I’m on a mission to be a more balanced, efficient, and productive teacher, and I love using technology to help me work toward this goal. My time is precious, so I am always searching for ways to streamline my decision-making, lesson-planning, or prepping processes.
If you’re on a similar journey to maximize your time and energy, here are my five favorite apps for teachers. These tech tools keep me sane and make my crazy teacher life a little bit easier. For some reason, working from my phone doesn’t feel like work! (Maybe it’s the fact that I’m usually on my couch, wrapped up in my fuzzy blanket, and half-watching “The Office” while I “work” from these apps…)
Enjoy my top 5 apps for teachers list, and let me know if you have any other apps that you absolutely love in the comments!
Once you go Planboard, you’ll never go back. This free app and website is the holy grail of lesson planning and productivity. I discovered it when I was a second-year teacher searching for a way to streamline my lesson-planning process. Planboard allows you to digitally map out your daily lessons and unit plans through its user-friendly, intuitive online platform.
With Planboard, you can create lesson plan templates so that you’re not starting from scratch every single time. You can organize lessons plans by unit and easily see your entire curriculum map at a glance.
The best part is that you can load your standards or learning targets into Planboard at the beginning of the year, and then all you have to do is select them from a drop-down menu! Planboard will even keep track of the standards you have covered in your lessons, so you can easily see which ones you’ve covered and which ones you still need to hit.
I typically do the bulk of my planning on the website, but I love using the app to tweak or finalize plans from the comfort of my couch and fuzzy blanket. The functionality of the app is impressive, so as long as you have everything set up, you can plan lessons, tag them by unit, apply templates, use the “notes” feature, export your plans, and more, all from your phone!
I use Planboard for my own planning purposes, but I also save my lessons plans as PDFs, which I place in folders that I have linked on Google Classroom. This allows absent students to easily see what they missed in class each day, thanks to my organized digital plans.
2. POCKET POINTS
Before I found Pocket Points, I was sick and tired of dealing with cell phones in the classroom. This disciplinary issue was exhausting too much of my precious time and energy. I tried everything: building relationships with the students, a relaxed phone policy, a strict phone policy, a “phone pouch” from Amazon, more discipline logs…the list goes on. I went to college for 4 years to teach my students English, not to manage phone discipline. Pocket Points was the cell phone solution I needed to save my sanity and maximize instructional time. This free app works by offering positive reinforcement, rather than punishment (which was my mistake in all of my failed attempts to solve the phone problem). It incentivizes on-task behavior by rewarding students for staying off their phones during class.
You can set individual and whole-class rewards, and students can also earn local rewards from the app. For example, my rewards include extra credit (10 hours) and a donut party (15 hours). Some of the local rewards include a free one-night Redbox rental and a free appetizer at a restaurant. Additionally, students can earn rewards for staying off their phones while driving.
To get started with Pocket Points, head to their website to create a teacher account. Then, use the “Classes” tab to create your class periods and rewards. When you are ready to add students, instruct them to download the Pocket Points app and join your class with a “class code.” The website gives you the option to “Invite students” through Google Classroom or Remind or to print out a student handout with instructions.
As students work toward their individual and class rewards, you can check their progress with the “Dashboard” tab to see stats at a glance. The best part?! It’s ZERO extra work for you, so you can focus on what matters the most: Actually teaching!
If you’ve ever seen an intriguing news article, but you didn’t have the time to actually sit down and read it at that moment, then this app is for you! Pocket is an app, website, and Google Chrome extension that allows you to save articles in a virtual “pocket” or space of curated sources.
The best part is that you can access any article in your pocket without an internet connection, so say goodbye to wasting your data! I’m the type of person who loves to read whenever I have a pocket (get it?) of time, whether I’m waiting for an appointment, standing in a long line, or sitting on an airplane with nothing else to do. With my busy life, finding time to digest the news can be difficult. I love being able to save something for later when I have a spare second. Pocket helps me feel productive, even when I’m just clicking “Save to Pocket” to store an article in my collection of resources.
I use Pocket to save articles to use in journalism and newspaper or pair with literature in my American Studies course. Recently, I used the app to curate articles for my students’ “Has society taken science, technology, or social media too far?” synthesis essay.
I also use Pocket to hunt and gather mentor sentences for my students to analyze and emulate. Pocket makes it easy to read articles and think about how I want to use them in class, even when I don’t have wifi! It’s a great way to keep sources organized in one spot, and it’s better than what I used to do: email articles to myself and then forget about them.
4. GOOGLE CLASSROOM, DRIVE, AND DOCS
You can do just about everything on the Google Classroom app. It’s easy to create an announcement or assignment, check your students’ progress, and edit posts. Sometimes, I’ll assign an exit ticket as a Google Classroom question, and I will stand at my door with my phone, checking to see who has submitted the assignment. That way, it’s still a “ticket out the door;” I can see students’ answers and check in with them as they’re on their way out of my room.
I love having the Google Drive, Docs, and Slides apps on my phone so I can lesson plan on-the-go, whenever I have some spare time.
I also encourage my students to download Google Classroom and docs so “I forgot my bookbag” or “My Chromebook is dead” are no longer excuses. Students occasionally answer questions on the Google Classroom app or type essays on the Google docs app.
If you’re unfamiliar with Quizlet, it’s a virtual flashcard app and website that allows teachers to create flashcard sets that students can study through the tool’s engaging activities and games. According to Quizlet’s website, over 90% of students who use the tool report higher grades. (I know this post is about apps, but seriously, if you haven’t checked out Quizlet Live on the website, go there now and thank me later.)
But back to teacher productivity: The app makes Quizlet even more convenient because you can create full sets of flashcards from your couch…or your bed…or your hammock on your balcony. The list goes on.
From the app, you can do just about anything: Create new flashcards, add sets to folders or classes, copy sets, and share flashcards with students.
Students can also utilize the app to study in a variety of ways, so I always recommend it to them (and their parents) as well. There’s even a new feature that allows students to “swipe right” when they have mastered a word and “swipe left” for the words they want to study again! It’s about as close to real flashcards as an app can get, so this tool can be incredibly helpful for hands-on, kinesthetic learners who need a more active study strategy.
That’s my top 5! If you try any of these apps, let me know how they work for you. In the meantime, drop me a comment to let me know your favorite teacher app!