Create Awesome Comics with Comics Head Lite

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 11.32.35 AMI used to love to read the Sunday funnies. I’d wait (somewhat) patiently until my parents were finished with the paper, and then I’d read the entire comics section. When I became a teacher, I bought the Sunday paper each week just so I could have some comics to bring into my classroom and share with my students. Sometimes I would incorporate them into a lesson, and sometimes I’d bring them in just for giggles. I also had my students create their own comics to tell short snippets of a longer story, much the way the comics do each week. So when the iPad entered my classroom, I kept searching for a comic creator app that was easy to use… and free. I’ve tried many different comic creator apps, and each one hasn’t been what I needed. And though the search has been a couple of years long, I think I’ve finally found what I’ve been searching for in Comics Head Lite.

What is Comics Head Lite?

Comics Head Lite is the free version of Comics Head, which is a powerful comic creator app. The Lite version is pretty robust itself, and teachers and students can easily use the current free version to create comics. Choose from different layouts, different templates, or create your own. There are so many options— I just have to show you!

There are a few ways to get started. If this is your first time to the app, you can choose to Create New Comic, or you can pick from a template at the bottom of the screen.


Next, select the toy box icon from the icons list at the top. This will give you access to all the different backgrounds, characters, props and fx, and your photos. Swipe to the left on a row of icons in any of these areas for more choices.IMG_0900

To add text or dialogue, choose the speech bubble icon. “Edited” means that you can actually edit the size and shape of the speech bubble. “Simple” means that you can re-size the speech bubble, but it changes proportionately. Just pinch the speech bubble to resize it. IMG_0901

Draw your own pictures, add shapes and lines, and change the colors of pretty much anything by choosing the icon that looks like a pencil cup. You can always tap the image if you want to delete them once they have been added to the comic.IMG_0902

Choosing the icon that looks like three pieces of paper will show all the layers of your project. This allows you to lock layers so that you can adjust parts of the comic without moving everything.


Free Vs. Paid

There are benefits, of course, to purchasing the app for $3.99. The free version has limited sharing options, but it allows the most important one— save as image! Once the image is in your camera roll, you can open it in any other app (known as app-smashing) or you can upload it somewhere online. The free version also limits each comic to only one page. You can get around this by saving a finished comic page to the camera roll and then editing the comic to preserve the characters and background. When you are finished with the next page, save it to the camera roll and continue like that until the comic is finished.

The paid version allows many more options for sharing and exporting comics, and it allows more saving options, as well. As I noted above, in the paid version, students can create multi-page comics, and they can also save their comics as templates for future use. You also get many more art assets, parental controls, additional editing features, and there’s also the option to print pages via air print.


Common Core Connection

Comics Head Lite can help your students with many of the Common Core State Standards for Literacy and Writing. It can be used across the curriculum for students to show what they know on any number of subjects. While it may seem like Comics would be used mostly for narrative writing, comics can be used for students to write informative/explanatory pieces as well as opinion/argument pieces. I came across a free Teacher’s Manual download from Dover Books, which highlights specific standards (for grades 3-5) that are addressed when students create comics. If you teach other grades, you can still follow the strand to see which standards apply for your grade level. The manual contains activities that are specific to the Word Play! text sold on the website, but I included the link because the lesson activities are ideas that can be adapted to work with your curriculum and Comics Head Lite.

What Do You Think?

Have you found a different comic creator app that you like? Have you tried Comics Head or Comics Head Lite? How have you used it with students?

A Whole New Look for Educreations

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 11.26.59 AMI was so excited last night to see some of the changes that have been made to the Educreations app. According to the Educreations Facebook page, the update was just released yesterday and I happened upon it last night! Here I will tell you about some changes to the app, but if you want to read my original post with instructions for setting up your Educreations classroom and the Common Core connections with using the app, click here.

What’s Different?

You’ll see a refined color palette, different icons, and a new logo. You now have more sharing options within the app, and there’s a basic plan and a pro plan.

Here’s the new start screen. This hasn’t changed much, but the coloring is different.

Educreations Main Screen

When you create a new lesson, you’ll notice the new colors are calmer and more muted. You do have more choices, though– just tap one of the circles.

educreations colors


At first, I thought the option to add text had been removed, but it wasn’t (sigh of relief). It’s just hidden in the “add content” plus sign. There are more options for adding content now, too–but they are only available by upgrading to Pro.

educreations add


educreations clear

If you do add text or an image in the background, you still have cropping, editing, and locking abilities. Locking the text or image just means it won’t move as you draw over the rest of the page.

What’s New?

One of the best new features is the ability to save a draft! That’s huge– students can come back and continue working the next day. The limitation is that with the free version, they have to finish one draft before they can begin another.

Educreations draft

Sharing has also been majorly upgraded!  You can share your videos from two different places. If you play your finished video, you will notice the share icon in the top right corner. Choose it at any time to share via email or Twitter, to copy the link, or to copy the embed code. You can also share from your Lessons page. Select the lesson and choose the share icon.

If you upgrade to Pro, you will also have the option to… wait for it… save to camera roll! This is huge. I wish it were part of the free version, but it’s not. Still, having the option to get the embed code or a link to the video directly from the app is a bonus.

Upgrading to Pro

Here’s part of the comparison chart for basic and pro. You can see the entire comparison chart at


What Do You Think?

How are you feeling about the new changes to Educreations? Will you upgrade to Pro or stick with the free version?

Story Telling with Adobe Voice

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 2.06.00 PMAttending EdCamps is one of my favorite ways to learn about new apps and Web tools. In June, I attended EdCampOC in Santa Ana, and it was there that I learned about Adobe Voice. We were talking about all the wonderful video creation apps that are available for the iPad, and a fellow teacher mentioned Adobe Voice. Of course, I downloaded it immediately and started to play around with it. Adobe Voice is similar to Animoto in that students can upload photos and add music and text to their videos, but Adobe Voice has some great organizational features built in. Additionally, students record themselves telling their story, which allows them to create and “star” in a video without actually being on camera.

How Does Adobe Voice Work?

Adobe Voice allows students to create rich, attractive videos that follow a specific story line. The story line can be altered, but it provides structure— a story board, if you will— which can be necessary for some students to get started. Adobe Voice also prompts students with questions each time they create a new slide in the video. The app allows for students to access the camera roll so they can use images they’ve taken themselves, or they can use any of the plethora of icons included in the app.

Students will start on the Welcome Page and choose “Create New Story.”


Then students will provide a title or an idea to get started. At the bottom of the screen are some ideas that float by, and they are categorized by subject. Tapping on a new subject area changes the ideas the float across the screen.


Choosing “Next” takes them to the part of the app where they choose the structure. There are 8 pre-determined structures, or students can choose to “Make Up My Own.” Swiping to the left or right across the structures shows the other structures that are available. These are not the text structures that we have come to know as part of Common Core, such as Compare and Contrast or Problem-Solution. They simply provide a structure for students to help them organize their thoughts.


Students are then able to choose an icon, add a photo, or write text for the slide. At the bottom of the slide, they will hold the record button to record their voice. They can listen back, and if they don’t like what they’ve said, they can re-record the slide.


At any time, students can change the layout of the slide.Adobe_Voice_Layout

They can also change the theme of the slideshow, and they can make changes to the background music.




When students are all finished, they choose the Share button in the upper right hand corner of ever page. They will be presented with many options for sharing their video. This is the one problem I have with using Adobe Voice: it doesn’t save to the camera roll, and you can’t upload it to YouTube– and in all honesty, that is a huge drawback of using this app. The video goes to Adobe Creative Cloud, which means students will need to create an account, or the teacher will need to create a shared account. When the video is uploaded to Creative Cloud, it receives its own Webpage free from distracting advertisements. At the bottom of the page where the video can be seen, Adobe Creative Cloud provides an embed code so you can post the videos on your own website if you wish.  **UPDATE! 1/28/2015** Adobe Voice videos can now be saved to the Camera Roll!! 

Common Core Connection

Adobe Voice allows students to create, think critically about story lines, and communicate effectively. Students who are speaking for awhile on any particular slide are encouraged by the app to, “Keep it Short.” Students will therefore need to determine whether they can shorten what they want to say or add a new slide to accommodate the entire story.

The app can definitely be used spontaneously, but it’s best that students prepare what they are going to say ahead of time. As you could clearly hear in my example, I did not do that! When students have the chance to write out their text beforehand and rehearse what they are going to say, the recording will sound much smoother and students will be working toward a greater number of Common Core Standards.

Students can use Adobe Voice to create presentations that will support their understanding of many of the Common Core Standards, including:


Anchor Standards for Reading
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9: Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
Anchor Standards for Writing
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
Anchor Standards for Language
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

What Do You Think?

Have you used Adobe Voice in your classroom? What kinds of stories are your students telling?



ChatterPix Kids: Make Videos of Talking Animals

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 5.12.02 PMAnimals can talk? Really? Well, no, not really. But with ChatterPix Kids, it sure looks like it! We’ve all seen those commercials where there’s a talking baby or a talking animal. If you are anything like me, you’ve thought it was pretty cool but had no idea how it was done, and you figured it was probably pretty complicated. With ChatterPix Kids, not only can you make videos of talking animals in five easy steps, but the youngest students can do it, too!

How Does ChatterPix Kids Work?

1. Start by taking a photo of an object— it can be anything! I created a video of my dog singing a silly song. My son made a talking onion (see the video below!). You can also use a picture that’s already in your camera roll.IMG_0866

Using your finger or a stylus, draw a line where you want the mouth to be. Then press the record button at the bottom of the screen. The app will count down so the students know when to begin speaking, and then it shows a countdown timer from 30 seconds. You can listen to the recording so you know whether you need to re-record it, and when you are satisfied, press the Next button.


Add some decorations. You can add stickers, a frame, and text to the video. Then press Next.


When you are all finished, save the video to the Camera Roll. From there, you can upload it to YouTube, Google Drive, Dropbox, or anywhere else.

From the camera roll, you have total control over how the video is shared. You can “app smash” by using the video in another app, you can upload it to YouTube and share it publicly, or you can just keep it in the camera roll. The video also gets saved in the gallery within the app, so you can come back to it if necessary. ChatterPix Kids does not have a social sharing option because it is specifically made for students who are under the age of 13. If you do want the social sharing option, ChatterPix has an app (called ChatterPix) that will allow you to post to social media sites.

Here’s the onion video that my son made.

Common Core Connection

Along with the Common Core State State Standards, ChatterPix Kids can be used to help students improve their communication skills. They only have 30 seconds to record their voice, which means that they will need to be very succinct and choose their words carefully. This helps them develop vocabulary and it can help with their ability to persuade and choose the strongest argument. Students will be working on any number of the Common Core State Standards for Reading, Writing, Language, or Speaking and Listening when they show what they know using ChatterPix Kids.

Classroom Applications

ChatterPix Kids has potential for many different use in the classroom. In any subject, ChatterPix Kids can be used for students to:

  • Give directions
  • Get directions (the teacher would record the video with the directions and share it with students)
  • Do a brief biography of a historical figure
  • Tell a brief story from the point of view of an inanimate character from a reading passage
  • Take a photo of a character they’ve drawn and bring it to life
  • Draw a self-portrait, take a screen shot of it, and then use it to give an introduction at the beginning of the school year. Doing this helps to protect a student’s identity but still allows them to create video.
  • Provide the rules of a sport from the point of view of the equipment

What Do You Think?

Have you or your students used ChatterPix Kids? How have you used it?


Inform Your Teaching with Google Forms

forms-iconIf you are a teacher who has access to technology in the classroom and you aren’t using Google Forms, you really should be! Forms can be used by any teacher who has a Google account, even those who don’t have Google Apps for Education through the school, and they are a fantastic way to gather information from students or parents.  Teachers can collect all sorts of data using forms, including:

  • daily attendance
  • quick exit survey
  • quizzes or tests
  • parent or student contact information
  • signups for volunteer activities
  • walkthroughs
  • evaluations
  • staff surveys
  • reading logs
  • walkthroughs
  • evaluations
  • staff surveys
  • choose your own adventure activities
  • applications for school programs

If you are teaching in a school that has Google Apps for Education, students also have access to Google Forms in Drive, so they can also create their own surveys for class projects.

I recently presented a session at the Ed Tech Team Orange County Summit featuring Google for Education called InFORM Your Teaching with Google Forms. The session was geared toward teachers who are just beginning to use Google Forms, and it was a standing-room-only session with lots of energy. When I present to teachers, I like to include a hands-on aspect to my sessions, and this one was no different. Teachers spent about half the time creating a new form that they can use as the school year begins.

Want to Create a Form?

To get you started, I’ve created a Google Forms Task Challenge. It’s the first in what I hope to be many, but it gives you a starting point to create a share a form. If you do create one, you do not need to share it with me (unless you want to!). The purpose of the Task Challenge is just to give you a starting point. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do or ask in a form, so this is just meant to be a jumping-off point. You are not bound to only do what’s on the challenge. In fact, many of the attendees went above and beyond in creating a form.

Sending Vs. Sharing

Usually when you work in Google Docs, you share your documents rather than send them. Forms are a bit different. You can share them with collaborators and have other teachers add and edit questions on your survey, but when you are ready for respondents to fill out the form, you have a few options:

  • send via email
  • post a link on a website
  • embed in a website
  • make a QR code for quick access

Here is a quick video that shows you a couple of steps in this process. It doesn’t include how to embed in a website, but it does show where you will find the code. It also doesn’t include how to create a QR code.

Common Core Connection

Is there a Common Core Connection here? Sure, there is. Using Google Forms as a teacher will help you assess your students’ progress toward achieving the standards, but if you have students creating forms, it’s even more of a tool to help students meet the standards. Additionally, students are improving their 21st Century Skills when they collaborate to create a form, which can be used for any subject or reason. Asking clear and precise questions, and determining the correct type of question for a specific purpose,  helps students improve their communication and critical thinking skills.

What Do You Think?

Have you used Google Forms with students? What are some suggestions you have for using Google Forms in the classroom?

Student-Centered Use of Technology: My Phil”apps”ophy

photo 1I created Come On, Get Appy!  to share apps and show where and how they fit with the Common Core. With so many apps in the app store, and the number is growing daily— how do I choose the apps I share?

How I Choose Apps to Share

I follow two major ideas when thinking about apps:

  • Apps used in the classroom should be predominately creation apps.
  • All the apps you use with students should fit on one screen. This gives you 25 slots on an iPad—and that’s a lot. The apps I have on my home page include creation apps and curation apps, because those are the ones I use most often. If I find I’m not regularly using an app, I’ll exchange it with one I use more often. This makes my home screen the only screen I really need for most of my work.

I realize that these ideas go against what many teachers want. I frequently get requests for content apps, and I have no problem with content apps. In fact, I’ve shared posts on content-based apps (like Sums Stacker). However, I prefer to spend my time and money on an app that can be used across the curriculum for multiple purposes and can be used in student-centered ways— rather than on an app that is only about consuming content.

Student-Centered Ways? What Do You Mean?

When I conduct Professional Development on technology integration, I always bring it back to the idea that what we are doing with technology needs to focus on student-centered uses. Actually, everything we do in the classroom should be done in student-centered ways. So, what does this look like? What I want to see when I go into a classroom is students making choices— not only regarding the tool they will use, but of the product they will create using the tool. I want students to demonstrate their learning of a topic, and I don’t direct how they demonstrate this learning. I believe that this can best be accomplished using creation apps.

For some teachers, allowing students to choose the apps they use and they products they create can feel overwhelming. It requires the use of a rubric focused on the content, not the product. It may mean that there are 20 different types of products to grade (assuming 40 students are working in pairs) for any given assignment. If the class is studying figurative language and the students need to prove their understanding of figurative language, some may choose to make a video or a presentation of some sort, while others may write and/or produce a story.  Some might not want to use technology at all. That’s completely okay. Students need opportunities to choose the best tool for the job. If they can justify why he or she has used a particular tool, I consider the use of technology to be done in a student-centered way.

Students making the decisions about which tool to use for which purpose is student-centered use of technology— even if the decision is to use no technology. In order to be able to make these choices, students need to have access to multiple apps that will allow them to create different products. As teachers, we need to make sure we are focused on the process—not the product.

Common Core Connection

This post isn’t about an app, per se; it’s about all apps. If you are using creation apps, there is a greater chance that you are addressing Common Core standards and the 7 Cs. Standard 6 of the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing states: “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.” Producing and publishing writing takes many forms, and creation apps allow students to produce, publish, and post their work. The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening, especially standards 4, 5 and 6, can also be met through the use of creation apps.

What Do You Think?

I have a number of favorite creation apps. I’ve already written about many of them— Kidblog, VoiceThread, ExplainEverything, Coach’s Eye, Tellagami, Skitch, and Thinglink. However, there are so many more that I will eventually feature on Come On, Get ‘Appy! 

What are your favorite creation apps? How do you use them in student-centered ways?



Giving Students a Place to Create: Setting Up an Educreations Classroom

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 2.20.00 PMI love free apps (who doesn’t?). And, I really love apps that have students as creators rather than consumers of content. When apps that allow students to be creators also make it easy for teachers to access their students’ work, well, that’s an ideal situation as far as I’m concerned. Educreations does just that. It allows students and teachers to create (and consume) content, and it allows teachers to access students’ work with ease.

Setting Up Your Classroom

Setting up an Educreations classroom is very straightforward. Visit to begin. Create a new account or login using an account you’ve already created. This will be the first screen you see.

Educreations_DashboardYou’ll want to start by creating a course. Clicking the “Create a Course” button will bring up the following screen.

educreationsCreate_a_CourseOnce your course has been created, you will have the options of changing the settings, viewing lessons, creating lessons, and adding students.

educreations lessonsIn order to add students, you will need to provide them with a code. You can get your class’s unique code by clicking on Students. If you click “Add” to the right, you will get a larger view of the code students will use to join the class.

educreations student codeAfter creating a teacher account, teachers need to share their class code with students. Students create accounts and log in through the app. They do not need to have an email address to do this, but they will be creating a username. You might want to consider creating a username protocol (first initial, last name) for quick identification purposes.

Students will see the following screens on the iPad when they go to register to your class, and they will first choose “Create a Free Account.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 3.59.43 PMStudents will need to specify that they are a student.

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 3.59.58 PMYes, they have a course code.

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 4.00.44 PMLast, they will fill in their first and last names, provide a username and password (determined by the teacher), and then they register.

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 4.01.28 PM Once students have registered to the class, they will appear in your roster when you click the “Students” button at

educreations_rosterIf you choose not to create a classroom, students can still save their work (as long as they’ve recorded something). They choose Done > Save Lesson. They navigate through all the saving screens, but instead of logging in, they just tap Cancel in the left corner of the save screen. The video will save locally on the iPad.

Common Core Connection

Using Educreations can help students in developing their communication skills, especially. There are three Speaking and Listening Anchor Standards that can easily be developed using Educreations.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL4: Present information, findings and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL5: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL6: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. 

Students can use this app across the curriculum; therefore, using Educreations aids in developing almost any of the Common Core State Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards, or the History/Social Studies standards (including the content standards in your state).

You Might Want to Know…

Educreations is a great app, but in all honesty, there are some limitations that some teachers find frustrating. As long as you know the limitations before you begin, you can eliminate frustration and save time for you and your students down the line. Here are some limitations along with some positive elements of Educreations:

  • Students have to finish a video within one class period if the iPads are being shared because lessons can’t be saved and edited at a later time.
  • In addition, in order to save the work, the students must record something. They either have to narrate the lesson after they’ve drawn all their slides,  or they can record as they draw. The workaround for this is to take screenshots of the slides they’ve drawn if the students don’t want to record, but that sort of defeats the purpose of the app.
  • Lessons only save locally within the app or to the teacher-created classroom at They are not saved to the iPad’s camera roll, though they can be saved to Dropbox (a positive thing!).
  • Another positive aspect is that lessons can be embedded in your website or blog, which makes lessons easy for students and parents to access.
  • In a shared classroom, student-created lessons can be available for classmates to view on their own devices (provided they are signed into the class). This makes for easy tutoring or sharing of information.
  • The biggest positive of all is that this app is free, and it allows your students to create content and show what they know.

What Do You Think?

How do you use Educreations in the classroom? What do your students like best about the app?

Word Clouds by ABCya

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 6.03.26 PMIt seems like everywhere I look on the Internet, I see word clouds. They can be interesting and attractive, but up to this point I’ve found that students haven’t been able to create and save word clouds on the iPad. That is, until now! The app Word Cloud, by ABCya, has (thankfully!) solved this problem.

So What’s a Word Cloud?

A word cloud graphically represents the frequency of words used in a text. The more often the word appears in written text, the larger it appears in the word cloud. There are a few Web 2.0 tools that make word clouds, the most popular being Wordle and Tagxedo. One of the problems with these tools is that you can’t download the image you create and you can’t use them on the iPad unless you buy an app. Word Cloud by ABCya is free (for now), and it was developed for younger students, so it’s very easy to use. As an added bonus, students can save their word clouds to the camera roll, which allows them to share the images elsewhere—either on another website, in another app for appsmashing, or via email. For a great blog post on appsmashing, see this post by Meghan Zigmond.

How Does Word Cloud Work?

Using Word Cloud is a cinch. All you do is type text directly on the screen, or you can copy and paste text if you are analyzing another person’s content for word frequency.



After students go to the next screen, they choose the layout, font, and colors they prefer.




Then, save to camera roll! Voilà!

Common Core Connection

Students often struggle to edit and revise their own writing. It is a challenge to get students to evaluate their word choice or to recognize that, perhaps, they have been a bit repetitive in their writing. Word Clouds are a good way to help students visualize their repeated language. Teachers can then encourage them to analyze where and when these words are used and help them determine whether the language used is precise. In addition to being able to revise and edit writing, students also need to be able to identify the main idea of a text when reading. Word Clouds can potentially help students to determine the main idea or theme of a text based on the vocabulary that is repeated in the text.

The anchor standards below are those that can be addressed using the app Word Cloud.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices share meaning or tone.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.

What Do You Think?

I’ve seen many blog posts on using word clouds in the classroom. Some teachers use them as an introduction to a concept, and others have students create them for a variety of purposes.

How do you use word clouds in your classroom?

Trading Cards App: Jazz Up Traditional Flashcards

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 6.49.49 PMTrading Cards is an app that allows students to create a trading card (which is different from a flashcard because it’s much more detailed) about a person, place, object, event, or a vocabulary word. The app, created by ReadWriteThink has many applications for classroom use. View this quick introductory video offered by ReadWriteThink.

How it Works

Trading Cards is designed like a baseball card.  Here’s an example of what a card looks like:


Front of card

There are seven different types of cards you can create (e.g. real person, fictional place).


On each of the seven cards, there are pre-determined fields that allow students to fill in information about the topic of the card in 120 characters or less. When a student taps within one of the pre-determined fields to begin typing, a Guiding Question appears that helps students determine what  to discuss within that field.


When students have finished their trading cards, they can be saved to the camera roll, sent as an email, or they can also be printed.


The only drawback to using this app is that fields within each type of card cannot be changed. If a field does not apply to the topic being covered on the card, however, there is no requirement to fill it in. Additionally, teachers can tell the students how they should answer the Guiding Question  On the plus side, the app allows for multiple users, which is great for classrooms where the iPads are shared.

Content Area Connection

While the Common Core Standards addressed using this app are Language Arts standards, content standards easily apply when using this app. The following are some suggestions for how the app might be used in the different subject areas:

  • History: Students can create Trading Cards around a unit of study, including the people, places and events during that time period. They can use the cards to solidify their expertise on the topic and teach their classmates about the topic in a jigsaw fashion.
  • Science: Students can create Trading Cards about scientists, concepts, or unit vocabulary. Cards could also be made about objects students might find in a particular unit of study (such as rocks and minerals or matter).
  • Literature: Cards can be created about the characters in a novel or short story, the setting of stories, and events that took place. Students could also use Trading Cards as a pre-writing exercise for a narrative they will write.
  • Mathematics: Students can create Trading Cards for mathematics vocabulary or concepts. Younger students studying shapes could also create “object” cards

Common Core Connection

There are a few Common Core State Anchor Standards for Reading that are addressed with the Trading Cards app. If you look at the appropriate grade level in the Common Core State Standards for Reading Literature, you will be able to determine the exact standards your students need to achieve.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text. 
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Trading Cards in your classroom?

*all images in this post are screenshots from the Trading Cards app*

Annotate Images (and more!) with Skitch

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 1.41.04 PMMany teachers I’ve talk to consider themselves visual learners. I am no different— I can be told something a hundred times and read written directions just as many, but until I can picture it or see it, I’m not going to internalize what I’ve been taught. Many students are the same way. This is one reason why Skitch is a great (free!) tool to use in the classroom.

Skitch works by allowing a teacher to show his or her students (or parents) how to do something using annotation, shapes, and sketches- making instructions visual. Students can use Skitch, as well, to make annotations on text and for visual presentations.

What Can Skitch Do?

Skitch allows the user to annotate images, PDF files, maps, or screenshots from web browsers.

You can:

  • Link to a web browser to take a screenshot for annotation
  • Capture and annotate an image
  • Annotate an image that is already on the device
  • Annotate a PDF
  • Annotate on a map

Example of an annotated snap of a Web browser

Example of an annotated map

Example of an annotated map

Evernote, which owns Skitch, has a couple of videos that illustrate the process that can be found at: If you are new to Skitch, I recommend you watch the introductory video below.


Any image a user creates in Skitch can be saved directly to the user’s Evernote account or to the camera roll on the iPad.

Common Core Connection

Standard 5 of the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening says, “Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.” In addition to this specific standard, a section of the CCSS document states that students who are college and career ready in reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language are, “familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and media and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.” For these reasons, Skitch is a great tool for students to use often to help them communicate their ideas.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Skitch in the classroom?