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November 24, 2016 Free Educational Apps Teachers and Students Are Thankful For By Genia Connell
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    When it comes to school, I'm thankful for all things that engage and motivate my students while deepening their learning and understanding. I'm also thankful for anything, especially tech-related, that makes my life easier. This week I'm happy to share with you a collection of free apps that do all the above-mentioned. Each app listed below is used by many teachers I know and they're kid-approved as well.

    Front Row

    Nearly every elementary teacher I know uses this app which provides math and ELA practice for students in grades K12. Although it's been around a few years now, it keeps getting better and better. Front Row is adaptive, meaning that students take pre-assessments and the work provided is automatically differentiated based upon their baseline data. The hundreds of questions are standards-based and challenging so I know that my students' time on the app is well spent.

    Teachers can assign students work from six mathematical domains or students can work independently, progressing through the levels at their own rate. If students are stuck on a question they can go to video tutorials for help, or ask a classmate that the app recommends as a "coach" for that question. 

    The teacher dashboard lets me know where all my students are performing and allows me to print off reports for parents and my own records. Once a week I receive an email from Front Row letting me know how many questions my students answered in the previous week, who was the highest and lowest in each domain, and which children have made the most and the least progress.

    I honestly can't count how many times a week I hear the words, Can I do Front Row? from students. When I asked them what it is they love so much about this app, the overwhelming response was, earning points to spend at the "Piggy Store!" Whatever it takes! 

    SeeSaw

    This is my favorite tool for students to curate individual digital portfolios for their writing and other work that they can share with classmates and their parents. Using SeeSaw, my students upload work, then reflect upon and celebrate progress they're making from week to week using the text and audio tools built into the app. They're also learning to give peers constructive feedback through the comment section. Another bonus? Come teacher evaluation time, I have concrete evidence that my students are tracking their progress in various subjects, reflecting upon their work and setting goals for improvement. 

    From my students' perspective, they love the social networking feel of a classroom news feed where they can showcase their own work while giving "likes" and comments to their peers. I've noticed my students put greater effort into their work when they know it will be seen by all classmates on SeeSaw.

    Kahoot

    With this app, I can create assessments in any area of the curriculum in only minutes. Students love the game-showish feel of the app with its bright colors and suspensful music as they wait to see if their answer is correct. Students and teachers get instant feedback when the correct answer is revealed to each question.

    Padlet

    Padlet is a powerful visual bulletin board with endless uses in the classroom. Students can collaborate, reflect, and respond to a question and see their answers along with their classmates in real time. This is also a great tool to use in professional development sessions when you want to share thoughts or collect feedback.

    Book Wizard

    If you have to (or just like to!) level books in your classroom library, Book Wizard makes the job a breeze. Scan the barcode and the book's level along with a summary appear. You can also use Book Wizard to inventory your classroom library or help students find books by the same author or books that are similar to ones they just finished and enjoyed.

    Lightbot

    If you want to introduce your students to coding, this is a great app. It's simple to use, and I know my students find it completely addictive. All I had to do the first time they used it was tell them to give the app a try and they were off! Other coding apps my students love this year include Scratch Jr. and Cargo-bot.

    Spelling and Vocabulary City

    Teacher's Favorite: My students use weekly lists I've created for their word work and assessments using this app. They take their weekly tests online, screen capture the results and email them to me. I can quickly look through their test and record scores. Not having to check 28 papers saves me a tremendous amount of time, and it's my favorite reason to use this app. I've found many students are using the app outside of school on their own for word work games even when it's not assigned. Note: Once you create a free account and add your lists, they're saved so you ever have to enter them again. 

     Students' Favorite: My students like taking their tests online at their own pace. If they need to hear a word or sentence a second time, they simply hit play it again. The games for word work are fun and engaging students so they look forward to using this app.  

    Remind

    I've tried other messaging apps and I keep coming back to Remind. Using this app I can instantly send or schedule messages to go out at a later date and time. It's perfect for those days when I forgot to send a note home reminding students about due dates or to wear boots tomorrow for our field trip. Remind is easy to use. My students' parents sign up at the beginning of the year either from a handout generated during set up, or by using a text code I display at curriculum night. 

    Geoboard

    If you've ever been frustrated by children using, breaking, or shooting rubber bands across the room while using geobards, you will love this app. There are three different sized geoboards and an endless supply of colored rubber bands. We use it during our geometry unit and to calculate area but my students love using it at indoor recess too! 

     

    Educreations

    My students use this app as a personal whiteboard during our math workshop and also as a screencasting tool. They can create, record, and narrate their work to share with just me or the whole class. I've found it's the perfect tool for students to share their thinking and step-by-step processes in math and science. 

    Dictionary

    The voice-activated feature on this app is a tremendous help to students who have no idea how to even begin spelling a word in a normal dictionary. Now they just say, Spell ____" into the microphone and their word comes right up. It's not the dictionary, however, that my students and I love so much, it's the Word of the Day feature. By enabling notifications on all of our iPads, we automatically have a word of the day in our classroom. I've challenged students to use the word at least once a day in our classroom and once again at home. Excitement usually ensues whenever students recognize someone using a word of the day. My students' vocabulary is expanding and I keep noticing previous words of the day finding their way into my students' conversations and writing. 

    This student is not too sure about the word of the day, ripsnorter.

    Scholastic News

    The paper version of Scholastic News is a great resource all by itself, but it's elevated to a whole new level when my students use the free app. Using our class code (provided with subscription) my students can read an interactive version of the current issue, watch videos, find archived issues going back over a year and more! Each main article also includes a set of close reading questions for students to answer. My favorite feature is that with one click, the text can be adjusted to an easier reading level, which benefits many students who find the text too challenging for their current reading level. 

     My students told me they like the digital issue better because they were able to tap different sections to watch videos, make photos and maps larger and they don't have to worry about losing it when we use it over a few days! 

    Note: I call it the Scholastic News app because that is the magazine my class subscribes to, but it is actually to use with any and all Scholastic Classroom Magazines. 

    If you are using any of these apps, and I bet many of you are, I'd love you to share how you're using them in your classroom in the comment section below. I'd love some new ideas!  

    When it comes to school, I'm thankful for all things that engage and motivate my students while deepening their learning and understanding. I'm also thankful for anything, especially tech-related, that makes my life easier. This week I'm happy to share with you a collection of free apps that do all the above-mentioned. Each app listed below is used by many teachers I know and they're kid-approved as well.

    Front Row

    Nearly every elementary teacher I know uses this app which provides math and ELA practice for students in grades K12. Although it's been around a few years now, it keeps getting better and better. Front Row is adaptive, meaning that students take pre-assessments and the work provided is automatically differentiated based upon their baseline data. The hundreds of questions are standards-based and challenging so I know that my students' time on the app is well spent.

    Teachers can assign students work from six mathematical domains or students can work independently, progressing through the levels at their own rate. If students are stuck on a question they can go to video tutorials for help, or ask a classmate that the app recommends as a "coach" for that question. 

    The teacher dashboard lets me know where all my students are performing and allows me to print off reports for parents and my own records. Once a week I receive an email from Front Row letting me know how many questions my students answered in the previous week, who was the highest and lowest in each domain, and which children have made the most and the least progress.

    I honestly can't count how many times a week I hear the words, Can I do Front Row? from students. When I asked them what it is they love so much about this app, the overwhelming response was, earning points to spend at the "Piggy Store!" Whatever it takes! 

    SeeSaw

    This is my favorite tool for students to curate individual digital portfolios for their writing and other work that they can share with classmates and their parents. Using SeeSaw, my students upload work, then reflect upon and celebrate progress they're making from week to week using the text and audio tools built into the app. They're also learning to give peers constructive feedback through the comment section. Another bonus? Come teacher evaluation time, I have concrete evidence that my students are tracking their progress in various subjects, reflecting upon their work and setting goals for improvement. 

    From my students' perspective, they love the social networking feel of a classroom news feed where they can showcase their own work while giving "likes" and comments to their peers. I've noticed my students put greater effort into their work when they know it will be seen by all classmates on SeeSaw.

    Kahoot

    With this app, I can create assessments in any area of the curriculum in only minutes. Students love the game-showish feel of the app with its bright colors and suspensful music as they wait to see if their answer is correct. Students and teachers get instant feedback when the correct answer is revealed to each question.

    Padlet

    Padlet is a powerful visual bulletin board with endless uses in the classroom. Students can collaborate, reflect, and respond to a question and see their answers along with their classmates in real time. This is also a great tool to use in professional development sessions when you want to share thoughts or collect feedback.

    Book Wizard

    If you have to (or just like to!) level books in your classroom library, Book Wizard makes the job a breeze. Scan the barcode and the book's level along with a summary appear. You can also use Book Wizard to inventory your classroom library or help students find books by the same author or books that are similar to ones they just finished and enjoyed.

    Lightbot

    If you want to introduce your students to coding, this is a great app. It's simple to use, and I know my students find it completely addictive. All I had to do the first time they used it was tell them to give the app a try and they were off! Other coding apps my students love this year include Scratch Jr. and Cargo-bot.

    Spelling and Vocabulary City

    Teacher's Favorite: My students use weekly lists I've created for their word work and assessments using this app. They take their weekly tests online, screen capture the results and email them to me. I can quickly look through their test and record scores. Not having to check 28 papers saves me a tremendous amount of time, and it's my favorite reason to use this app. I've found many students are using the app outside of school on their own for word work games even when it's not assigned. Note: Once you create a free account and add your lists, they're saved so you ever have to enter them again. 

     Students' Favorite: My students like taking their tests online at their own pace. If they need to hear a word or sentence a second time, they simply hit play it again. The games for word work are fun and engaging students so they look forward to using this app.  

    Remind

    I've tried other messaging apps and I keep coming back to Remind. Using this app I can instantly send or schedule messages to go out at a later date and time. It's perfect for those days when I forgot to send a note home reminding students about due dates or to wear boots tomorrow for our field trip. Remind is easy to use. My students' parents sign up at the beginning of the year either from a handout generated during set up, or by using a text code I display at curriculum night. 

    Geoboard

    If you've ever been frustrated by children using, breaking, or shooting rubber bands across the room while using geobards, you will love this app. There are three different sized geoboards and an endless supply of colored rubber bands. We use it during our geometry unit and to calculate area but my students love using it at indoor recess too! 

     

    Educreations

    My students use this app as a personal whiteboard during our math workshop and also as a screencasting tool. They can create, record, and narrate their work to share with just me or the whole class. I've found it's the perfect tool for students to share their thinking and step-by-step processes in math and science. 

    Dictionary

    The voice-activated feature on this app is a tremendous help to students who have no idea how to even begin spelling a word in a normal dictionary. Now they just say, Spell ____" into the microphone and their word comes right up. It's not the dictionary, however, that my students and I love so much, it's the Word of the Day feature. By enabling notifications on all of our iPads, we automatically have a word of the day in our classroom. I've challenged students to use the word at least once a day in our classroom and once again at home. Excitement usually ensues whenever students recognize someone using a word of the day. My students' vocabulary is expanding and I keep noticing previous words of the day finding their way into my students' conversations and writing. 

    This student is not too sure about the word of the day, ripsnorter.

    Scholastic News

    The paper version of Scholastic News is a great resource all by itself, but it's elevated to a whole new level when my students use the free app. Using our class code (provided with subscription) my students can read an interactive version of the current issue, watch videos, find archived issues going back over a year and more! Each main article also includes a set of close reading questions for students to answer. My favorite feature is that with one click, the text can be adjusted to an easier reading level, which benefits many students who find the text too challenging for their current reading level. 

     My students told me they like the digital issue better because they were able to tap different sections to watch videos, make photos and maps larger and they don't have to worry about losing it when we use it over a few days! 

    Note: I call it the Scholastic News app because that is the magazine my class subscribes to, but it is actually to use with any and all Scholastic Classroom Magazines. 

    If you are using any of these apps, and I bet many of you are, I'd love you to share how you're using them in your classroom in the comment section below. I'd love some new ideas!  

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