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December 20, 2012

My 35 Favorite Free Apps for Teaching

By Genia Connell
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.

    Homophones

    Homophones Free has two levels. The user is offered a sentence with a blank in it and two words — homophones — as options to fill in the blank. Pictures and an audio of the sentence are a part of level one and disappear by level two.

    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. 

    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.

    Homophones

    Homophones Free has two levels. The user is offered a sentence with a blank in it and two words — homophones — as options to fill in the blank. Pictures and an audio of the sentence are a part of level one and disappear by level two.

    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. 

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