Three Apps for the Classroom That Teachers are Guaranteed to Love!

Hi Everyone! Welcome back to the Teacher Resources blog! So glad to have you!

Let’s start the new “blog year” off right with some new technology sites! What I want to highlight today are a few sites that have really taken off here at the Beltline Center! Maybe some of you heard about a couple of these during Vicky Dolganiuc’s technology report from the TESOL Conference! If you have the opportunity to use the mobile lab, or the I-pads you should definitely check out these sites! Students love them. And for you, they are a wonderful tool for games, assessments, surveys, and more.

KAHOOT. Let’s start with the popular kahoot website! It’s fantastic! You can make it as complicated, or as simple, as you want!  It’s an interactive game that students play on their smartphones or computer. So you can use this app in the computer lab, or in the classroom if your students have smartphones.

Here’s how to use it:

First, create a user name at  There, you can create quizzes, surveys, or polls.

After you select which quiz you want to use, the students log in at using a specific number assigned to you.  From there, start the activity.  After each activity there is a score and feedback on how the students are doing. When finished, you can save the results, and then you have an automatic assessment of how each student is doing.

In the photo below, the picture on the left shows a question that is projected onto the screen. The picture on the right shows what the students see on their smartphones. The answers are color coded and easy to use.

First Grade Chromebook Pre-Assessment

photo by Kevin Jarrett/flickr

QUIZLET. The next great app is at There is nothing simpler! Seriously, in ten minutes you can create an expansive range of vocabulary focused activities! You simply enter the vocabulary words you want the students to learn, assign a picture to each word (available o the website), and you are finished! Everything else is done for you!

When the student logs in to the site, they will find SIX different activities for practicing the vocabulary. The practice ranges from flash cards to concentration to writing. It’s very, very easy for you to create vocabulary lists! The site does all the work for you!

POLL EVERYWHERE. This app allows you to create polls for your students. It’s easy to use, and you simply enter your question, and the students respond on their smartphones (or you can also use it in on a computer). It’s a great way to get immediate insight and feedback from your students.

Free Lesson Plans and Activities

If you are searching for lesson plans you might want to visit the ESL Virtual Library of Lesson Plans. It’s a collection of plans and learning activities created by teachers at North Carolina community colleges.

Who can use the site? Anyone who teaches ESL!

What can you find on the site?

  • Lesson plans
  • Civics lessons
  • North Carolina Curriculum Guide (includes lesson plans and activities)
  • Citizenship Preparation
  • In My Own Words (students’ stories about coming to live in the United States)
  • Links to Literature (student activities to link literature to American history and civics)
  • Participatory Learning in ESL
  • Living in America (addresses civics and culture)
  • Salud Latina (health lesson plans)
  • Technology (lesson plans focused on civics/incorporating technology)
  • The House I Live In (civics, housing, and the American Dream)

Can I use these materials in my class? Yes, of course! That’s exactly what the site is for! Use the materials for lesson planning and classroom activites. There are worksheets, activities, lesson plans, videos, audio collections, and games.

Who created this content?  Most of the lesson plans were created by instructors at North Carolina community colleges. Each lesson plan includes the creator’s name/community college.

What is best about this site? It’s full of lesson plans and activities. Once you choose a topic you’ll find multiple levels of information. You just have to start looking around!  It’s very easy to navigate.

What levels are the lessons intended for? The majority of the lessons are appropriate for beginner and intermediate level students. As with most lessons, you can simplify or expand the lesson to accommodate the students in your class.

What is challenging about the site? As a user, I want to know the credentials of the authors, and also the sources and reasons behind a post. At times it’s not clear to me the purpose of a post, or the source of the information. But, that wouldn’t stop me from using the site! It has tons of information!! Take a look!

What can you do to get students to class on time?

Our classes have exact starting times, yet many students seem to trickle into class.  Do you wonder why? Is it because of their schedules? Is it the teacher? Is it the class? I am not sure we’ll ever know the complete answer to these questions, but one thing we can do is make the first half hour of class interesting and a reason to arrive on time. Additionally, you can avoid wasting time waiting for the late students to arrive. What do you do the first 30 minutes of class? How do you manage the “trickle in” effect? Here are some ideas to get you thinking about that first half hour, and how to manage it.

Songs. Sing together, or play a song and create activities using the song. Have students tell you their favorite songs and then use the lyrics for English practice. Or, the class learn the lyrics to a new song, and practice it as class begins.

Current events. Discuss local and national events.  Use local/national news broadcasts as prompts. Create vocabulary practice using current events. Practice identifying new grammar structures, summarizing, retelling, predicting, changing tenses, etc.

Pronunciation.  Play pronunciation games, or choose different pronunciation issues to focus on and practice.

Topic discussion. Give the students a particular topic to discuss with a partner. Possibly include question prompts to get them talking.

Weekend report.  For the Monday class, create an activity about events from the past weekend. Students could do a short, impromptu writing about what happened over the weekend, or it could be a speaking activity. Practice particular grammar structures while reporting, as needed.

Photos of local landmarks or places to see. Take photos of places around town that students might be interested in learning about. Or, popular places to visit. Then, students can use the photos as writing prompts, speaking prompts, or discussion topics.  You could also use photos of places that students regularly visit, such as a favorite restaurant, club, workplace, etc., and create activities using those photos.

American culture. Students are always interested to learn about American culture. Think about general American culture topics, and also local cultural events and customs.

Share personal photos or stories. It seems the students like to learn about their teachers. Share photos from vacation, about your family, a hobby, or whatever inspires you.

Video clips. Students can write about video, discuss with another student, practice retelling the story, identify specific grammar used in the video, sequence the story, and more.

Show ‘n Tell. We learned it in kindergarten, but adults enjoy learning about each other and other cultures too.  They can bring something that they created themselves, or an item that is important to them. Or, something from their culture they want to talk about.

Introduce students to a new website for English practice. Have them practice on the computers in pairs or small groups.

Tell a story or a joke.

American history. Talk about key historical people in American history, events, celebrations, etc.

Photos. Take student photos and then use those photos for activities, such as describing picture, making predictions, etc. They always get a kick out of seeing themselves onscreen!

Audio. Use audio recordings of classmates talking, and then use them as a warm up or introduction to class (with their permission, of course). Have students read short stories, and then the others can answer questions about the story. Or, record a dialogue between students and create an activity around it. If you have a smartphone, there are multiple smartphone apps available for voice recording.

Card games or board games. Games that are instructional, or ‘just for fun”, as long as done in English, will provide additional practice for the students.  Lower level students like Go Fish with phonics cards, for example.

Thanks to the TESOL blog for the inspiration and some of the ideas! The link to the blog is here: 



Get ’em moving?

It’s happened to everyone. You know that moment when you look out into the sea of faces, and you see it! The look on their faces that tells you they’ve had enough! The fidgeting in their seats, the talking, the general restlessness! And you still have an hour of class to go! What to do, what to do?

Get ’em up! Get ’em moving! That’s right, get them out of their seats and moving around! How, you say? Any way you can, from simple stretches to short, active games!  Movement awakens the brain, the body, the spirit. There are many resources with suggestions for physical activity in the class. The one that follows has activities that are explained very clearly, with illustrations and videos. Yes, it’s geared towards younger students, but many of the activities could be used, or adapted for use, in our adult classes. And, if nothing else, it might inspire you to try something new!

I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Once they start moving, their energy increases and their moods lift!

Want to learn ideas about quick, short (1-5 minute) classroom activites, then just click on these links and download the Take a Break Teacher Toolbox.  The Toolbox is filled with activities. Let me know what you think.

Here are a few suggestions from the Toolbox:

  • Breathing/Stretching
  • Stand up for: Read a short story. Identify a specific word for the students to listen for. Every time you say this word students must stand up, then sit back down.
  • What’s my job? Write these occupations on the board: firefighter, doctor, chef, basketball player, soccer player, dancer. Student must act out all the jobs, while others guess the job. A more physical form of charades.
  • Yoga
  • Brain teasers: Games and puzzles that incorporate physical movement
  • Walking breaks: take 2-5 minutes in class for a walking break.
  • Walk and Talk: put students in small groups. Assign discussion question. Students walk while they complete the activity.
  • Roll Some Brain Breaks: A board game using dice. Each square on the board has a different activity.

And for those of you who like to dig deep into all the details, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has funded a study about the impact of classroom activity on children. Again, not exactly our student population, but it makes one wonder how much of this information IS relevant for them.

Board Games for the Classroom


photo by bilk.byu

Seems to me that many folks like to play games, and it’s a great way for the students to practice their English. Here are some of the top BOARD GAMES for the ESL classroom.  Do you play any of these in your class?  What other board games do your students play in class? (The last 3 in this list are downloadable games and ideas from the internet.)

Scrabble.  Hundreds of ESL students have played this classic word game. In the game, students receive a selection of letters which they must use to make word in a crossword style grid. When you, the teacher, also play, you have the opportunity to introduce unusual vocabulary to your students. Straying slightly from the rules makes for a more enjoyable game for nonnative speakers. Try allowing use of the dictionary at any point for any player and refrain from keeping score.

Upwords.  Upwords is a game very similar to Scrabble. In this game, students use their collection of letters to build words on the crossword style grid. Unlike Scrabble, in Upwords players can place letters on top of existing letters to change a word that is already on the board. For example, on a player’s turn he may add a T to the word bash turning it into bath. In this game, your students will see the relationships between words and recognize patterns in English spelling.

Bananagrams. A relative newcomer on the game scene, Banagrams uses letter tiles to create a grid of words, but in this game no structure is permanent. Players start with a set number of letters and use them to create their own word grid. When one player has used all of his letters, everyone must draw another tile and incorporate it into their own structures. Each person can rearrange his word grid as desired. This game can be fast paced when higher-level students play, but even with less advanced students it is a ready source for learning new vocabulary. In addition, it teaches students flexibility with words and spelling structures.

Scrabble Slam. Similar to Upwords, Scrabble Slam uses cards printed with letters to modify an existing word. In this game, there is only one four-letter word on the board and all players must use their own cards on this word. By the traditional rules, everyone plays at once, and the player to use all of his cards first wins. However, ESL classes may want to take turns playing on the word so your class has time to think and absorb each of the words that are created.

Scattergories. Scattergories is a way for your students to practice using the vocabulary they already know. In this game, students receive a list of ten categories. With a roll of the 26-sided die, a letter is designated for the round. Players must then think of a word which begins with that designated letter to fit each of the categories. Answers may be something like the following: boy’s name/Tom, food/tomato, city/Toronto, game/tic-tac-toe. A timer is set, and when time is up the group reviews the items they listed. Any words that more than one player listed are eliminated. Each remaining word is worth one point. This game can be a challenge for students still learning the language, but it can easily be adapted for lower level students. Feel free to define your own categories, linked, perhaps, to a unit you are studying in class and then continue as usual.

For a simpler version of this game, you can just give the students a category and a time limit. Students must write as many words as they can think of. Whomever has the most words is the winner. Or, you can give them 1 point for a correct word, and another point if it is spelled correctly.

Catch Phrase. Catch Phrase is a word guessing game in hot potato style. The starting player has a disk which gives him a word. He can say anything to get the rest of the players to guess the word on the screen. Once that word is guessed, he passes the disk on to the next player. That person then does the same. After a random amount of time, the disk will signal that time is up, and the person holding the disk at that time receives a point. The goal of this game is to have as few points as possible. To make the game easier for your ESL students, you can challenge each person to have his word guessed before the timer buzzes. Then reset the disk and send it on to the next player.

Taboo.  In this game, players must get their team to guess a given word, but each word comes with related vocabulary that cannot be used in the description. They key in this game is to think of another way to give the clues on the card. Players do this by using similar but not the same vocabulary. You can modify this concept and have your students write out clues for a given word, avoiding the vocabulary on the card. Limit the description to four or five sentences. If the class can guess the word from the clues that are provided, the writer scores a point. You can feel free to use vocabulary that the class has studied or select specific words from those that the game supplies. This game challenges your students to be creative with their language use – a skill that is useful for all language learners.

Balderdash. The game of balderdash is best reserved for advanced students. In this game, on his turn, a player is given an obscure vocabulary word. Each player must create a false definition of the word in hopes that the other players will believe it is the true definition. When playing this game, the teacher should be moderator every turn and correct any grammatical problems in the fictional definitions as well as write the correct definition on an identical slip of paper. Then s/he should read all of the definitions to the players who must vote for the one they think is correct. Any player that guesses correctly scores a point as does any player who receives a vote from another player.

Funglish. Quickly find and play tiles on the easel to get players to guess as many words on a card as you can.  Score points for successfully giving clues and for correctly guessing words.  To win, have the most points after three rounds of play. This is a wonderful game for practicing adjectives.

Jenga. Though not a traditional board game, Jenga can be a handy resource for students to get to know each other. Using any list of icebreaker questions (you can try these: 50 Most Amazing Conversation Starters) , write one question on each block. Then when your class plays the game, each person must answer the icebreaker before placing the block on top of the pile. By doing this, your students get speaking practice while getting to know one another better. Besides, it is always fun to see who makes the tower fall!

I-Spy Books. Create your own board game with pictures from an I-Spy book or any other pictures that contain a plethora of objects. On a piece of paper, have your students write the letters of the alphabet from a to z. Then let them look at the picture for a set amount of time (three to five minutes is good) and try to identify an object that begins with each letter. Of course, it will be nearly impossible to find an item for every letter, but by using creative vocabulary and having keen eyesight, your students will be able to fill in more letters than they might think. This is another game that is good for vocabulary development and is less threatening for beginning level students.

Mistakes and Ladders.  This games combines spelling and a board game. Download the game here:

Dominoes. While not technically a board game, dominoes shouldn’t be forgotten! There are many variations on this game for your students to practice spelling, vocabulary, or phonics using dominoes. Click on the link for games:

Bogglesworld Games.  Our friends over at have many board games for practicing everything from basic vocabulary to verb tenses.  Lots of choices here.

Worksheet and puzzle generators

There are hundreds of websites available to educators to help in the creation of worksheets and games.  Using a website or any online resource can help you save time, so that you can focus on the more important aspects of being in the classroom! Who wants to spend time cutting and pasting when you can quickly click and create!

Worksheet makers and printable materials. Tools for Educators offersfree printable worksheet makers, online teacher tools and a host of to make materials for lessons, get lesson plan support and printable materials for classes.

Paragraph Scrambler. Type the paragraph. Press “scramble” and DONE!

Free Flashcard Maker.

Puzzle makers.  Create crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, and more word games at these sites.

Cloze creator.  Simple to use. Enter your text, and then highlight words to omit. Then, you can copy and paste into a document. To see how to use this site along with a video, click on this link. It’s pretty cool, and would be great to use in a computer lab.

 Exercise Generator. Create exercises on this BBC website. It’s free, but you must register before using it.

 PAID SITES: This site has lots of different options for classroom use (quiz/cloze/drag and drop/embed on web page). $25.00 annual fee  Here’s an example of how to use the site with student generated activities: Multiple options for creating worksheets, bingo cards, reading activities, word walls, spelling activities, and lots, lots more. $29.99/year.  Multimedia platform. Free and paid versions available.  Reading activities, worksheet and game creator.  $19.99/year.

Games for the classroom


photo from

Whether you are a fan of games in the classroom, or prefer other activities, there probably comes a time when you just might want to play! Where to look? What are good sites? What are some good games that facilitate practice and learning? Here’s my list! What would you add to this list?