The Best Educational Apps for Smartphones and Tablets

Educational apps are a parent’s best friend.  Load a few onto your smartphone or tablet and you are ready to entertain/educate your child on a moment’s notice.

Every year at conference time, plenty of parents entertain their young ones by whipping out a smartphone.  Kids happily play games on those things, and if educational games are the only option, you can bet they’ll get plenty of use.

Click here for a curated list of the best educational apps.  The list comes to you from Verizon, but I heard about it from graduate student Rachel Hodges, whose master’s project involves spreading the word about educational apps and tracking her impact.

Verizon has gathered free apps and, through the site, offers discounts on many other apps.

Some of my favorite free apps from Verizon’s list:

For Apple For Android
Hopscotch: coding for kids Comic & Meme Creator: tell a story with comics
Pocket Law Firm: learn the Bill of Rights BrainPOP Jr. movie of the week
Kids Planet Discovery: geography, nature, culture Skymap: GPS enabled roadmap for the night sky
News-O-Matic, Daily Reading for Kids World Citizen geography quiz
Ocean Science: explore our oceans World History for Kids: interactive timeline
Shadow Move: a spatial reasoning game Common Core Mastery: Common Core Math
Geometry+++: challenging tangram puzzles BioIQ: mathcing game teaching the parts of a cell


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Posted in Academics,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Nov 28, 2013


How to Build a Sub Kit

I got the idea for Sub Kits from The Baby-sitters Club.  The girls created Kid-Kits containing board games, art supplies, books, toys—whatever they thought might interest their charges.  The items in the Kid-Kits did not have to be new, they just had to be new to the kids.

The girls only brought the Kid-Kits on some of their jobs.  This kept the kids on their toes and kept the baby-sitters from having to lug around those boxes all the time.  After all, if you have an after school job with the Papadakis kids across town by Kristy’s mansion, you might not have time to run home and grab your Kid-Kit.

Click here to see the contents of the girls’ Kid-Kits at the official Baby-sitters Club site.

I developed quite a sub kit during my subbing days.  I had a class set of Archie comics that I had found at a used book sale for a quarter apiece.  I had about a dozen Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80s, also from used book sales.  I rounded that out with simple worksheets I found or made.  One of the most popular was make-your-own comics.  I could keep a whole class quiet with that activity for at least an hour.

Subs, consider making your own sub kit.  Teachers, consider setting aside some supplies, fun worksheets, read aloud picture books, games—whatever, just make them only for sub days.

Here are some ideas:

  • Picture books that make a great read-aloud regardless of the season (our all-time favorite is The Dumb Bunnies’ Easter)
  • Instructions for the sub to ask students to write a summary of the story, write a new ending, write a letter ot the character—whatever seems appropriate.  If necessary, soak up time by letting students illustrate their work
  • Fun worksheets from follow-directions books or I’m Through! What Can I Do?
  • A bingo game (multiplication bingo, president bingo, etc)
  • Word searches, mazes, crossword puzzles, Sudoku—any sort of puzzle
  • Art supplies for a simple project (leave behind a bio of a famous artist and let the kids imitate the style, have kids illustrate paragraphs or sentences, whatever)
  • Movies—for example, Balto is in our reading book.  I tell the kids that I am putting the Balto movie in emergency sub plans.  Some day during the year, I will be out with no notice to the kids, and they can watch Balto.

Have fun with your sub kits!

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Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers,Substitutes,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 22, 2013


Let Scholastic Help You Teach the First Thanksgiving

ThanksgivingThe First Thanksgiving.  Every year, teachers need a new way to make this subject interesting and fresh.  Sure, we could teach it the same way every year—but that would be boring for us and the kids.  This year, let Scholastic help you get through this short but tough week.

The main site is here.  From there, you can go to resources for your grade level.  There are three choices: PreK-2, 3-5, and 6-8.  Each lesson plan comes with the worksheets you’ll need and can carry you through the short week before Thanksgiving.

Sample activities from Scholastic:

Virtual field trip to Plimoth Plantation (videos of interviews, demonstrations and site visits)

Learn about the voyage on the Mayflower

Learn about Daily Life for Pilgrims and Native Americans

Learn about the Feast

Read Historical Letters

Thanksgiving Reader’s Theater for your class

The historical lessons from Plimoth Planation should provide excellent enrichment for your Thanksgiving lessons.  Still have time?  Try some Thanksgiving Printables to round out your day.  Another good activity is to watch The Mouse on the Mayflower.  Don’t miss my free worksheet that will help you keep your students accountable during the movie.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy the long weekend.

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Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 15, 2013


Teach Vikings History Using Fun Resources from the BBC

vk_map_whoweretheyThe BBC Primary History Vikings feature is one of my class’s favorite computer lab activities. Share this educational resource with your class!

The Vikings site features information, an interactive timeline, and a fun game called Dig it Up!

Your students will like the information. Use is as a review, a preview, or as part of an Internet activity:

Your students will enjoy Dig it Up!  In the game, you help a team of archaeologists prove that a Viking settlement existed in what looks like an ordinary field.  But hurry!  If you don’t find proof quickly, a motorway will be built right across the site.

Students will enjoy employing their diggers to search for artifacts.  Once students have found the artifacts, they try to put them together and guess what they are.

Your kids will love the British accents of the characters in the game.  Tell them to be on the lookout for British spellings, such as artefact instead of artifact and ‘s’ where we would write ‘z’.  (Example: ‘realised’ instead of ‘realized’.)

The teacher’s resource area is extensive.  There are free worksheets and lesson plans, an online quiz, pictures, and videos.  The site links you to other Internet resources to teach Ancient Roman history.

After you learn about the Vikings, watch a fun Muppets number in which Viking pigs sing The Village People’s “In the Navy” as they raid a village.

Have fun!

Map courtesy of the BBC Vikings Teacher’s Resource Page.

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Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Nov 8, 2013


Choose Your Own Adventure Books in the Classroom

CYOA_JourneyUndertheSea_medium Kids love Choose Your Own Adventure books!  (CYOA for short.)  The books are fun for everyone, but they are magic for reluctant readers.  Here are some tips for using the books in your classroom.

Buy Choose Your Own Adventure books for all reading levels.  Classics are appropriate for students in grades 4 and up—provided those students read at grade level.  Remind your students that CYOA books look longer than they are, because you don’t read the whole thing.  Just know that the favorites from the 80s are not super easy.  Were kids better readers back then?

Check out the CYOA Dragonlarks series for younger readers.  These books are good for all students in grades 3 and up.  The print is bigger, there are illustrations—these books just look easier.  Everyone in an elementary class can enjoy these, although the truly struggling readers will need a buddy.

Make Choose Your Own Adventure a celebration!  Have class events to promote these books. Some ideas:

Set aside time for groups of 2-4 students to buddy read the books.  You’ll need space for everyone to read aloud, yet not be disturbed by nearby readers.  Your best behaved students might be able to form a group in the hall, freeing up space inside the classroom.

Use the books as readalouds.  This works well if you only have a few titles.  You can read, then let the class vote on what to do next.  This will hook students on the books, and then they can read on their own.

Create CYOA literature circles.  If you have multiple copies of a book, have students read independently, then meet as a group to discuss.  They can talk about different options, analyze character, and create a fun advertisement for the book to interest their classmates in reading it.

Write your own CYOA stories. this is a good challenge project for Gifted students and other high achievers.  Explain that students will want to map out their plot—that’s the easiest way to create the CYOA structure.  Then, they can write the pages for each section.

Click here to visit the Choose Your Own Adventure site.  You can read about the books, order individual titles or small group sets, and learn more about the renaissance of this fun series.  Click here for CYOA teacher’s guides.

Happy adventuring!  Choose wisely.

Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Nov 1, 2013