Well, here we are. It’s almost February and we’ve been teaching and learning online in some form or another since last March. Wow. I know “unprecedented” was probably the most overused word of 2020 (with the possible exception of “pivot”), but these truly are unprecedented times. If someone had told me in 1989 when I completed my masters degree that I would be teaching the fourth grade from my dining room in 2020 – 2021, I would never have believed them. I would’ve been much more likely to believe that I’d be driving around in a flying car.
Anyway, I don’t have a flying car, but I do have some great ideas for keeping students engaged and excited about online learning whether they’re at home or attending their brick-and-mortar school part-time or even if they’re in the school building full time, but using technology more than ever.
Where to Find Great Content for Any Subject
On Nearpod, you can create your own interactive lessons or you can choose from the thousands of lessons in the Nearpod library that have already been developed. When I say there are lessons for any subject, I’m not kidding. Not only are there lessons for your core subjects of math, reading, writing, social studies, and science, there are also lessons for life skills, world languages, social-emotional learning, and more. Many lessons include embedded Flocabulary videos which include catchy, hip-hop songs that really help students retain information about any subject. A couple of my favorites are the song about Ruby Bridges and the song that teaches long division. In addition, there are gamified activities called, “Time to Climb” where students choose themed avatars (e.g. penguins, other animals, etc.) to play a game where they answer a series of questions to climb a mountain. The player to reach the top first wins. My students absolutely love “Time to Climb” and look forward to playing games that cover any topic.
On Kahoot, you can also create your own activities, but like Nearpod, there are also thousands of activities in the Kahoot library on nearly any subject. One thing I will say about Kahoot is that it’s important to preview materials in advance. I think anyone can create a Kahoot, so content is not always 100% accurate. That being said, it is easy to find or create great quizzes that assess exactly what you want to assess and at the end of each quiz, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place “winners” are honored on an Olympic style podium which is always fun.
Flipgrid allows students to showcase their learning in any subject by recording short videos where they share what they have learned over the course of a unit of study (I typically create a Flipgrid after students finish a project) or where they can have a virtual debate about a topic. This year, my students have created Flipgrid videos to share biome projects and to share brochures they made to persuade tourists to “Come to Virginia”. I have also created Flipgrid assignments where students discussed abolitionists Harriet Tubman, John Brown, and Nat Turner and one in which students shared their thoughts on whether we should celebrate Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day. (They were strongly in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.) One of the greatest features of Flipgrid is that students can respond to peers’ videos in a comment section so students get peer feedback.
Boom Learning? is a site where, again, you can find activities and quizzes on nearly every subject. I am a creator on that site and specialize in all things elementary math, upper elementary language arts, and upper elementary science. Boom Learning? is great because the games and activities give students immediate feedback and (if you sign up for a membership) provide teachers with data to use to make instructional decisions.
I’ve been using BrainPop FOREVER (okay, so since 2011) and have always been a fan. However, now with a subscription you can create classes and assignments for your students with ease. When students take the quizzes, the site collects the data so you can use it to plan your intervention groups and to drive instruction. I typically assign science and social studies material, but (as you may already know) BrainPop also has videos, primary source documents, quizzes, activities (including coding), and more on a wide variety of topics – math, science, social studies, English, the arts, health, SEL, and engineering, to name a few.
Finally, there are so many great websites for finding and creating content for your students during these unprecedented (eye roll) times. Some more of my and my students’ favorites are: Newsela, Common Lit, Khan Academy, and IXL to start.
What are YOUR favorites? Let me know in the comments! Happy exploring.