Thursday, January 3, 2013

The 4 Apps That Saved My Lessons

In the last year or so, there have been many times when my carefully laid lesson plans blew up leaving imaginary shards of paper all over the classroom. 

Explosion Photo Credit: kevin dooley 

I'm sure that has never happened for most of you. However in case it does, I'm going to offer you a few suggestions from my experience of how to save your lesson.

    Recorder Plus saved my test.

I had to be gone on an afternoon I had a test scheduled. For a world languages teacher, this is an issue. Part of the test was to be oral and I can't trust a substitute to give the oral part correctly. So what did I do? I recorded the oral part on the Recorder Plus app and emailed it to my substitute. He played the clip and the test went on without a problem.

 Songify saved my last 10 minutes

Another difficulty for world language teachers is getting students to speak in class. They quickly tire of talking to one person or five people or even 20 people. A question and answer session gets difficult, so they take shortcuts. The Songify app has created a whole new way to get them to speak and to be entertained as well. They record their voice and the app puts their words with music to create a song from their words. I have even used it to have the entire class practice a section of vocabulary. Two students can talk to each other and be recorded or the whole class can stand in line and be recorded with their word. It takes no time at all to record. As you play it back they are carefully listening for their voice and their words in the target language. I love to use it at the end of the period to fill in those last few minutes and reinforce the most important words.

   VoiceThread saved my 2nd period class.

Another difficulty that is faced by some middle school teachers is field trip day. For those of us that are EA (Elective Arts) teachers, field trip days create an interesting dilemma. We only have very few students who did not go on the field trip. Normally, those students did not stay behind because of behavior issues. It is often a monetary issue. Therefore you want to make it an interesting assignment. On this day when I had two excellent students in class for two days, Voicethread was the solution.  They created visual flash cards of the verbs we were learning. They took a photo of them acting out the word. They recorded their voices in Spanish and in English with the pictures saying the vocabulary words. This created a video of pictures and vocabulary words. 

    Splashtop saved my entire day.

We are also in a brand new building this year which of course means there are unforseen things that go wrong within the building that have never happened before in this building. So when there was something wrong with a pipe and something was leaking from the ceiling, the maintenance staff had to fix it. In the fixing, they had to close off one wing on one floor, which included my room. So I was kicked out of my room for the day. What do you do when you use a class set of textbooks and no longer have access to those? A movie! So I found The Buena Vista Social Club movie online. Today seemed as good as any for the kids to learn about Cuban music and to learn to read subtitles. The perfect space for this new lesson, the auditorium! After a little tweaking and some student help, we figured out the sound system and were ready to go. Then I realized I wanted to stop the movie and talk about what they were seeing to give them some background information. That is difficult because I would have to leave the auditorium and go into the sound booth. Then I remembered, Splashtop! I wirelessly connected my Ipad to my laptop through the Splashtop app. There was the video ready to be paused and started at my discretion. The rest of the day went rather swimmingly. I could pause to answer questions, clarify what they were seeing, and ask some of my own questions.

I must warn you though technology is not always so nice to us. Stay tuned for the post later this month when technology turned against my colleague. 

What apps have you found that have saved your lesson plans?


  1. Great post, Andrea! Thanks for sharing these awesome ideas. I love how you used VoiceThread for visual flash cards. I'm stealing that one...

  2. Happy to help! It's easy to get so involved in the day to day teaching that I forget to share. So this was a good chance to stop and share.

  3. Great stuff! Thank you! PS..Students should never be left out of a field trip for financial reasons!!!!!!!! I wish that schools would find a way to take care of that!!

    Thanks again!