CommonLit is another alternative (also 100% free) to reading comprehension building, similar to ReadWorks. Educators can sign up for a free account and either choose to have students also create accounts or not. There is a huge catalog of reading passages for all different comprehension levels, as well as built-in extension activities for student enrichment. Many of the topics found overlap with our own curriculum throughout both lower school and middle school.

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ReadWorks is another option for teachers looking to boost reading comprehension. This is a completely free site and teachers can use the large collection of fiction and nonfiction to curate lessons that accommodate all different reading levels. It has comprehension pieces built right in, as well as vocabulary building tabs. Within the same passage, teachers can also toggle between two different choices that adjust the reading level, while delivering the same content.

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Newsela is a great option if you are looking for student-friendly, up to date news articles. Teachers and/or students can create an account using their school email accounts. The free version has plenty of content that is worthwhile, though if your grade level or department is interested in a premium membership, there are options for managing multiple students at a time.

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There are also comprehension check lessons built into each article. Given the importance of teaching students to vet quality news and information, Newsela could be a good place to check out and use as examples from their lessons that are geared towards this very topic. You can adjust reading levels for younger students, and filter by topic, opinion, etc…

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Explain Everything

Explain Everything is another resource that is both an app and a site. We have a school  account so if you are interested in taking advantage of features not offered on the app (available on all library iPads) we can help you to get logged on.

Explain everything has been around for a while and it keeps getting stronger with constant updates and new features. It is similar to other platforms like Educreations where you can create interactive lessons, presentations, or “how-to’s”, but it is even a little more robust than the other options whose advantages are simplicity of use for younger students.

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Rewordify is a great option for differentiating reading content so that different students get the same information while being delivered at their level. It is completely free and there are different avenues for use depending on what you are looking for. If you create a free account, you can take advantage of the more advanced features, but even just visiting the site allows you to plug in text and have it convert it to an easier reading level. For this reason, it can be as useful to younger students as it can older students.

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DoInk is actually two separate apps. One is for animation and the other is for creating green screen content. They can be used interchangeably though and you can really get creative with app smashing here to create virtually anything you can imagine.

Here are a couple of examples of projects that have used DoInk as a primary tool for their creation:

Book Creator: Online

Book Creator has been a familiar resource for a few years now, but constant updates to the program have now really begun to unleash possibilities. The online platform allows our students to really tap into the ease with which they can create e-books and organize them on a digital bookshelf. It could even be a viable alternative to websites for housing and publishing their research projects.

Book Creator has also added a major update this Fall; the ability to embed content from

Embed from other sites and apps with a click of a button!

other sites and applications!

Explore some samples of ways our students have used Book Creator below!

Padlet is still one of the more dynamic resources you will find today for teachers and students. We have a school subscription to the EDU version so your options for using it are not limited (though the free version is very strong). Padlet basically exists as a digital bulletin board that an entire class can access and collaborate together on at the same time. The most recent updated versions allow you to embed video, documents directly from Google Drive, audio, text, and and more. You can customize backgrounds, sort posts in a variety of ways, and can easily clone existing Padlets so many people can personalize their notes. As a note-taking tool, it is a fantastic option and you can customize fonts and features as you would in any other digital document. Students as young as third grade have had success using it, though obviously the older the grade level, the broader the possibilities. Check out some of our own student and teacher examples below!

CLICK HERE to see how 3rd grade student group used Padlet for taking notes:

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CLICK HERE to explore a 4th grade note-taking Padlet

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CLICK HERE to explore how 3rd grade teachers have used Padlet to present a lesson:

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CLIPS is a relatively new app (also a site) that was released late last year. It is a FANTASTIC alternative to iMovie, especially for our lower school students as it allows for an engaging, visual project but can be condensed into a one-off lesson. It is simple in its layout and can be used in a variety of ways. From narrating and animating a story or poem, to labeling parts of the ecosystem, to breaking down the cause and effect of a moment in history, it is all very easy and engaging for our students. It can also be a powerful tool for our youngest learners because of its ability to show the words you speak in “real time”. The possibilities for students to be able to narrate and illustrate their own books with words that fly out on the screen in any style they choose is really exciting. Clips is available on all school iPads (including the Library if students would like to check one out for a project).

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Check out a student-created example below!



Google Sites: 5th Grade

For 5th Graders, Google Sites has proven to be a great way to house their final “Passion Projects”, as well as being a helpful way for students to stay organized as they collect resources and check off project rubrics throughout the year. The opportunity to share their final work with extended family and those field experts who helped in their research makes it a great platform. Rising middle schoolers are able to approach the next phase of the school with expertise in using this tool when the time comes to showcase their learning within project-based models.


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Here is another example of “sites” in action with a 5th-grade reading group project that incorporated interactive maps using Google Sites.


Chances are, you are already familiar with Kahoot and are actively using it with your class for fun review sessions. If you are unfamiliar, it is a quiz making platform that has an interactive student/teacher interface. There are many ways to personalize it beyond its surface features. It is also worth noting that it is available on all library iPads as an app, which can be useful in groups or as a more mobile option when reviewing for a test.
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Click HERE for a video overview

Stone Soup

Stone Soup has been around for a while but it is still one of the top online literary magazines where students can submit their writing or art. Because of the frequency of publication, there is a greater likelihood of one of our young writers or artists being honored.
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Will McDonough Writing Contest

The Will McDonough Writing Contest is a great local writing contest centered around sports and sportsmanship, sponsored by the Boston Globe and TD Garden. Place finishers are honored at a Celtics game with a really nice luncheon before a game. They have different categories and in the past, even students who don’t consider themselves “sports enthusiasts” have won based on an original take defining sportsmanship. I have found it to be especially effective in capturing the interest of the otherwise reluctant writer who happens to love sports.
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Teaching Tolerance

You are likely already familiar with this fantastic resource but may not have visited their website. There are tons of updated resources that pair well with teaching literature or social studies.
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You are likely already quite familiar and even active on Good Reads, but you may not have considered it for student use. If even for an added resource to get students excited about new books, it is worth adding here.
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The Literacy Shed

The Literacy Shed has a free component that is still a wealth of resources for teaching English, even when you don’t use the paid version. It has videos, posters, printables, etc…
It also contains a great photo library for picture prompts, animation, story starters and more. There is a new feature, The Spelling Shed, that can be a great resource for students to complement any grade level spelling program currently used at different levels.
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Powtoon is an interactive presentation format that is vastly more engaging that google slides or powerpoint. The free version still has enough features to allow it to be more visually appealing and engaging than traditional presentations.
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Emaze is a super visually appealing platform for creating presentations. Because it contains such a robust catalog of templates and tools, it probably is more powerful in older grades. However, it can be made simple for those who are more comfortable sticking with the basics. For those who wish to pursue extended enrichment opportunities, they can dive into a deep well of features.
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Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark has been a popular free program for creating multimedia presentations for a while now. There is a “video” version and a more text-heavy “pages” version. Watch the video below to get a sense of the options available, even just in the free version.



Quizizz is similar to Kahoot but with the added bonus of being able to display the quiz questions directly on all student devices. It also has a large library of premade quizzes from teachers and students all around the world.
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Quizizz also has an app is on all library iPads so theoretically, a class could borrow them so they all had an iPad in front of them and their laptops could be freed up (or put away) depending on need.
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Socrative is in the same family of quiz creators and interactive digital learning platforms that help track student understanding in real time. You can set up classes as well so in effect it is a more formalized collection of student data than other quiz platforms like Quizlet or Kahoot.
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Watch a video demo below!


FLIPQUIZ is a resource for making Jeopardy-style games. It doesn’t link you to student responses, in the same way, some of the other platforms like Kahoot or Quizlet do, but it is a good option to have on hand, particularly for students that want to use this as a component to a presented lesson.
Click HERE try out a live demo template
Click HERE for a video overview
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Flipgrid is a popular platform for sharing and valuing individual student voice. As the teacher, you “proctor” in a sense and students submit responses to lessons, homework, discussions, chapters, videos etc…
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Click HERE for a quick video overview.


EDpuzzle is a program that lets you easily create lessons/mini-lessons and quizzes that incorporate video clips that you and/or students can annotate. It is a solid tool for both teacher designed and student created lessons.

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Fantasy Map Generator

This is a map making resource where students can create their own fantasy world. It is one way to incorporate coding into a project where you want students to create a utopia/distopia and establish a government or teach about the flow of a planet’s resources. However, students can also just edit within the map and options menus without coding if it makes more sense for your lesson. To take it a step further, students can first generate and re-name a map here, and then import it into another mapping program to mark up, or even beyond that, bring it into coSpaces to get a “virtual view”.
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Click HERE for a few additional helpful resources you can adapt from a project some of our students used to create their own.
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Google Tour Builder

Google Tour Builder continues to become more powerful in its ability to create interactive maps and presentations, blending a multimedia map-making platform within Google Earth. Virtual reality is at the forefront of some of the biggest additions to the latest version. NOTE: The Tour Builder platform will be discontinued and merged into Google Arts and Culture in June 2021


The Newseum has a really robust education branch that contains a huge volume of maps, primary sources and more. It also is a fantastic resource for teaching students about how to evaluate news and quality of information.
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Tiki-Toki Digital Timelines

This site is a powerful way to help students gain perspective of time and space. There are multiple views that you can toggle between and many students can collaborate to create a master timeline
Click HERE to check out a timeline created by 4th graders during their study of explorers.
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2D View
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3D View


ThingLink is another option for independent student projects, or unit wrap-ups for students to show what they have learned. Click HERE to examine the picture below to see how one could embed info into an animated gif. There are unlimited possibilities for using this platform either in teaching, student learning, assessment, and lesson enhancement.

Virtual Field Trips Through VR

360Cities is a free catalog of 360 Photos and Videos from around the world. THOUSANDS of pictures that students can immerse themselves in with or without VR headsets. Check out a few of the many ancient Greek sites the 5th graders could explore. Best of all, this resource can be paired with CoSpaces as the images are free for the students to use.
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CoSpaces could actually live anywhere on this menu as it is more a platform whereScreen Shot 2018-08-07 at 10.32.32 PM can create a 3-D world embedding any content they wish. One particularly powerful possibility is having students create a virtual museum, either collectively or individually.
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Students wishing to code may do so as it can use drag and drop for the non-coder, block-based coding for the novice coder, and java for the advanced coder. As a cherry on top, students can explore their world, museum, etc… using a virtual reality headset. 
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Wonderopolis is a great site for students to explore independently, or as a class “warm-up” as it rotates a new thought-provoking question a day. There is a ton of information, videos, etc… on a huge range of topics.


Unlike Epic, Biblionasium does not have a catalog of the actual e-readers, however it is a fantastic digital bookshelf that manages student reading logs for you. The best part is, the students can recommend books to each other, you could recommend them to the whole class, or add titles to a specific student’s bookshelf.

Book Creator: iPad

Book Creator has been a familiar resource for a few years now, but constant updates to the program have now really begun to unleash possibilities. The online platform allows our students to really tap into the ease with which they can create e-books and organize them on a digital bookshelf. It could even be a viable alternative to websites for housing and publishing their research projects.

Book Creator has also added a major update this Fall; the ability to embed content from

Embed from other sites and apps with a click of a button!

other sites and applications!

Explore some samples of ways our students have used Book Creator below!


This resource, Epic, is a digital library of over 30,000 books, free to educators where students can keep a bookshelf of fiction and nonfiction. Excellent extra option for research resources, as well as for igniting an interest in pleasure reading. I am happy to set this up for you and your class if you are interested in using it.

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