Great for everyone who gives private lessons (and owns an iPhone).

Good Afternoon,

My school is looking at applying for a grant within our district to gain class sets of iPads. We are having trouble with a couple of things. Would you please email me so that we can discuss the changes that iPads have created in your classroom? Thank you in advance. You can email me at acooley@mesquiteisd.org

Thanks!!

Angel

It was great to see these included in Instructor's apps. I loved seeing you in print!

Thanks for the recommendations! I'm definitley going to check Jot out! ~G

Thanks for this post! I also want to recommend this whiteboard app that I'm using in school:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jot!-whiteboard-free/id371937922?mt=8

Nice list! I would also like to recommend this app called Jot! It's the best whiteboard app in the app store. It has a feature where you can collaborate with other users through live sharing. You can even insert photos as backgrounds and send them as image or PDF to your friends through email.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jot!-whiteboard-free/id371937922?mt=8

I cannot locate the Booksource Classroom Organizer. Is there a another title that I should look for?

I use that app - it is wonderful!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/classroom-organizer/id476668797?mt=8

I use that app - it is wonderful!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/classroom-organizer/id476668797?mt=8

I use that app - it is wonderful!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/classroom-organizer/id476668797?mt=8

Thanks for your expertise on the apps! Wish I was in your classroom.

What a great list of apps! Can't wait to use some in my own classroom. For those of you interested in continuing to integrate technology in the classroom, keep your parents and students informed by creating your own webpage.... Here is a blogpost on how to do it: http://schoolteacherwebpages.blogspot.com/

Also if you have any creative ideas you would like to share on my blog, I would love to have guests :-)
http://creativemindsinelementaryeducation.blogspot.com/

The free Booksource Classroom Organizer app lets you scan barcodes of books in your classroom library to create an inventory. When you scan it, the book and a picture of the cover, author information, etc. is automaticlly loaded. After your inventory is created, students can access the website to "check out" and "check in" a book from the library. When they check a book back in, they can complete a book review that other students can read to see if they would like to check out the book also.

A huge THANK YOU For these sites. I've downloaded many already. I can't wait to use them. Even with my own kids who are Six, nine and 12.

Kinderlime offers a great Pre-K app for teachers. It allows teachers to record milestones, track children and send pictures to parents to ease their separation anxiety. The app has has parent sign in out, attendance tracking, photo/video portfolios and emergency notifications through text messages built in. You can download the KinderCenter app from the iPhone apps store: https://itunes.apple.com/app/kindercenter-for-childcare/id579667825?mt=8

Hi Akash,
That sounds like an amazing app to have, especially for pre-K. Do you know if there is anything similar out there for teachers of older students? ~G.

Great list!

Here are some other FREE apps I love to use in my classroom: Blurb, BrainPOP, Book Creator, Educreations, Fotobabble, Futaba, Scan (for reading QR codes), PBS Kids, Screen Chomp, Chicktionary, Little Speller, Cimo Spelling, Sock Puppets, Smilebox Collage, Symbaloo, Story Creator, StoryBot, and VoiceThread.

Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for your terrific recommendations! We use Educreations at school, and I love BrainPop's video of the day. There are a few on your list I haven't heard of, and I'm definitely looking forward to checking them out!

You've made me excited to go back to school on Monday. Can't wait to use these apps with my third graders. I use Dojo. Love it. Thank you for this valuable information.

Quizlet is a huge hit with the high school kids. They can study vocabulary and concepts (they can create their own or use a teacher made vocab list)through a variety of games, and they can compete with each other in the games as well.

Hi Stefanie,
Thanks for reminding me about Quizlet! My own kids have been using it to study for their Spanish and biology classes, but I haven't been using it myself. I'm thinking I will start to use it with my class for our vocabulary study when the second semester starts. Genia

I was already familiar with a few of the teacher apps, but wowed by the ones I was unaware of! I have pinned this article to pinterest and emailed it to all my fellow teacher pals. Now I need to find a way to get it to my kids schools!

Thanks so much for sharing my post! There are so many new apps coming out all the time, I love it when I find a great one I haven't heard of before. In fact I've added a few new ones to my iPad just in the last few days. Hope your teacher pals find these helpful, but many are great for parents to use at home too!

Thanks for all the great comments. There are so many new apps that are great for teaching that it is hard to pick "favorites." I love Edmodo for all the educational possibilities it presents--pen pals, morning work, peer editing. book clubs, but I've found myself not using it as much as I'd like since our iPads are shared and stored in another part of the building. I'm definitely thinking of taking the grant route to get more iPads in my classroom!

I have attempted using the iBrainstorm with a class. It ended up being a little bit of a disaster because not all the kids could connect. Only between five to ten were able to do so successfully. Those that were connected were flipping empty post-its even though I had a discussion about not doing that ahead of time. It does depend upon the maturity of your class.
However, it is a really good idea. Have you ever had trouble getting people to connect?

Hi Lance,

I haven't had trouble connecting with iBrainstorm, but I have had that problem with a few other apps and there is nothing more frustrating than when the whole class is raring to go and you've got...nothing! With my third graders I do a lot of modeling before they begin, then I have them brainstorm in small groups which helps. What other apps are you using? I'm always looking for new ones. Genia

Thanks for the tips! I'm purchasing more iPads with some grant money and I'm excited to use some of these!

We use Edmodo all the time in the school. I use it daily for my bell ringer.

I have used Edmodo for a couple years now. I love it. It allows me to create a Facebook - like atmosphere with my students. I have the so installed on my iPhone , so I can check uploaded assignments anywhere. I can create quizzes for students as well. I can upload videos, Powerpoints and, work for absent students. Or they can go back and review material at their pace. You can even create small groups of students within the group at large. I let students have "chat rooms" so that they can use the main page for work - related postings. The best thing is that students can't send private messages and I get to view and monitor all postings.

I love Sticky Notes too. I often use them during phone conversations to take quick notes when I talk with parents. Then I can cut and paste from there into my records.

Have you tried Edmodo? I am considering using it with my classes during the second half of the year and would love some feedback from teachers that are currently using it.

Have you tried Edmodo yet? It has changed my life and reinvigorated my classroom. I do not have enough great things to say about it.

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