DK Find Out! for Student Research

I'm always on the look out for sites that provide a safer research experience for elementary students.  (Note: You'll never hear me say "kid safe". Nothing is totally safe on the internet.  We always have to provide instruction in digital literacy and searching skills.) 

DK Find Out is a site I learned about on the "i Teach with Technology" blog.  It looks like a great resource for elementary student research.  It's very visual and all the searches go to DK webpages so you don't have to worry about the sites that it links to.  

Students can search by keyword or phrase with the search box or explore through a visual subject index.  

I always test new search sites using the keyword "chicks" (Lots of elementary students watch chicken eggs hatch and search for "chicks" rather than "chickens".  If you put "chicks" in some search engines, chicken results is NOT what you're going to get!)  You can see that DK Find Out returned lots of results all dealing with birds.  :-)

All of the pages are arranged the same... text on the left with an interactive picture on the right (click the labels on the picture to learn more).  There's also a little quiz, links to more information about the topic and sometimes even an audio file to listen to.

Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments!

Draw and Tell HD App

Draw and Tell HD is a drawing (and recording!) app created by Duck Duck Moose (the same company who created Chatterpix Kids).  It's free today for the first time! 

Students can choose from a variety of backgrounds, including notebook paper, graph paper, primary handwriting paper, patterns or even a picture from the camera roll.  


Students can draw with a pencil, paint brush, colored pencil or crayon.  There are also stickers to illustrate stories or create math representations.  

Once students have created their drawing, they can tap the microphone icon and record themselves explaining their picture.  This would be great for explaining math reasoning or practicing reading vocabulary or spelling words.  

The creations automatically save within the app and can be saved to the camera roll.  You can even combine multiple pictures/recordings into a single movie to save to the camera roll.  This would be an easy way to create a "book" (slideshow) about math fact families or word families.  

One tip:  While the music might be a little annoying, you'll probably want students to have their sound turned on the first time they use the app because it does give instructions about how to use it.  

Throwback Thursday - 100 Word Challenge

I first blogged about the 100 Word Challenge in this post from September 2013.  The 100 Word Challenge is a fun and easy way to make global connections and provide a real life audience for student writing.

Each week students are given a prompt on the website (sometimes a picture and sometimes a phrase).  Students around the world (under the age of 16) write 100 word stories based on the prompt and post to a class blog.  Students can then read the blogs and comment on the stories  written by other students (both older and younger). It's a great way for students to get blog comments from outside their classroom and also a great way to encourage high level writing from your students.

Even if your students aren't blogging, they can still share their stories with each other and read stories from the showcase online.  

If you want to start blogging, EasyBlog is super easy (even kinders can do it!)  Here's our blog post on how to get started with EasyBlog

TouchCast - Create Your Own News Show!

TouchCast is a free app that lets you create your own newscast... complete with picture in picture content and green screen effects.  Some ideas for using TouchCast to show learning in content areas:

There are many "vApps" that can be added to your news show.  

In my opinion, the most useful ones for elementary students to show their iPad work would be:
  • Web Page - to link to the student's blog post
  • Photo - to add picture from camera roll (PicCollage, Skitch, camera, math tool apps)
  • Video - (only available on iPad Airs and higher) to add video from camera roll (Tellagami, Chatterpix, Shadow Puppet Edu, 30Hands, iMovie)
  • Question - to add a quiz
  • List - list facts, top 10, etc.
  • Pull Quote - to share a quote from a book, famous person, etc.
  • Poll - it won't be interactive, but students could create a question to ask the audience.
A couple of cautions for using TouchCast with students:
  • Be sure they stay on the "Cast Side".  This is where they will create their projects.  Don't allow them to switch to the "Touch Side".  This is a gallery that has already created projects.  While most of them would not have inappropriate content, it's better to be safe than sorry and there's really no need for them to explore these.
  • When they create a new project, it's safest to choose the "Start from Scratch" option.  The others may look cool but there's a possibility of inappropriate information scrolling on the built in news tickers, etc.
  • Don't allow students to create a TouchCast account if they're under 13.  They can save their projects to their camera roll and upload to Google for sharing.  If it asks you to sign in when you start the app, just choose "Another Time".  Note: The TouchCast terms of service do say that under 13 students aren't allowed to use the service.  I've contacted the company directly and they have given us permission to use it with under 13's as long as they are supervised by their teacher and don't create an account.

Here's my step by step guide for getting started with TouchCast:

Throwback Thursday: Toontastic!

Toontastic is another one of those apps we used "way back when" that was free (with paid add-on packs) but went to an all paid model and is now back to free... ALL free.  Google bought the company awhile ago and now EVERY "playset" and feature that used to cost money is FREE.  

Students can create cartoons with scenes.  It defaults to 5 scenes but you can delete the ones you don't need or you can add more if necessary.  Each one has a category (setup, conflict, challenge, etc.) to guide a full story but the individual scenes can be whatever you want them to be... they're all the same.

The first time students go through the app, you'll want the sound to be on (with headphones probably!) because it walks students step by step through the process of creating their cartoon.  There are all kinds of background scenes to choose from... great for stories about community, animal habitats, biomes or even the signing of the Declaration of Independence!  Students can also use their own drawings or pictures from their camera roll as a background.

After selecting a scene, students pick their characters ("toys").  Again there are tons to choose from in a variety of categories.  There are even some famous people like George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Susan B. Anthony.  Just like the background, they can create their own characters from drawings.

Once the scene is set and characters are picked, students record their voice acting out their cartoon.  This is where the content comes in.  Students can create an animation for an original story they've written but it doesn't stop there.  Just like with Scribble Press, Toontastic can be used to create non-fiction videos for all subject areas.  Here's some ideas I shared in a blog post back in October of 2013 (
  • Math- Explain the steps used to solve a problem or explain a concept such as rounding or estimating
  • Science- Create a story explaining the 3 forms of matter or the water cycle (or any other science topic!), document a lab experiment by telling the hypothesis and results; create lab safety videos
  • SS- Create a story using characters to represent two or more historical figures and have them discuss or debate an historical topic relevant to their era.
  • ELA- Create stories to present various grammar topics in a conversation or to demonstrate sentence types; retell a story; book reviews; show their knowledge of literary elements
  • Foreign Language- Students can create a story with a two way conversation to practice asking/answering questions in a new language.
  • Other- Create PSAs on bullying, Red Ribbon Week or Internet Safety

Final products can be saved to the camera roll and uploaded to Google Drive.

Check out this blog post from Irene Boynton, 1st grade teacher at Cannon Elementary.  Her students recently used Toontastic to share their learning about animal characteristics. 

Global Project - Awesome Squiggles K12 Collaborative Art Project

The Awesome Squiggles K12 Collaborative Art Project looks like an easy (and fun!) way for students to practice being Global Citizens (a GCISD Portrait of a Graduate trait!)  The objectives as stated on the project's website are to:

  • Build friendships among students from diverse backgrounds
  • Practice speaking and listening skills with audiences of different perspectives
  • Empower students to share their creativity with the world
When you sign up, you get to choose how involved you want to be with the project.  There is a level 1 with social sharing only and a level 2 with class to class collaboration. Step by step instructions can be found here:

Registration closes this Friday, March 25th so be sure to get signed up now!

Scribble Press Deluxe

Scribble Press Deluxe

Scribble Press Deluxe is a great app that students can use to create books but it's not just for stories!  Here's some ideas for using Scribble Press in all content areas:
  • Math - Use as a math journal throughout the year to illustrate and explain concepts.
  • Science - Create a book to explain a science experiment. Use pictures from the actual lab to illustrate. Create books to explain a topic to younger students.
  • SS - Create biographies of famous Americans. Create books about important events in history.
  • ELA - Create books with illustrations of student's original stories. Create a collection of poetry.   
Students can start with a blank book or a template.

When students select the blank book, they can add multiple pages with the + sign at the top. On each page, students have options to type, write, draw, add images from the camera roll, record their voice, or add background music.   


Students can also insert premade backgrounds from a variety of themes. 

Completed books can be saved to the camera roll as a video (the best way... so that it's all together) or as a photo (makes each page its own image). 

Check out Scribble Press Deluxe today and let us know what you think in the comments!

Throwback Thursday - Math Learning Center Apps

Free Math Tools Apps from The Math Learning Center

The Math Learning Center has 9 free apps for elementary students to use to create models and develop their understanding of number sense, geometry and money.  I first blogged about Number Pieces in April 2013 and Number Frames in February 2015.

They just recently released a new app called Money Pieces.  This app combines coin values with base ten blocks to "help students visualize and understand money values and relationships."  Read more about all the features in Money Pieces on their website:

While you're in the App Store, don't forget about the other great math tool app for elementary students... Schoolkit Math!  More on my blog here: 

Unite for Literacy - Free Non-Fiction eBooks for Early Readers

Unite for Literacy is a collection of free non-fiction ebooks for early readers.  It works on iPads or computers.  The creators of the website have a vision... "We picture a world where all children have access to an abundance of books that celebrate their languages and cultures and cultivate a life-long love of reading."  

The first time you visit the site it will ask you to pick your "community".  Then you can scroll through all the books or use the icons along the top of the screen to sort by category.

The books range from single word per page picture books to pages with a few sentences (like the one below).

The stories can be read to you by clicking the Narration icon and choosing from 30 different languages! One of my favorite features is that it's an actual person reading it... not computer generated.

You can learn more about the Unite for Literacy books and company mission here:


NewsELA is a great resource for leveled non-fiction articles.  Teachers can create a free account/class and assign selected articles to students.  Each article can be read at a variety of Lexile levels so all students can get similar information but at their own level.  Articles also have writing prompt options and quizzes.  Some are available with a Spanish translation.

Teachers can search for articles by keyword, category or text set.  They can create their own text sets or choose from a variety of topics already curated by NewsELA.  NewsELA also recently added Spanish Text Sets to their collection.  For more information, check out their blog post about the update:

How do you use NewsELA in your classroom?  Leave us a comment below!