My Favorite Student Apps

Below is a list of my favorite student apps.  When I say “favorite” I am using that term loosely because new apps come out every day that are awesome and there are so many GREAT apps!  These are ones that I love and have used a lot in my classroom!  The pictures are linked to the app store.

1. Puppet Pals $ – I LOVE Puppet Pals. It may be one of my favorite apps! This app can be used in so many different ways. The students can use it to explain a process you have been learning in class, the students can use it to review information before a test, the students can use it to illustrate a process, etc. This app has limitless possibilities!


2. Page Send (free) – Page send is an online collaboration app. The students can invite each other in to collaborate on documents. The students can also record what they are doing in a document and save it for future reference or send on to friends.


3. LAZ Leveled Readers ($) – This series of books is a leveled reading series. The book are leveled using Fountas and Pinnell. The app store has levels aa – R. I will be sending out this app based on your grade level.


4. Doodle Buddy (free) – This is a great drawing app and it is FREE! You can use this to have students illustrate a scene in a book, to make infographics (very cool!), and to illustrate any writing work they have completed. Students can import pictures, add text, and add shapes.


5. Read2Go ($)– This is an amazing app for our dyslexic students. The students can apply for a free account if they have a qualifying text disability at The app will link to their book share account and allow students to have access to thousands of free books (textbooks as well), that can be read to the student. The app is pricey, but you may want to recommend the app to students with a learning disability.


6. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore ($) – An excellent app that tells a wonderful story about the love and care of books!


7. Scribble Press (free) – This is a free book making app! The students can write a book and illustrate the book all in this app! The book can then be purchased in hardback form and shipped to the student. The students can create a book to be shared or printed. The app comes with story starters or blank books.


8. Rover (free)– Rover is another browser (like safari), but it will play flash content for education.


9. Bluster(free) – A vocabulary game that works on adjectives, rhyming words, prefixes, suffixes, and synonyms. You are able to pick the grade level. Free App.


10. SpellBoard ($) – An awesome spelling app! The app allows you to load in spelling lists and th students work through spelling the words in quizzes and practice. The students can complete a word scramble or word search as part of their studying.


11. Verses Poetry (free)– refrigerator magnets type poetry mixer! Gives a variety of words to “mix-up” into a poem.


12. iWrite Words ($) – Handwriting app. The app does not allow the letter to be written the wrong way – i.e. starting at the bottom or going backwards.


13. Cursive Practice(free) – This app allows cursive practice.


14. Math Racer ($) – a math fact game.


15. Splash Math (Grades 1-5) ($) – Math Practice by unit and additional practice.


16. Google Earth (free)


17. Star Walk ($) – An awesome app that lets you see exactly what is in the sky above you at any time!


18. Frog Dissection ($) – I LOVE this app and I hate dissection! This app will allow you to virtually dissect a frog and see the body systems. Also, the app will teach you about each organ and it’s function in the body.


19. Stack the States and Stack Countries Lite (free) – Great apps that allow students to practice US and World Georgraphy.


20. iCard Sort – Sorting app ($)– Load in anything and have your students sort – spelling words, vocabulary, math problems, etc.


21. voice Plus ($)– Have your students practice fluency by recording themselves or practice their spelling patterns by telling stories. The students can change their voices and listen back to the audio file. They can also email the files to the teacher!


22. iThoughts HD ($) – One of my favorite apps! Use for mindmapping and as a graphic organizer for students!


23. Strip Designer($) – Comic Strip Maker – have your students create comic strips for any content area! Allow students to use their creative side to show what they know!



Reward Coupons

I love to use reward coupons in my class!  I also like to give rewards that don’t cost anything – aren’t those always the best kind?  I searched and searched a few years back for reward coupons that I liked but I couldn’t find any, so I made my own!  I did “borrow” some of the ideas from other places and resources but, it was so long ago I don’t remember where I found them (so if they are yours let me know and I will give you credit!).

I give these away as part of my chance ticket drawings each week and I also give entire coupon packs away as Christmas gifts for the kids – they LOVE the reward coupons more than anything else I could give them!  One of the kids favorite rewards is the “Chew gum in class” reward.  The rule in my class is that the kids can’t travel with gum and they have to show me when they spit it out Smile!  I have never had any problems with gum in the carpet or under the desk.  The kids also LOVE to sit in the teachers chair!  I hate it when I have to give up my chair but, the kids love it!  Click on the picture below to download the coupons!  I think the best coupon, that I I would use all the time, is “Listen to Music in Class”. 


If you would like an editable version click HERE for the MS Publisher version.  I liked to edit my border and pictures based on the season.  Especially at Christmas, I would change out all of the icons to be Christmas icons.  I didn’t save them that way, although now that I am typing that I realize how much easier my life would be if I just saved all my various forms for future use!  I guess I will do that going forward and post them for you as well!

iPad Basics Training

This is the training presentation I made for my teachers on the basics of their iPad.  The teachers had had their ipads for a week before I gave them the basics training.  I think that was a really good plan because the teachers were ready to learn how to use their ipads effectively.  They had been using their ipads, but showing them the shortcuts helped them immensely!  I don’t think the teachers would have been ready for the basics training the same day they got their ipads  they would not have been focused on the training.  HERE is a handout I gave the teachers that goes along with the presentation.

One of the most pressing questions from the teachers was, “How do I use pinterest!”.  I am not a huge fan of the pinterest app so I use pinterest in safari.  I also found a website that gives directions on how to add a “pin it” button to your iPad safari browser.  Also, along those same lines, after I showed the teachers about Evernote in our productivity training (I will post that later), they wanted an Evernote Clipper on their safari and I found a website that gave those instructions as well.

My Favorite Apps for Teachers

These are my favorite apps that make a teachers life easier!  The pictures are linked to the app in the itunes store.

1. Kindle/iBook

Use these apps to highlight and takes notes on the books you are reading in class. You can pull up all of your notes in one place and display your highlights and notes up on the board for your students.


2. Dropbox

Keep all of your files in one place and have access to them wherever you are!


3. Nearpod

You can create presentations and quizzes and send to your students ipads. They can follow along with your presentation, ask questions during class, and take quizzes all in one place. Best of all, for now, this app is FREE! You will need to sign up for an educators account, but this is an excellent teaching tool! You will need to have the students download the app (we will put it on the cart) and register for an online account.


4. Fluency Timer

Setup the time for one minute and give the students a passage. Then allow the students to rotate through on their own. When they are finished, you can go back and listen to the recordings and mark their fluency. Additionally, the students could mark their own fluency and make their own goals for their reading. A great way to keep electronic reading records.


5. Groovy Grader app

Grade your papers without worrying about having the paper, sliding grader!


6. Teacher Assistant (Lite (free) or Pro)

This is a great little app that lets the teacher keep anecdotal records in one place. The teacher can quickly and easily keep notes on each and every students. Very handy to have all of the information in one place and the ability to link reports to dropbox. A great way to keep information for parent conferences or permanent records.


7. Stick Pick Pro

This is a wonderful app for teachers! The teacher can load in her students and it is like she is pulling a stick to see which student to call on to answer a question! What is even better is the app allows the teacher to keep up with the questions asked and determine how far up Blooms Taxonomy the students can go with their questions. The teacher can keep notes on each students answers, as well as, knowing which student to call on next!


8. Explain Everything

Screen casting app. Teachers can import word docs, pptx, pdfs, etc into the app and annotate over the apps and record yourself. When teaching the lesson you can record yourself teaching and then post to websites so students can access the information for extra review or for absent students.


9. iTunes University

This is a great app just for continuing education for teachers. Browse college courses in your subject area for free!


10. Evernote

This is an amazing app for keeping all of your clippings from webpages in one place.


11.Good Reader

Used for annotating PDF’s. A good way to work on students papers and assignments (receive the papers using “Drop it to me”. Can annotate and comment right on the paper and send back to the students – all electronically!


12.Brain Pop

Play Brainpop movies right from your iPad!


13. Reading Remedies

Great app that allows teachers to assess reading. The app also suggests follow up activities based on students’ performance.


Among the Hidden

Among the Hidden is one of my FAVORITE novels we teach in the fifth-grade.  This year we had an issue come up with the book that I wonder if other schools have run into and if so, what are you going to do about!


Among the Hidden is a novel about a young boy that is the forbidden third child.  His family has to hide him, as the country where there are living has a law against having more than two children.  The book also has Population Police that search for and arrest families with more than two children.  Luke, the main character of the book, wrestles with the fact that he is an illegal third child and looks for ways to gain freedom.

A situation that we are needing to address in our school is the students that are in the United States because of a policy, like the one in the book, in China.  Many children (mostly girls) have been adopted from China by families in the United States.  A lot of those children are given up for adoption because of the population laws in China.  We have several children in our school that have been adopted from China and we are trying to be sensitive to those students developmental needs.  When is the appropriate time for these children to wrestle with their adoption history.  Does, Among the Hidden, present a history that children are not able to cope with appropriately in 5th grade OR should we view this as a time for children to deal with an issue that is going to impact them and have the ability to frame the issue for the students?

One key theme that we have played on throughout the book is the population control.  In my fifth-grade class we have a debate over Population Control.  The students are always stunned when they find out that population control actually does exist in our modern society.  We have the students research, using heavily censored resources that we provide (NO GOOGLING ALLOWED in this research project).  The students are assigned sides and they have to debate population control.  Going forward we are going to edit this part of our unit of study out because this is too much for a fifth-grader to be able to process if they are actually a product of the law.  You can find my debate materials and my entire unit plan here. 

We, as a school, are still trying to research our options in regards to this book.  I have spoken with our school counselor and she thinks 5th grade is the appropriate time to deal with these issues.  We also called in the parents and discussed the issue with them.  Their opinion was that it was the appropriate time as well (as long as population control materials were deleted from the plan), although they were understandably nervous! I am going to call the adoption center at UAB (University of Alabama, Birmingham) and ask their opinion on the issue as well.  We are still trying to work out what we should do to protect the interest of these students, but for now our plan is to read the book and be sensitive to the needs of our students at the same time!

Math Curriculum

We are in the process of of changing our math curriculum.  We are currently using Sadlier-Oxford Progress in Mathematics.  We have been looking at all different curriculums while trying to narrow down our focus on the best curriculums.  We are a private school so what we require is a little bit different than public schools.  We are not tied to the common core, but the problem we are experiencing is that ALL of the math textbook companies are writing their books to focus on common core (insert plug for writing our own textbooks using iTunes!). 

We have had to look at our standards, our testing (we use ERB), and the common core to see how they all align so that we can choose the best math curriculum.  We have narrowed down our focus to two curriculums – Math in Focus and Expressions Math.  Both seem to be strong curriculums, without the drama that goes with Everyday Mathematics.  We will be taking a strong look at this two curriculums over the summer and then call in the company reps at the beginning of next year.  Additionally, we will teach some practice units out of both curriculums next year to see how they fit into our classrooms.

The reason I am writing this post is because on the Cool Cat Teachers blog she posted about a new website that has teachers and administrators review curriculum that is used in the classroom!  What an awesome idea!  We have been searching websites for teacher reviews of math curriculum to get an idea of what teachers think.  So far, the only website that really posts much in the way of teacher reviews is ProTeacher.  The new website is called Classroom Window and the section of the website that reviews curriculum is called Teacher View Report Cards.  They are currently calling for reviews about math curriculum and are giving away a $10 Amazon gift card for anyone that reviews their current math curriculum!

Kindergarten, Butterflies, and the iPad!

A few weeks ago I was in a kindergarten classroom to teach a unit on butterflies!  It is so exciting to be in kindergarten, but also nerve wracking because I taught 5th grade before moving into my current role of curriculum/technology coordinator at my school!  Kindergarten is quite different from 5th grade!

I had the best time teaching these little ones!  The best part about teaching kindergarten is the students are sponges!  They want to learn everything they can and have so many awesome questions!

I knew that I wanted to incorporate a lot of technology into this lesson, but I also wanted to encourage the students to do some hands-on projects so we could work on our writing and our fine motor skills.

I started the week by giving each student a post-it note and had them write or draw a picture about what they knew about butterfly’s.  The students came up with they fly, they have wings, they eat nectar, etc.  Then I gave I put the students into groups and gave each group a non-fiction book.  I wanted the students to discuss with each other what they noticed about the book, hoping we would be able to pull back together as a group and create a list of text features of non-fiction books.  I realize now that I hurried into this process and I should have modeled it with the students prior to putting them into groups.  However, with a LOT of scaffolding, I worked with each group and they found some features of non-fiction text.  Then, used the following anchor chart to describe non-fiction text (this isn’t mine, I found it on pinterest – I don’t know the reference or I would include(here is a link to my kindergarten board on pinterest).  Finally, I read the book Waiting for Wings and we tried to decide if the book was fiction or non-fiction.


We began the next day reviewing our features on non-fiction text and reviewed while reading a story.  Then, I took all the kindergartners to the computer lab and we worked on a game to put the lifecycle of a butterfly in order.  We used two websites.  The links are here and here.

The next day we did a craft I found on pinterest!  Don’t you love Pinterest!  The students loved this craft!  The picture is linked to the source.


We also worked on a non-fiction book project about the life of a butterfly.  Again, the picture is linked to the original file location.

Screen Shot 2012-03-23 at 7.53.01 AM

The last project we did was on the iPad.  I wanted the students to somehow illustrate the butterfly lifecycle, but I wanted them to use words and pictures.  So, of course, the iPad was the perfect solution.  I used one of my favorite apps, Puppet Pals HD.  I preloaded in pictures to be used and then I showed the students how to make a puppet show.  I let the students choose from a couple of different backdrops for this experiment AND I had given the students free time the day before to play with the app and get used to how it worked.  Below are a couple of examples of students explaining the life cycle of a butterfly with Puppet Pals. 

iPad Deployment Training–Part 1

Our teachers received their iPads this week and it was an interesting process to hand them out!  The teachers were so excited and could not wait to get their iPads.  I broke out our training into groups of those that already had i-devices and those that didn’t.  I figured that the group that already had devices would be ready to go and need minimal training and the group that didn’t have any i-device would need some extra hand-holding.  I was correct in my theory, but I was completely wrong in how much I overestimated what the i-device group would be able to do and how much the group that didn’t have any apple experience would be able to do!

The biggest stumbling block to each group was the Apple ID!  I am not sure why it has to be so confusing, but it is a huge problem.  When the IT staff and I were trying to figure out how to deploy the iPads we knew that we wanted to the teachers to be able to load their own apps and make their iPads personalized.  We knew that if we locked down the iPads then the teachers wouldn’t use their iPads and then they wouldn’t figure out why the ipad is such an amazing tool for teachers!  The problem for us was how to use the UPP (Volume Purchasing Program) and allow the teachers to still have their own apple ID.  We decided not to Pre-Load any apps on the teachers iPads, but rather give them a blank iPad and have the teachers load all the recommended (free) apps during a staff meeting.  here is our list of apps that we had the teachers load.  We are going to “gift” paid apps to our teachers.  This will cause less headache as far as multiple apple IDs on each device and the need to sync teachers devices to a cart at the school.  The cost will be about $100 per teacher over the life of their tenure at the school.  The cost will only be realized when teachers are leaving the school.  We figured this cost was worth not having the headache of dealing with apple ID’s and syncing.

We did this because with the VPP we can send the teachers a link to redeem the apps under their own apple ID and then we don’t have syncing issues.  We have told the teachers to all sync their iPads to their work computer.  We also instructed the teachers to create a new apple ID if they had a family ID where they had already purchased apps and would want to use that ID for purchasing apps.  The teachers would need a separate ID for the iCloud backups, Facetime, and Messaging that is separate from their family ID (otherwise all data would be combined with the families data and teachers wouldn’t be able to message or factime).  We showed the teachers how to put their family ID as the store Apple ID, but then add their new apple ID as their iCloud, Facetime, and Messaging id.  I hope that makes sense, but here is a graphic that may help.  It was very confusing to figure out!  If someone has a better way to handle this I would love to hear it!