Friday, August 28, 2015

Free Apps and Sites that Support Literacy

There are so many apps to choose from to use in the classroom.  I am often asked what are some of my favorite apps to use for guided reading and literacy stations. We all know teachers use their own money to purchase items that support classroom instruction and there are district budget cuts throughout the nation. It is awesome to know that there are still some great apps and programs that are offered for free that support instruction.

Online Reading and Information Sites 

Smithsonian has a wonderful free reading resource for teachers.  It provides students engaging news articles written on specific reading levels.  Each weekday trending new articles are posted.  Students also have the opportunity to watch one-minute STEM videos.

This site contains current event and news articles that help enhance students' skills in nonfiction literacy.  Teachers can assign a specific reading level and National Reading Standard when selecting a current even article you want students to read.

National Geographic Young Explorer
There are more than 30 nonfiction books from the National Geographic Young Explorer site that students will love. It is easy for your students to navigate through the pages as the book is read aloud.  The illustrations and photos are engaging to students.  A great bonus is that there is a teacher link. It includes a guide and activity pages.
Epic! is a free app for educators.  Students have instant access to 1,000 of books.  I have created a list of favorites since it may be overwhelming with all the book choices.  The books are arranged on bookshelves according to genres and recommendations. Teachers can set up to 36 individual profiles for students based on reading levels, interests, and personal recommendations. Epic has recently added engaging educational videos covering different curriculum areas.

Unite for Literacy
Students are able to listen to over 150 storybooks in their home language. Books are diverse and culturally relevant to students.  The icons on the top of the library divide the books into different topics.

Wonderopolis is a great a great site to get students to think outside the box.  Students are able to go to Wonderopolis on their iPad and read the Wonder of the Day and reflect upon their thinking. A new wonder is posted each day with a question that is answered with informational text.  Wonders are listed by subject matter and grade level.  There is also a short quiz and a vocabulary list for each wonder.
Wonderopolis Activity Sheet Trifold
Westside School District - Enrichment - Wonderopolis Symbaloo
Wonderopolis - Response Sheet
Natalie's Wonder of the Day posted on Kidblog
Hayden's Wonder of the Day posted on Kidblog

A free online story telling site.  Hollywood celebrities read books online.

PBS Student: Educational Resources at Your Fingertips
PBS Students is a newer app designed for students and teachers created by PBS LearningMedia.  Students now have access on their iPads to educational videos, quizzes, games, images, and articles that can be tied in with district curriculum.  The app correlates with PBS LearningMedia Student Portal which is web based and was launched earlier this year. It is designed for students in grades K-12 so they have safe and trusted access to resources in all subject areas.  

This kid-friendly and engaging site is filled with "not-made-for-kids, but perfect for them" videos to use in the classroom. The collection contains science, music, art, nature, technology, and storytelling for kids of all ages to enjoy.  What a great way to incorporate nonfiction literacy into the curriculum.

Rion Nakaya is the Founder and Editor

Writing and Brainstorming

Google Slides was one of my students favorite ways to collaborate with classmates or work independently to create presentations in any curricular area.  Students easily created engaging presentations to show their thinking/learning. 

There are so many possibilities and ways you can use Padlet for Daily 5 and Literacy Stations.  Padlet is a digital wall where students can post content related to learning outcomes.  Students can post text, images, documents, and even videos.  The sharing of content and collaboration has never been easier. 
It just so happens that one of our first language skills was interrogative questions. A great way for our students to get to know us is to have them ask us questions.  The new iPad app for Padlet makes it so easy and gives students a platform to collaborate. 
A colleague +Garrett Sims Global Padlet Wall for Reading Across America


IBrainstorm is a great creative collaborative tool. Students can creative individual or collaborative mind maps. Post-it notes are added to the canvas and students are able to write on the notes.  

I haven't used Storybird in the past, but plan on using it this year since all the features are now free.  Student will be able to create story books.  My colleague +Garrett Sims wrote an awesome post back in 2014 on Storybird and the iPads.

Popplet can be used in so many ways during guided reading. Below my fourth graders are creating their Concept Map for the weekly reading selection.  Students are able to show their learning in different and creative ways using Popplet.

Practice Your Skills and Knowledge

Quizlet is a great learning tool to use to practice and reinforce reading vocabulary.  You can create flashcards, tests, and study games for each word list of the week. You have the option of having questions be a Written Response, Matching, Multiple Choice, or True or False. Quizlet creates a scatter game that is timed, so students can match each word with the correct definition.

Quizalize is an engaging quiz game for students and a great way for educators to collect personalized formative data. Students are able to work at their own pace, but there are time limits that are set. Students receive immediate feedback while teachers get formative data to help plan for further instruction.

Quizizz is a fun way for students to review concepts in all curricular areas.  The fourth graders loved creating their own reviews for upcoming tests.  They often worked in groups using the information they learned to create quizzes.  Even more fun was having their classmates play the review they created.

Since I have different groups in Words Their Way, I am able to create specific groups and assign their weekly words using SpellingCity.  You are able to search for word lists already created to import to your class.  Another great feature is the vocabulary component that reinforces and helps teach the meaning of each spelling word.  It is a great tool to use to differentiate spelling instruction and students are engaged.  You can get test results for each child, and it also has a writing component.  You can also use it for the tested vocabulary words for the week.  Students can also use it at home.

My students love using Kahoot.  It is a free online source to create game-based reviews and quizzes.   It is competitive and fast-paced.  Students are engaged in the learning process while they review reading and language skills.  It is easy to use.  Students go to and enter the game pin number and the exciting learning begins! 

For Dr. Seuss's birthday +Josh Allen set up a global Kahoot 
to celebrate Read Across America.

Plickers is a quick and easy way for teachers to gather instant formative assessment data and students don't need devices.  Students get a card that has a number on it and answer choices A, B, C, and D.  Students simple select their answer and hold up their card, and the classroom teacher scans their responses. Immediate feedback is given. Data is collected and saved for each student.  Plickers is a great tool to to use engage students in the learning process.

Creatively Show Your Learning and Thinking

ThingLink is a great tool for students to creatively show their learning.  Students are not only engaged, but they can add videos and interactive images to their projects.  We found using the website on the iPad was much easier than the ThingLink app. +Susan Oxnevad  is an educator to follow on Twitter @soxnevad and Google+ to learn more about how to use ThingLink in the classroom to enhance learning and instruction.
Adobe Voice is a great app that is easy for students to use and creatively show their learning. Great for students to use during literacy stations or Daily 5. 

Learning about German Word Origins

What is better than our students watching videos? Of course, creating them and sharing their learning with others.  Toontastic is a Digital Storytelling app.  The possibilities are endless when using it for literacy skills.  

Reading Skill - Summarizing

Writing Genre of the Week - Adventure

Students are behind the scenes creating news stories, and they have the opportunity to broadcast their own show. Using TeleStory is a fun and engaging way for students to share their learning.

Writing Genre of the Week - Persuasive Ads


Doceri is a free interactive whiteboard for the iPad.  There are so many possibilities in using this app during guided reading.  Doceri is a great presentation tool. 

ChatterPix can make anything talk. Students have been using it during reading to share what they learned about our Reading Skill of the week.
Working on inferring in reading and electricity in science. Ss created iMovies using the ChatterPix created since you can only record for 30 minutes.

Shadow Puppet is a free app that my students love to use during guided reading.  It is a digital story telling app.  One way my fourth graders have been using it during guided reading is for their tested reading vocabulary.  They also use it to show what they know about our reading comprehension skill of the week.

Haiku Deck

Students can create presentations and slideshows using Haiku Deck.  Brie wrote sentences for her reading vocabulary words focusing on our reading selection.

PicCollage has always been one of my students favorite apps.  There a lot of possibilities when incorporating it with Daily 5.  My students recently created a Back to School collage where they used adjectives to describe themselves. 

Lawrence Clark Powell

Friday, August 21, 2015

Back to School in a Digital World

Inspiring a Community of Learners

Our Future is so Bright, We have to Wear Shades

That time of year has arrived when students are anxious to see class lists, teachers are busy preparing for a new beginning, and parents are gathering school supplies and rearranging family schedules.  All of this brings excitement and anticipation to the hearts of all.  We become partners with families in one of the most important jobs we have--helping each child become all he or she can be.  It’s an exciting and challenging task--and a terrifically rewarding one.

I am a firm believer that the first few weeks of school set the tone for entire school year.  It is important that we spend these weeks building positive relationships with each child and his/her family. 

There are a lot of activities and ideas that help build relationships and a community of learners. 

You Matter - Create Movie Traiers
+Angela Maiers an inspirational teacher, author, and speaker sums it up perfectly! #YouMatter Our students need to know they matter from Day 1.  Last year, my students had the privilege of being guest writers on her blog. My students worked in small groups and created Movie Trailers sharing the importance of making a difference in the world and sharing the importance of "You Matter"!  

Sharing our Genius - Kidblog
To go along with Angela Maier's importance of You Matter, she also shares the significance of our students sharing their genius.  The first week of school I had my fourth graders use Notability to create a picture sharing their genius. Then, they created a blog post in Kidblog sharing their Genius with the World! 

Selfie and Descriptive Words - Pic Collage for Kids
Students took a selfie or a photo of each other. Around their picture, they added adjectives to describe themselves.  I love their creativity and all the positive words they use to describe themselves. Teachers can print these and post them in the classroom for all to enjoy.

All About Me - Popplet
Have students create an "All about Me" Popplet to share with the class. A great way for classmates to get to know each other. Students can add images on their Popplet by importing a picture through their camera roll or they may draw pictures.

Goal/Goals for Fourth Grade - ChatterPix
We all know that setting goals is important for success and improvement. Adding a fun twist makes it even more engaging to students. I had students set a goal they would like to achieve during the upcoming year. Students used ChatterPix to record their goal. It was great to see their creativity and all the smiles.

All About Me - Fact and Opinion - Stick Around created by +Tony Vincent 
Stick Around is an awesome app to use in all curricular areas. What better way to start the school year then to create a Fact and Opinion puzzle.  Students created fact and opinion puzzles focusing on themselves.  What a great learning opportunity for students. They can learn more about their classmates by playing each others' puzzles.

Summer Vacation - 3D Avatar Creator by BuddyPoke
Another activity to engage students is to have them share something they did for their summer vacation using an Avatar Creator. What is better than our students watching videos? Of course, creating them and sharing their learning with others. Let the FUN and LEARNING begin!

Summer Vacation - Toontastic
Creating and sharing our thinking and learning is what school is all about. At the beginning of the year we are all still in summer mode.  What better what to share our summer adventures, but to create a video for others to enjoy.

Self-Potraits using Osmo Masterpiece
What better way to begin the school year then draw a self-portrait. Osmo makes that possible.  Have students take a snapshot of themselves and let the drawing begin.  Students will have the drawing plus an added bonus - a video of themselves drawing their masterpiece!

Questions for the Teacher - Padlet 

It just so happens that one of our first language skills was interrogative questions. A great way for our students to get to know us is to have them ask us questions.  The new iPad app for Padlet makes it so easy and gives students a platform to collaborate. 

Scrapbook of the School Year - Book Creator
My mom has been coming to my classroom and creating scrapbooks with my students for years.  It is an awesome keepsake and memory for the year.  Another idea for a year-long project would be for students to create a scrapbook using Book Creator.   This would be an awesome digital portfolio of the year.

As we know,  the world of teaching has changed.  One thing hasn't changed...The relationship we develop with each student is always what is most important.  My mom has made a huge, positive impact on my students for as long as I can remember.  It only seems appropriate to end my post with a Movie Trailer my students created of my mom and how she makes a difference. Yes, digital is great, but sometimes there are other means to show our love of learning! 

I would love to hear how other educators are building a Community of Learners. As we all know, it is about our students who are counting on us to Make a Difference! Here's to the Best School Year Yet!