Nearpod: Mobile Learning + Interactive Presentation App

For classrooms that have 1:1 access with IPads, Nearpod would be one of those tools I would say absolutely had to be used in classroom instruction.  Mandatory use in instruction.  It combines presentation and lecture, quizzes, polling and formative assessment, video and hands on demonstrating.  There are two sides to Nearpod: the teacher side and the student side. From the teacher side, one can create interactive lessons by creating a presentation in Nearpod that is like a PowerPoint on steroids. There are six different types of features a teacher can add into a presentation.  The presentation can have multiple features, all one feature or a mixture of whatever the author wants.

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A few observations about the features:

  • If a teacher already has PowerPoints created and wants to incorporate those slides into a Nearpod presentation, it would be complete possible!  Just go to PowerPoint and save the PPT as images (this is an option in the File Menu).  Now each one of your slides is an image file that can be uploaded to Nearpod.  I think the whole “Save as Images” option is key in using Nearpod with materials you’ve already created.
  • The quizzes and Q&A make great formative assessment.  It’s a little bit tricky to do an open ended question or a question with multiple answers, but it is do-able.
  • “Draw it” is pretty awesome.  I tested it out in a math presentation at halfway through the presentation, the teacher included a “Draw it” slide where the students had to work through the problem.  The teacher sees all responses on his/her IPad.

The teacher creates an interactive, instructional presentation or lesson on the web.  When it’s time for the lesson, the teacher uses and IPad and logs in to the Nearpod app as a teacher.  The students type in a code assigned to that presentation and are immediately taken to the lesson.  It’s a teacher-paced presentation, so students are only able to see the part of the presentation the teacher wants.  When the teacher is ready to move on to the next screen of the presentation, the teacher swipes the screen and all student screens will go to the next feature.  It’s a great instructional app that allows the teacher to move through content while allowing students the opportunity to get involved and participate, all while collecting data on understanding.

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Nearpod is one of those progression instructional tools.  Content used to be delivered through lecture.  Then overhead.  Then PowerPoint presentations.  Now the presentation includes interactive elements and is right there in each student’s hands.  It’s best used in situations where there is 1 IPad for every 1 student involved (either a 1:1 environment or a small group setting).  I think that in the future of IPads in Education, Nearpod will be the instructional tool that all others are measured by.


Temple Run as a Teaching Tool

IPads and games go together better than almost anything.  And kids love it.  Teachers can harness that love and excitement by finding ways to use these games as teaching tools.  Almost any game that has scores, numbers and levels can be made into a math activity with a little bit of creativity.  I’ve seen examples of this using Angry Birds to study and practice vectors and velocity but I think something simple like Temple Run can be integrated into an elementary classroom with ease.

temple-run-trees-hurt-death-photo Each user or player runs through a course, picking up coins and attempting to travel as many meters as possible.  After each pass through the course (which could last a few seconds or a few minutes depending on the skill of the player), an end screen is shown with a list of statistics.  Anytime statistics and numbers are displayed, it makes for a great educational opportunity.

Here are some ideas for using Temple Run as a classroom activity:

  • Have students work in small groups, each taking a turn on the game.  After each player, record all the data on a chart:  Score, Distance, Coins and Reason the Run ended.  Compare data and/or make a chart with the numbers.
  • Play the game multiple times, recording the data after each run.  Figure out the average score, distance and coins.
  • Convert the distance traveled from meters into feet or miles.  Play until you reach 10 miles (forcing students to figure out how many meters would be necessary to reach 10 miles).
  • On the opening statistics page where high scores are stored.  Compare your individual scores to the high scores.
  • Create a class chart of the reasons each player’s game ends (tree, water, eaten by creatures, fire, etc.) and calculate percentages and fractions.
  • Test the score formula: (provided by Wikipedia)

Their score is determined by their distance, plus five times the number of coins collected, plus 600 times the ordinal number of the total number of coins divisible by 100. These three values are then added and multiplied. The value of the multiplier is 10 more than the number of objectives unlocked. The formula is s = (m)(d+5c+t); “s” being number of points; “m” number of objectives unlocked + 10; “d” being distance; “c” being number of coins; “t” being the coin multiplier of 600 times the whole number remaining of c/100.

  • Use it as a writing prompt.  What was your character doing in that temple?  Why were they running?  How did the run go and what did you see?  How did your run end?

Some upper level mathematical equations with Temple Run:

No Red Ink Grammar Review

Edmodo has quite a few “apps” that could easily be integrated into your classes if you are already using Edmodo.

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One I came across last week is called NoRedInk and it generates grammar exercises, assignments and quizzes using pop culture references.  A great resource for upper Elementary and Middle School teachers — great review site for High School.

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The app is free.  Students will have to get the app from the Edmodo App store and then all of your students will automatically be registered and be able to do your NoRedInk activities.  I created a practice activity to demonstrate how NoRedInk works.  I “assigned” everyone in the Denver Edmodo Training Group a grammar assignment.  If you get the app from the app store and access it, you should be able to complete that activity and see the student side of it.


Here are some additional features:

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When creating a grammar activity, you can choose the category.  Each category has subtopics.  The possible categories: Apostrophes, Commonly Confused Words, Subject/Verb Agreement, and Commas, Fragments & Run-ons.  If you want to focus on a specific subtopic, you can checkbox just that topic (like who’s vs. whose) or leave it wide open.  You choose the number of questions and points.  You can schedule it for a specific time or make it available right away.


You can also make it available for only a few students.  This would be great for intervention.

I also like how the data for each class is displayed.  I breaks down each category and color codes each student’s proficiency in each subtopic.  You can easily scan to see if many students struggle with a certain topic, etc.

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The Hunger Games Review Game

I resist most cultural phenomena on principle, but when a sixteen year old boy talks to you about how amazing a book series is, you have to take notice.  I only recently embraced “The Hunger Games” (as in I read the first book last week).  Coincidentally, I came across a review game activity based on “The Hunger Games” in my Edmodo World Languages community last week.  With a little tweaking, I knew it could be a major hit in the classroom.

The Set-Up

  • Arrange 12 desks in a circle/semi-circle.  If you have more than 12 students, place extra desks in tight clusters so that there are 12 little clusters of desks in a circle.
  • Prepare Questions:  I planned on playing five rounds during the game with 12 questions per round.  You could do random questions and pull them out of a hat too.
  • Fill 12 cups with beans.  I used jellybeans and put 5 jellybeans in each cup.  Label the cups with numbers #1-12.
  • Prepare the Cornucopia (see later)

The Beginning

  • Separate the students into the 12 separate districts (12 separate groups).  I always choose the grouping.  If numbers allow me to do so, I put my advanced students alone and match up my lower ability students so they may work with each other.
  • Give each district their cup of beans, stressing that they should not eat their beans.  The objective of the game is to acquire the most beans anyway, so they shouldn’t want to eat their chances of winning.
  • Begin with District 1 and ask the first review question.  If the student answers incorrectly, just move on to the next District.  If the student answers correctly, they may go and 1/2 of another District’s beans.  Continue by asking the next District a question.
  • After District 12 has answered their first question, the Capitol (the teacher) makes an announcement by drawing one of the Capitol cards.

Capitol Cards

I was preparing 5 rounds of the game and therefore I prepared 4 Capitol cards: one card to be read at the conclusion of Rounds 1, 2, 3 and 4. Here is what I used:

  • Redistribution of Districts: The Capitol has decided to change the resources of each district as a reminder that the Capitol is in control.  All cups rotate one District to the right.
  • Quarter Quell:  The time has come for districts to face each other in battle.  During the next round, each District must challenge another District before the question is asked.  Whichever of the two districts answers that question correctly gets to take 1/2 the losing District’s beans. In case of a tie, the win goes to the lowest numbered District.
  • Cornucopia: All Districts are in need of something to make their success in this game easier.  These items are in bags in the Cornucopia.  At the signal of the Capitol, team members may go and retrieve one bag from the Cornucopia.  Bags may not be opened until the Capitol permits.  These items may be used for the entirety of the game unless otherwise noted.
  • Silver Parachute: Sponsors have agreed to give aid to one struggling team.  Give extra beans to the team with the lowest number of beans.  In case of a tie, the tie goes to the highest numbered District.

I filled 12 bags with a variety of things for the bags in the Cornucopia.  I had some bags filled with a few jellybeans, bags with vocabulary or notes and some filled with empty paper.  I also had an “Auto-Win” card, where students could play it and automatically get a question correct.  There was a “Blockade” card too, where a team could block others from taking their beans for an entire round.

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The Victor

After playing all five rounds of the game, the student with the most jellybeans was declared the victor.  I gave out extra credit to the winner.

The Fallen Tributes

I wondered about how to deal with “killing” other districts or being eliminated from the game.  In one class, we played that if a student was down to one bean, you couldn’t take that one bean.  That kept players in the game.  My second class was much more inspired by the notion of eliminating their competitors, forming alliances, etc.  It made for a more interesting game.  But, since it was a review game, eliminated players still had to answer questions, but they couldn’t take nor receive jellybeans.  They couldn’t win but they were still forced to play.

I thought it went pretty well.  It took awhile to count out half of the jellybeans when we got towards the end of the game but I can’t figure a way around that.  It was a nice review activity and I would probably do it again in the future.  It took some prep time but it was exciting and the students really enjoyed it.

Grammar Auction

Sometimes obscure websites have the greatest hidden treasures.  A few months ago, I came across a grammar activity website that included directions for a Grammar Auction classroom activity.  I thought it sounded promising and decided to try it out this week.
Setup:  I prepared 20 sentences, some written with grammar errors and others that were written perfectly.  I made a PowerPoint to help me keep track of the sentences, each one given a random, non-sequential “lot number”.  When students came into class, I randomly separated them into groups of 3 or 4.
Activity Introduction: Groups were given $5000 of fake money as their auction budget.  For each sentence up for bid, or for each “lot”, I would read a Spanish sentence.  After repeating the sentence, we started the bidding at $50.
Final Objective/Winner:  Students wanted to spend their money on quality items, not defective items (the poorly written sentences).  At the end of the auction, the winning group would be the group that bought the most correct sentences.  If there would be a tie between groups, the winner was the one that spend the least amount of money.
Students didn’t know how many sentences were available and never knew when the auction was going to end, therefore they couldn’t just sit on their money and do nothing.  Today I had a homework assignment for students at the end and as a reward for the winning group, I gave them a automatic pass on that assignment.  It was definitely a motivating factor.
Probably one of the greatest activities I have ever done.
My Spanish 2 students had been working on their proofreading skills so this was a perfect time to introduce the auction.  I had wondered if reading the sentences to them was too difficult and thought about showing them the written sentences, but decided that might be too easy.  They did a GREAT job with the learning outcomes.  They listened carefully and discriminately, they discussed with their group members, reasoning with each other to determine whether or not it would be a good buy.
Gamesmanship was a huge part of this and I think that made the students like it even more.  It wasn’t just about buying a good sentence and not a bad sentence – – it was about watching your money, budgeting, trying to run up bids on other teams, trying to bait other teams into buying bad sentences, etc.  There were a lot of undercurrent things happening in the class but the activity still revolved around knowing our Spanish grammar.  It was kind of like a game stacked on top of a game.  I love this for a couple of reasons.  1) I feel like my students that easily understand things get bored with repeated practice activities and games, and the added layers involved in the Grammar Auction allowed them to experience something else in addition to bottom-line learning outcomes.  2) Students that struggle often feel left out or overwhelmed with straight-up practice activities and are sometimes instantly turned off and disinterested in activities they perceive they will not be successful in.  The added layers serve as hooks or tributaries that help pull these students into the core of the activity.  I saw students that started out just as the money counter or the bidder, but as the activity progressed, they became fully involved without really having to try.  It’s a trick on them, treat for me.
Grammar Auction Sentences
I was hugely pleased with the processing and application of learning concepts that I witnessed and thought this was a valuable experience for my students.  I feel very good about our upcoming Grammar Test on Friday.  But the students are the real judges.  They seemed very engaged and excited, but asked anyway:  Was this activity something we should try to do again?  The answer was a loud “YES!”.  Honestly, it was the most enthusiastic YES I’ve ever gotten.
The only downside to the grammar auction is that I budgeted for each group to have $5000 and printed only $50 bills.  So I had to count 100 $50 bills.  For each group.  For three different class periods.  Ouch.

Three Vocab Review Sites

I’ve been a fan of Quizlet for a long time and often use it with my students as a way to drill and review vocabulary.  I consistently tell my students that the best way to feel comfortable in learning a new language is to master the vocab, and drilling sites like Quizlet have been very helpful.

Recently I’ve heard great things about two other sites: StudyBlue and WordChamp.  I decided to invest a chunk of my summer in setting up my vocabulary on these three sites.


I’ve always found Quizlet simple and fun for the students.  They love SpaceRace, a game within each set of vocabulary that lets them type the translation for our word before it runs off the edge of the page.  I have documented evidence that notes a correlation between Quizlet use and academic performance.  Most of my vocabulary was already added to Quizlet in previous years, so setting it up for this year was a breeze.

Final thoughts: Great games, user friendly, a must for a language classroom


I came across some rave StudyBlue reviews last Spring and thought it sounded promising.  It’s much like Quizlet, although a little more exclusive.  Each student has an individual “backpack” and can join courses and share materials with any students also enrolled in those courses.  After about 5 minutes in StudyBlue, it’s easy to figure out that it is tailored to college students looking to share notes and materials with other classmates.  I went back and forth with some support people asking questions about how a teacher might share material with students and/or make vocabulary lists public for all students enrolled in the class.  I’m still not really sure if it’s possible, how easy it will be and how troublesome the sharing process will be.  I know I can “invite” students to view my list by individually emailing them, but I don’t want my students to have to check their email to access a vocabulary list through StudyBlue’s website.

I’m really on the fence about this program, but it has a nice flashcard program for both IOS and Andriod systems.  The flashcard programs track difficult words and gives students statistics about their studying.  That could be really useful but I’m not sure my students nor I will be able to get through the confusing setup phase.  We’ll give it a try though.

Final thoughts: Possibly confusing and too technical/not-user-friendly, great mobile app

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WordChamp is not a flashcard or vocabulary drill site like StudyBlue or Quizlet.  It is a site specifically designed for language teachers and language learners.  I created an account (free) and a course (I created three).  I can create vocabulary lists, similar to the other sites, but WordChamp does a really great thing when I put in my vocabulary.  As I added the words, I saw a little speaker icon next to some of the words.  WordChamp recognizes (most) words in all languages and has audio of those words being spoken.  For example, I put in “lawyer/abogado” and I have a recording of someone saying the word “lawyer” and a recording of a native speaker saying “abogado”.  If audio isn’t available for a certain word or phrase, you can record or upload your own.

Once vocabulary lists are created, a teacher can create homework assignments for different classes.  Students complete these homework assignments online.  There are dozens of different types of assignments, and I’m still trying to sort through them.  There are simple translation exercises, audio exercises, speaking/recording practice and conjugation drills.  There are some more options too but those are the ones I’ve practiced with so far.

Final thoughts: Love the audio options, customizable homework assignments and potential

WordChamp Homework Assignment Options