There’s an app for every need these days, and apps for teachers abound. Many are not designed directly for the classroom, but they can make a huge difference in captivating your little ones. Used mindfully, they can complement what you are currently doing in your classroom and take it to the next level! The following are some apps for teachers that I would be most upset to have torn from my vicelike grip.
Voices, cost $1.99
This is one I love to use in small Reading Groups. This app allows you to record your voice and then render it through different voice skins. As an example, here I am normally reading the first sentence of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:
Then I listen to my recording and click “Change the Voice.”
And this is what happens…
(A vocoder is a voice synthesizer. I had to look up that word.)
and my favorite …
These include Turtle, Dark Side, Alien, Fun House, Guitar, Walkie-Talkie, Cyborg, Exorcism, Max (my second favorite), Helium, 8-Ball (which is kind of an outlier; it doesn’t change your voice, but gives you a prediction just as an 8-Ball does. Not sure why they included this), Tape Stop, Megaphone, Vinyl, Witness, Canyon, Harmony, Vintage, and Computer.
Once you’ve saved the voice, you can share it in a file or just use the recording straight from the phone or iPad.
Using this app in the classroom
Here’s a smattering of ideas to get you started.
- Record yourself giving directions and then let students pick a voice that will repeat the directions. This way they are having fun AND hearing the directions again.
- Reading Groups. Students practice their fluency. A child will read from the text normally and then play back the recording to listen to how they sound. They should repeat this process until they have successfully read aloud the sentence/paragraph using the focus of that day (pausing at commas, for example). Once they’ve met your objective, then they can morph the voice. It serves as the reward for all their hard work. Plus LOTS of fluency practice with the best kind of feedback — hearing one’s own voice.
- Halloween celebration. Record yourself using one of the scarier voices and incorporate it into your lesson. (Freaky example below.)
- As a reward for achieving a goal
- As an incentive for a student on a behavior plan
Decide Now, cost $0.99
This is one of those apps for teachers that I use every day, all day. I outlined this app for teachers in detail in this post.
Decide Now is a huge step up from picking names out of a hat. The kids get excited about this every single time. And if you’ve been teaching a while, you know that most things lose their sparkle after a few weeks. Not this. They love it as much on Day 180 as much as they do on Day 1. There’s just something about the spinner coming near their name that drives them delightedly bonkers.
Common Core, free
Granted, this one is not as exciting, but boy is it efficient. I use this app for teachers when I’m doing my planning. It’s easy to get so involved with the details of the curriculum that you can forget the real focus of one’s lesson or unit. This keeps it at your fingertips and can save you oodles of time.
Chakra Pro, cost $4.99
A colleague I admire for her poise and kindness (and killer organization) recommended this one to our staff. I use this tactic as non-disruptive white noise for work time (particularly during Writer’s Workshop, when the silence can paralyze some students’ brains.) It comes with Chakra vibrations that you can turn off. I’ve had this app for a few years and still haven’t tried the Chakra vibrations. (I’m kind of curious about things like that, but leery as well. But a lot of people swear by it.) This is one of those apps for teachers that’s not really for teachers, but should be.
My favorite settings are Forest and Storm, though you might want to skip the latter if you want to avoid a lot of kids needing to use the bathroom. (Note: You’re not supposed to use this app while driving or using heavy equipment. So back away from the laminator.)
Heads up, cost $0.99
This one is good for the older kids and adults. Ellen Degeneres sells this app and it’s basically charades, but with a phone on your head. Plus it videotapes the efforts of the person trying to get you to guess the correct word. (She encourages people to send her particularly funny videos. Imagine if you got your class on the Ellen show?? Maybe we can get her to create some apps just for teachers. She does love teachers, after all.)
Many of the references are too obscure for my fourth graders, but I mention this app because 1) it’s fun for you and 2) because you can make your own deck. (Making your own deck costs another $0.99, but if it grabs my kids, I’m all in. You can build your own deck with the kids’ version to follow, but you can only use images in that, not words. This version only uses words.) This works great when you’re doing an informal review of a unit. Say, for example, you’re finishing up your geometry unit. You can include the words they need to master. Then you can use the Decide Now app to pick two kids from the group. One to put the phone on their head and be the guesser. And the other to read the word and give them their clues. Imagine the possibilities!
This app is great for those awkward in-between times. If we arrive at a special early, I can whip this out and keep their attention focused. So much more fun than a fidget toy. (Can I get an amen?)
The apps comes with seven decks. There are many other decks that you can buy for $0.99 each.
Heads up For Kids, cost $0.99
I originally bought this for a family reunion to play with my nieces and nephews. But it works magnificently in the classroom, as it only uses images and thus won’t leave out any kids who struggle with reading.
Like the previous app, you can create your own deck as well ($0.99 more, using only images — no words.) It comes with five decks and there are several more you can buy for $0.99 each.
Phases of the Moon, cost $1.99
We have an Earth, Moon, and Stars unit so I found this neat-o app to help illustrate the lunar cycle for my kids. There are free ones as well, but this one just tickled me. Even if this is not something you teach, think about what units you are teaching — particularly science and social studies — and do a little digging for great apps to deepen the kids’ understanding of the curriculum. There are tons of apps for teachers out there that are specific to the curriculum you teach. Once you find some good ones, share with your colleagues and have fun! (And share with us here in the comments below. We can all learn from you!)
Epic! for Educators, free for educators
This is one of those apps for teachers that is a gamechanger. You create an account using your school email and then create an account for each student within your account. This app contains thousands of high-quality books that your kiddos can read for free!
The nonfiction choices are endless and helped us enormously when we did a biography project in class and later our Civil Rights unit. You can pick the subject and the reading level of the child. You can recommend books or lists to individual students. You and the student can send messages about the books back and forth. (They can’t message each other.) 🙂
It’s also perfect for those kids who truly struggle to find books at their level that interest them. We have a pretty solid classroom library but sometimes kids’ interests and needs are so specific that they need a little more help. One of my students loved football but wasn’t crazy about reading. I found dozens of books on football players that were exactly at his level. He was in heaven and came up later that period to announce to me that these books were “pretty cool.”
Your whole class will get the same Classroom Code. (I just leave our code on the board because they forget otherwise.) They just sign in and off they go! The app even gives you a record of each student’s work, so you can see how many minutes they spend reading, how much on each page, etc.
Unfortunately, the kids can’t access the site from home. We tried it as an experiment. For kids to access it at home, their parents need to sign them up with an account for a monthly fee. But if they just use it in school, it’s completely free.
The nice thing is that you don’t need iPads to use this, though you can use them if you like. We access it using standard laptops and it works flawlessly.
Teachers Pay Teachers, free account, paid and free content
This app for teachers has loads of goodies for us hard-working educators. There are endless freebies and millions of beautiful lesson plans and products to use in your classroom. Seriously, this site has changed teaching forever. You can search by grade, subject, or resource type. If you haven’t discovered Teachers Pay Teachers yet, you’re in for a treat.
All the products in my store, Suburban Snow White, are things I actually use and depend on in my classroom. (This is true for all the teacher sellers I know. It’s interesting– I’ve found that since creating things for TpT, I’ve become a much better teacher.)
Now it’s time to hear from you! In the comments below please share which of the apps for teachers you plan to try. Or what apps do you use in your classroom (or in your “regular” life) that has added value to your life?
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Have a lovely week!
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Juliette Lloyd says
Some of these look familiar 🙂 Awesome article Katrina!
Soon enough you’ll be sending ME recommendations! Let’s hear it for Juliette! Recent grad with a job lined up for fall!