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Q&A

9 teacher-approved apps to help prevent COVID slide

Asked By Julie Rawe
9 answers

As the pandemic stretches on, we asked Understood experts and teacher fellows for learn-at-home resources to help prevent “ COVID slide .”

Many of the apps they recommended are free. For apps that aren’t free, check with your child’s teacher to see if you can get free access through your school.

Reading apps

How it works: This app helps young kids build early reading skills through interactive activities, musical videos, virtual books, and other creative tools.

Age: 2–7 years

Cost: Free

Spanish version: Not for this app, but Khan Academy’s Spanish website has lots of great free resources.

Christina Gutierrez, MSEd

“Khan Academy Kids plays like a game as it teaches basic skills,” says Gutierrez, a dean of instruction and response-to-intervention coordinator in Brooklyn, New York. “My son uses it.”

How it works: This app uses games, songs, golden eggs, and other rewards to help motivate kids to learn to read. It’s based on the science of reading and focuses on five key skills: phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency.

Age: The app includes reading programs for four age groups:

  • 2–4 years: Reading Eggs Junior

  • 3–7 years: Reading Eggs

  • 7–13 years: Reading Eggspress

  • 5–10 years: Fast Phonics

Cost: Free for 30 days. After that, it costs $9.95 per month or $59 for a year (which would be the same as $4.92 per month for 12 months). Reading Eggs also has free downloadable resources to support home learning.

Spanish version: No, but the program meets highly regarded standards for supporting the needs of English language learners.

Julian Saavedra, MA

“Reading Eggs has been working wonders with my own children,” says Saavedra, a high school teacher in Philadelphia. “It makes reading interactive and enjoyable.” 

Writing apps

How it works: This writing tool can do much more than correct spelling and grammar errors. It can suggest ways to sharpen wording. It can also check the tone and tell if the writing sounds “angry,” “confident,” etc.

Age: Middle-schoolers and older. Grade-schoolers might not know enough about grammar to understand the edits that Grammarly suggests.

Cost: The free version checks spelling and grammar. The version that helps improve word choice and tone costs $11.66 per month.

Spanish version: No

Kara Ball, MEd

“Grammarly doesn’t simply tell me my tense is wrong — it shows me how it’s wrong and why I need to fix it,” says Ball, an elementary school STEM educator in Baltimore.

“As an adult with learning disabilities who has also struggled with spelling and grammar, I feel confident in my writing for the first time in my life knowing that I can trust Grammarly to help me create a strong piece of writing.”

How it works: This program helps students revise their writing and give feedback to peers. It includes a tool called RevisionAid that recommends ways students can revise their writing.

Age: Grades 3–12

Cost: Free. If your school doesn’t have an account, the site encourages families to sign up for a free teacher account. This lets you access assignments and the revision tool.

Spanish version: Yes, students can click on their name and choose “Cambiar al Español.”

Shira Moskovitz, MA

“Writeable helps me support my students across a range of thinking and language abilities,” says Moskovitz, a fifth-grade special education teacher in Sunnyside, New York. “I appreciate the support to make writing more accessible because that has been the hardest subject to teach remotely.”

Math apps

How it works: This math resource has short instructional videos that are organized by topic. The videos have fun visuals. Some come with extra features like showing common mistakes or providing guided practice.

Age: All ages

Cost: Free. If your school isn’t signed up, you can sign up as a parent or caregiver to access free instructional videos.

Spanish version: No, but some videos have Spanish translations.

Lauren Jewett

“LearnZillion has short videos that break down and scaffold skills,” says Jewett, a third/fourth-grade special education teacher in New Orleans.

“I also like math-aids.com for math resources that families can use,” says Jewett. “I also love amathsdictionaryforkids.com because it has really useful anchor charts for kids and is organized by topics.”

How it works: This app uses the camera on your device to scan a math problem and then shows you how to solve it, step-by-step. Photomath explains the answer and shows more than one way to tackle the problem.

Age: All ages

Cost: Free

Spanish version: Yes, the app can be used in more than 30 languages, including Spanish. 

Mark J. Griffin, PhD

“Teachers won’t allow kids to use this app during a test, but teachers do recommend it as a study support,” says Griffin, who helped start a school that specializes in teaching kids who learn and think differently. “Students may find it very useful at home to strengthen skills.”

How it works: In classrooms, teachers often give students small objects to move around to help them understand math concepts. This set of virtual manipulatives uses fun colors (and sounds) to help make them more engaging to kids. 

Age: All ages

Cost: Free

Spanish version: No

Sarah R. Powell, PhD

“Manipulatives can help students see and work with math problems in different ways,” says Powell, an associate professor of special education at the University of Texas at Austin. “I curated this set of manipulatives because these resources can help students understand the meaning of mathematics.”

Attention apps

How it works: Short videos teach yoga using upbeat music, cool visuals, and mystery guests in fancy costumes. The teacher’s storytelling helps keep these brain breaks fun and engaging.

Age: 3–8, but older kids may like it too.

Cost: Free for 14 days. After that, it’s $10 a month or $65 a year (which would be the same as $5.42 per month for 12 months). The videos are also on YouTube.

Spanish version: No

Beth Maloney, EdD

“Yoga breaks help kids (and adults!) self-regulate their emotions and refocus,” says Maloney, a fifth-grade science and social studies teacher in Surprise, Arizona. “Quick yoga breaks help kids who struggle with focus and attention increase time on task.”

“I also recommend attaching Calm Strips to devices so kids can fidget with them while doing schoolwork,” says Maloney.

How it works: This note-taking app helps capture and organize thoughts. This includes an option to record audio notes. The app can also create to-do lists with checkboxes. 

Age: 13 and up

Cost: Free

Spanish version: Yes, if you select Spanish as the language of the operating system on your device.

Mark J. Griffin, PhD

“Evernote can help kids with attention challenges get their thoughts down in writing,” says Griffin. “Then they can return to a neatly archived set of information that they can use more effectively.”

Looking for more resources for distance learning?

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