These free apps can be a real boon to educators in cash-strapped school districts and low income areas.
This past year I worked for a public school in New Orleans. More than 80% of my students received free or reduced lunch and the school in general was under-resourced compared to the average U.S. public school district. Often times low-income classrooms lack resources that include anything from textbooks, to craft supplies, to a lack of technology. Here are five resources I used in my class last year that turned up my learning a notch, and saved me from extra hours of figuring things out for myself:
Creating worksheets was not my favorite lesson planning period activity. Thankfully I found out early on that Pinterest, a website I had been using for fashion tips, also has thousands of worksheets, templates for centers, classroom management ideas, activities and projects.
It’s not uncommon as a low-income teacher to create much of your own curriculum. However, rarely did I come up with lesson plans from scratch. I maximized the beg-borrow-steal method many teachers of low-income students use. Many of my lesson plan ideas came from Better Lesson.
Better lesson is a free website where one can search by any subject for various types of resources that include unit plans, lesson plans and worksheets.
Tracking parent phone calls was always a nightmare for me, however keeping in contact with parents is extremely important. A positive phone call home always strengthened the relationships between my students and I. Dash4Teachers made tracking parent phone calls extremely easy.
Dash4Teachers is an iPhone application that stores phone numbers and tracks the date and time of your calls to students’ family members. My favorite part about Dash is that you can designate a call home as positive, negative or neutral. The application displays the rate of positive calls per student. This encouraged me to maintain a positive connection with parents.
The majority of my students were behind in every subject. Tracking their progress became extremely important, because my goal was to have them be at or above grade level by the end of the year. Kickboard assisted me in monitoring individual student achievement and differentiating based on student needs.
Kickboard allows you to track student data by standard. I used Kickboard to record scores on everything from exit slips to quizzes and tests to interim assessments. I could then analyze the results for a standard, like multiplying double digit numbers, based on a classes progress or an individual students progress. It made it much easier to choose what to re-teach.
5. Class Dojo
Classroom management was my main focus during the first few months of school and continued to play an important role throughout the school year.
Class Dojo is a behavior management system you can use on your laptop or Smartphone. During class, when a student displays a certain characteristic, such as teamwork or generosity, you can reward them points. My kids loved it because it meant competing with their peers to receive rewards such as free-learning time and popsicle parties. Teachers can also give negative points that take away from the rewards. After tracking points, you can print out the results and share it with parents and the administration.
After a year working at a low-income school, I became interested in education technology. This summer I am working for a new website, Haystack EDU, that connects teachers with jobs. Haystack EDU’s resource page is a great place to find classroom resources as well as professional development and leadership opportunities.
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