Tuesday, December 8, 2015

7 Free Spelling Apps and Sites

Over the years one of the most searched terms on has consistently been "spelling games." It has been more than a year since I published an updated list of good spelling apps and sites. Here's my latest round-up of free apps and sites for spelling practice.

Manulife Word Hunter is a free iPad app designed to help children learn new words. The app features a board game that students move through by rolling dice and correctly spelling new words as they go. Kids can play the game alone or with up to two other players. To start playing the Word Hunter game students select avatars then roll the dice. The dice indicate how many spaces to move on the board. The spaces on the board contain new word challenges. Students see the word, see an object representing the word, and can hear the word read aloud before attempting to spell it on their own. If a student spells a word correctly he or she gets a bonus action that allows them to either skip ahead, skip another player’s turn, or move another player backwards.

Rocket Speller is a fun iPad app designed for students in Kindergarten through grade two. The purpose of the app is to help students learn to spell words simple words that are three to ten letters long. As students progress through the levels of the app they get stars. After they get three stars students pick out the parts they want to use to build a rocket ship. Rocket Speller has five levels for students to work through. The first level uses three to six letter words and gives audio and visual clues to students. The second level features words up to ten letters in length and offers audio and visual hints. The third through fifth levels have words up to ten letters in length but reduce the number of clues available to students.

Stumpy’s Alphabet Dinner is a fun app in which students feed letters and shapes to cartoon characters. The letters and shapes that students feed to the characters have to match the letter or shape displayed on the character’s stomach. If the child makes an incorrect match the character spits out the letter.

Building Language for Literacy offers three nice little language activities from Scholastic. The activities are designed for pre-K and Kindergarten students. The spelling activity is called  Leo Loves to Spell. Leo Loves to Spell asks students to help a lobster named Leo identify the first letter of a series of spelling words arranged in a dozen categories.

Spell Up is a fun Google Chrome experimentSpell Up is a game in which you hear a prompt to spell a word then have to speak into your laptop or Chromebook to see the word spelled on your screen. If you spell the word correctly it stays on the screen where it becomes part of a tower of words. If you spell a word incorrectly, it will fall off the screen and you will be prompted to try again (you can skip a word after a few tries).

Your students can test their spelling skills against those of past winners of the Scripp's National Spelling Bee on Vox's Spell It Out challenge. Vox's spelling challenge presents you with the final winning words from twenty past national spelling bees. You will hear the word pronounced then you have to type it in the spelling box to submit your answer. Before submitting your answer you can hear the word used in a sentence and see the origin of the word.

Spelling Monster is an Android app (free and paid versions available) that students will enjoy using to practice spelling words. On Spelling Monster students can create their own lists of words or use lists shared with them (sharing only available in paid version). The app contains a half dozen games through which students can practice spelling the words in their lists. Spelling Monster keeps track of the number of times a game is played and the percentage of words spelled correctly. Students do not have to create an account to use Spelling Monster. The app can be used without a connection to the Internet.

Insert Creative Commons Music and Video Clips Into Your Videos

One of the aspects of YouTube that often goes overlooked is the built-in video editor that you can use to edit videos that you upload to your YouTube account. In the video editor you will find Creative Commons licensed music and video clips that you can insert into your videos. The video editor will let you drag your own video clips to the editing timeline then mix in clips from the Creative Commons video library within YouTube.

For more YouTube tips and tricks, check out the playlist embedded below.

11 Apps and Sites for Learning to Code

If you have spent any time looking at Twitter, Pinterest, or the Edublog-o-sphere in the last week you've probably seen plenty of references to Hour of Code. Over the weekend at the Ed Tech Teacher Google Jamboree Justin Reich and I made references to Logo Writer. For people of a certain age, Logo Writer was our introduction to coding. Today we have many more ways to introduce students to programming and coding. Here are some good resources that you can use to introduce students to programming and coding.

When the conversation amongst educators turns to programming, Scratch is often the first resource that is mentioned. Scratch allows students to program animations, games, and videos through a visual interface. Students create their programs by dragging together blocks that represent movements and functions on their screens. The blocks snap together to help students see how the "if, then" logic of programming works. If you haven't seen Scratch before, watch the short overview in the video below.

Scratch Overview from ScratchEd on Vimeo.

Scratch Jr. is based on the aforementioned online Scratch program. Scratch Jr for iPad and for Android uses the same drag and drop programming principles used in Scratch. On Scratch Jr students can program multimedia stories and games. To program a story or game on Scratch Jr. students select background settings for each frame of the story. Then in each frame students select the actions that they want their characters to take. Students snap programming pieces together to make characters move and talk in their stories and games.

Snap! is a drag-and-drop programming interface designed to help students learn to program. Snap! uses a visual interface that works in your browser on your laptop as well as on your iPad. To design a program in Snap! drag commands into a sequence in the scripts panel. The commands are represented by labeled jigsaw puzzle pieces that snap together to create a program. You can try to run your program at any time to see how it will be executed. After previewing your program you can go back and add or delete pieces as you see fit. Snap! may remind some people of Scratch. That is because the Snap! developers call their program "an extended re-implementation of Scratch." The potential benefit of Snap! over Scratch is that teachers who have a mix of iPads, Android tablets, and laptops in their classrooms can have all of their students use the same programming interface.

The MIT App Inventor allows students to create and publish their own Android applications. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don't have Android devices to text their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don't need to worry about installing it. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for classroom use for new users of App Inventor. Click here to read about a great app developed by students using the MIT App Inventor.

Google Blockly's interface will remind you of the MIT App Inventor and Scratch. Google Blockly, like Scratch and the MIT App Inventor, uses jigsaw pieces containing commands that you can snap together to create an application. The blocks can be dragged, dropped, and rearranged as many times as you like. Google has five working demonstrations of Blockly that you can try right now. Google Blockly could be a good tool for students to use to play with logic commands in a relatively easy to understand environment. Blockly doesn't require any typing, just clicking, dragging, and dropping with a mouse or on a touch screen.

Crunchzilla is a service that students can use to learn to write Javascript programs. There are two versions of Crunchzilla; Code Maven and Code Monster. Code Monster is designed for students of middle school age. Code Monster contains 58 short lessons that take students from the very basics of things like resizing and repositioning objects to complex creation of animations. Students can work through the lessons in sequence or jump directly to any of the lessons. Students receive instant feedback on each lesson because the code that they write and the results of the code are displayed side by side.

Code Maven offers 59 lessons for students to work through at their own pace to learn programming fundamentals. After completing the Code Maven tutorials students are ready to move on to Game Maven where they can work through 37 lessons in which they will create three simple online games.

TouchDevelop is a great platform through which students can learn to program simple animations and games. On TouchDevelop students program a series of actions by entering sequences of commands such as "move forward" and "turn right" that are carried out on the screen by a chosen figure such as a turtle. In addition to the direction commands students program the distances covered on screen, the colors, the animations, and the images to appear on screen. All commands have to be entered into correct sequences of "if, then" logic in order for everything to display as intended. TouchDevelop works on most modern web browsers including Chrome for iPad. Students completed programs can be saved online and or exported for use as Windows apps or HTML5 applications.

CodeMonkey received its own post over the weekend. I am including it in this list for folks who want to compare it with tools that are similar to it. CodeMonkey is a fun game through which students learn some basic programming skills. In the game students have to help a monkey get his bananas. The game presents students with a series of thirty progressively more difficult challenges in which they have to help a monkey reach his bananas. Students help the monkey get his bananas by correctly programming the movements of the monkey. CodeMonkey provides little tutorials for to help students through the challenges.

Mozilla Thimble App is a free tool that allows you to write and test HTML and instantly see how your new code will look on the web. On one side of your screen you will see your code and on the other side you will see how your code looks on the web. When you're ready to share your new code with the world just click "publish" to have a web address created for your page.

Daisy the Dinosaur is a free iPad app designed to introduce young students to  some programming basics. The app asks students to create commands for Daisy the Dinosaur to carry out. There is a free play mode in which students can make Daisy do whatever they want. But to get started you might want to have students work through the beginner challenges mode. Daisy the Dinosaur asks students to enter commands in the correct sequence in order to make Daisy complete tasks correctly. Daisy the Dinosaur could be used with students as young as Kindergarten age.

Create Interactive Year-in-Review Videos on Wideo

As the end of the year approaches we will start to see a lot of year-in-review news videos. Many of those videos will be simple montages of images set to music. Your students can do the same thing using any number of free video editing tools. If they use they can make their videos interactive. allows you to create videos with images that you upload to the site and or use imagery from their galleries. You can insert interactive buttons into each frame of your video. The buttons can be hyperlinked to any webpage that you like. When people are watching your video they can click the buttons to be taken to the webpage you want them to land on.

Applications for Education
Students could use Wideo to create year-in-review videos about news stories. Have them use Wideo's interactive buttons to link to complete reports about each news story that they include in their videos.