Great apps for the Common Core classroom

K-5 technology teacher Christy Crawford demonstrated 20 iPad apps in a Teacher Appreciation Week workshop (many are also available for iPhones and Android devices). She noted that 78 Common Core State Standards have to do with technology and said "the Common Core is really common sense."

Digital Storytelling

  • Puppet Pals HD: Students select their characters and a backdrop, then record a story and play it back. Crawford said she usually has students write a script in notepad first. Like many apps, this one is free but has additional content that costs money. "My children know Christy says 'Don't buy; take the freebie,'" she said.

  • Toontastic: FREE: This app allows students to create their own cartoons, and Crawford likes it because it "will make the kids follow a story arc so it's not just random yelling." Students can also draw their own characters and add music.

  • StoryKit: Crawford pointed out that this iPhone app is much better than the "old-fashioned" examples might lead you to believe. Pictured above, she showed how her students used the app to create an electronic book called "How to Stay Germ Free" complete with pictures, text, and recorded audio.

  • Dragon Dictation: For students who have difficulty typing, Crawford recommends this free app because students don't have to shout or talk robotically like they do with some other dictation apps. She also said that it's good for running records.


  • Shake-a-Phrase: This app provides silly story starters like "The shy zombie sneezed on the fat fairy in the dark." Students can tap unfamiliar words like "lark" for definitions and take quizzes that have them identify parts of speech.

  • Scholastic Storia: Scholastic's ebook app comes with five free books. Teachers can create bookshelves for individual students and track their reading. Storia will read books to students, making books that might be above students' reading levels accessible. Many books also include activities that "the kids think are games but are really comprehension activities." Crawford called the videos a "pay off" for students and said the book Chomp! A Book About Sharks has led to a club for reading about sharks at her school.

  • abc PocketPhonics Lite: This provides a digital alternative to practicing letter formation in sand or whipped cream. The app asks students to repeat a letter's sound and then draw it. A more advanced activity has students repeat sounds and tap letters to form words. Crawford suggests including this app on a list for parents that they can use while waiting at the doctor's office or grocery store.

  • SpellingCity: Activities include spelling scrambles, hang mouse, missing letter, and audio word match. You can put in your own lists of words or use the ones that come with the app.


  • ScreenChomp: This whiteboard app allows teachers to record tutorials and students to share their ideas. Crawford particularly likes it for catching up students who come in late and for making students show their work in math. She demonstrated how a student can prove that 3X2=6 by finding three pictures of two students.

  • Bugs and Numbers: This app for grades 3–8 provides practice with concepts like fractions and time. Crawford says "nothing captures their attention like this does," pointing out that one with roaches is "gross but effective."

  • Sushi Monster: Scholastic's free math game app provides practice with addition and multiplication. Students have to find combinations of numbers to please the sushi monster in each level.

  • Geoboard: Crawford said this app is especially good for students with dexterity issues. It allows students to form shapes. For example, you might ask students to draw a shape with an obtuse angle.

  • Oh No Fractions!: Students can compare fractions to determine which is greater and then prove their work with boxes.

  • Reading the Ruler: This app allows students to locate particular fractions on a ruler.

  • MyScript Calculator: When you draw numbers, it turns them into type and performs calculations.


  • Common Core Standards: This app from MasteryConnect allows you to search the Common Core State Standards or select them by subject and grade.

  • Doc Scan HD: Crawford said she's reducing the amount of paper she needs to keep by using this app to scan documents. Optical character recognition allows her to easily group forms about certain students.

  • Prezi: This app provides a different way to organize presentations. Instead of individual slides, Prezis link ideas with moving text. Crawford particularly likes it for poetry slams because it "makes words fly." 

  • Animoto Video Maker: Educators can apply for free Animoto Plus accounts.

  • BookLeveler: When you scan ISBNs, this app provides leveling information for classroom libraries. Like Level It Books and Book Retriever, Crawford notes that they are time consuming but suggests passing out iPads to students and having them help. She also pointed out that each app will only have some books.