Voki allows people to create their own talking, animated character, which can range from a dog to the President. Students type in what they want their Voki to say, and the Voki repeats it back, word for word. Users can make the animations easily and send them via e-mail or attach them on a website. I use Voki not only to announce the selected Student of the Month, but also for more serious projects where students might make the Voki teach the class a concept in social studies, science, or health.
Students love using Voki because they can select their own characters, sounds, and backgrounds. Sometimes kids are nervous about speaking in front of the class, so this is a great way for students to express their ideas in a fun, stress-free way. More outgoing students also can feel free to use their own voice for their Voki.
BrainPOP is an educational website that includes hundreds of animated movies for students to watch, in subjects ranging from music to engineering. The videos include cute characters that add a little bit of humor to what otherwise might be a dull topic. I often use BrainPOP to introduce my lessons. For example, if I were about to teach my class about idioms, I’d log onto BrainPOP and click a video on the subject so that my students can gain background knowledge. This makes it much easier to continue on with the lesson. After viewing the videos, students can take quizzes to see how well they retained the material.
Kids are very stimulated by computer graphics and animations, so BrainPOP is a great tool to incorporate into your lesson. I would say I use it about three times a week. My school pays a yearly fee for subscriptions to BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. (which is for grades K-3 specifically). While school and district subscriptions are available, teachers interested in the service also can purchase a classroom subscription.
Students can only last a certain amount of time before they stop listening. During a hectic school day, a teacher might need to stop what he or she is doing for a “brain break”—such as doing some indoor exercises or throwing a ball and incorporating educational questions. If none of those sound appealing, try the website GoNoodle!
GoNoodle provides classrooms with awesome brain break videos on different themes. You can select a relaxing or energizing video, depending on the time of day. The website requires you to sign up for its service, but it’s free to use. My favorite video is called “Flow,” and I use it before administering any major testing. While students are instructed to take deep breaths, the video uses wonderful imagery of a balloon flying through the air. It’s very relaxing.
I believe these brain break videos improve student academic performance. When students are not stressed, they end up making better choices while testing. So if you have some students who have test anxiety, I recommend using GoNoodle.
(Next page: The final app that Sheree recommends)