As many of us settle in to social distancing and distance learning, educators, parents, and students may feel at a loss when it comes to online resources. As a current 4th grade teacher and former 5th grade teacher, I (Joel) would like to offer my curated selection of free online resources that I have used over the last few years.
This first list is comprised of websites and apps that use instructional videos paired with self-grading quizzes to teach students complete units of material.
- Zearn: I used this website my first year teaching. Zearn is directly aligned with the Eureka Math curriculum, making it a very complete and cohesive educational program. Like the other websites in this first list, Zearn includes video lessons and questions that will automatically provide feedback on a student’s work. This free resource is great for K-5 students. Parents, you will need to make an account first, and then sign up your child.
- Freckle: I’ve been using Freckle’s free version for the last two years with my 4th-grade students. Parents can join for free by setting up a teacher account and then inviting their child. For math, teachers and parents have the option to either assign specific standards and activities to their child, or focus on one broader category (like Geometry). For parents during quarantine, I recommend checking with teachers to see if any material will not be taught during the school year, and then assigning that broader category to your child through Freckle. Freckle differs from Zearn by giving students a placement test before starting each Adaptive Practice unit—this allows Freckle to ask questions appropriate to each student’s performance level. My best estimate of Freckle’s targeted grade range based off of the resources I have seen would be K-9th. Freckle also has ELA, Social Studies, and Science activities available, although these resources may be more limited in the free version, and a free app for iPad users only.
- Khan Academy: Along the same lines as Zearn and Freckle, Khan Academy is a free resource with instructional videos and self-grading activities organized into courses. Khan Academy’s strength is its wide range of instructional content. Khan Academy has content from Kindergarten to high school. For high school this is definitely a go-to resource, with classes including Algebra, Calculus, Physics, Economics, SAT Prep, AP US History, and more. Khan Academy also has its own recommended schedule for students. With its breadth of material, Khan Academy could easily become a one-stop shop for parents, students, and educators. Khan Academy offers a free app for iPad, iPhone, and Android users.
- Code.org has an extensive coding curriculum and activities for students from Pre-K to high school. Once students pick their grade-appropriate course, Code.org will walk them through a series of instructional videos and guided practices.
Of course, not every website will offer comprehensive courses. Here are a few extremely useful, but more targeted sites.
- Spelling City: I’ve been using Spelling City regularly for the last two years. After making a free account, parents and students should start by picking the spelling curriculum and lists they want to import. In my class, we use the Words Their Way sorts on Spelling City. After importing lists, students can review the words with virtual flashcards, play spelling games, take practice tests, and ultimately take spelling tests online by listening to each word and typing the correct spelling. Spelling tests are automatically graded, and parents can track student activity and performance. My impression is that Spelling City is most used from K-8th grade, but it also has lists for high school students as well. Spelling City has an app for iPad, iPhone, and Android users.
- Free Rice partners with the United Nations World Food Programme to support children and families in need. With each question answered correctly, a small payment—with an estimated value of 10 grains of rice—goes to the World Food Programme. Free Rice does not require a login and has questions about English, Geography, Humanities, Languages, Math, Science, and even Covid19! As students answer more questions correctly, future questions become harder, making it appropriate for a wide range of ages. Free Rice has an app for iPad, iPhone, and Android users.
- Scratch is similar to code.org, offering a visual approach to coding targeting ages 8-16. Scratch has tutorial videos and starter projects, but it also leaves a lot of space for students to use their own imagination to make games, stories, and more. Making a free account is not required but it will allow students to save their projects. Scratch Jr. is a free, simplified app intended for 5-7 year-olds available on iPads (not iPhones) and on the Google Play Store.
- Go Noodle is a great resource for indoor stretch breaks. Go Noodle has hundreds of videos that include indoor exercise, yoga, choreographed dance routines through a partnership with Kidz Bop, educational videos, and completely ridiculous videos that students love. I have used Go Noodle almost every day for the last 3 years in my classroom.
- Teachers Pay Teachers is a time-saving website that many teachers use to find resources that other teachers have made. There are plenty of free downloads, and lots of electronic resources priced from 1-5 dollars. If you are looking for something specific—a student worksheet about Covid19, or some Project-Based Learning templates, Teachers Pay Teachers might be a great resource.
- CAASPP Practice Tests are available online. It is my understanding that many, if not most, schools in the United States will not be doing state-testing this year. But practice tests are still available! This link will take you to California’s state testing website, where you can log in as a guest to take a practice test. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will grade your test or save your answers. Take a look to see if your state has similar practice tests available online!
Fun, Informational YouTube Channels
The internet is a treasure trove of interesting information, and fortunately there are some smart people out there who research those interesting things and then present them in relatively short videos.
- NPR’s Skunk Bear is a YouTube channel that focuses on “exploring the secrets of the universe, the wonders of nature, and answering your science questions.”
- CGP Grey is yet another YouTube channel that has a large variety of interesting information. CGP Grey’s content seems to be produced for older students or adults, largely due to the speed at which he talks and the complexity of the information that he presents. I’m unaware of any inappropriate content on this channel, but this is one of the resources I have spent less time using.
- TED-Ed is a YouTube channel that has a large variety of educational and engaging videos. I recommend searching through their playlists to see what strikes your fancy: History, Mythology, Philosophy, and Riddles are just a few of the categories that TED-Ed has to offer.
- Crash Course is a YouTube channel started by John and Hank Green covering subjects from science and history to film studies and literature with cute, informational videos.
- 3Blue1Brown is a YouTube channel that explains difficult and complicated math topics in an easy-to-understand, visually beautiful way.