What are the best educational apps for middle school students? What are some engaging apps for middle school English teachers to use in the classroom?
I have spent a lot of time researching, experimenting, and searching for answers to these very questions! And over the years, I have tried many that were terrible, many that mediocre, and a handful that are absolutely amazing!
So, the good news is that there are a ton of educational apps out there. But it’s like the mythical Hydra – for every app you try, there are several more that appear.
As a middle school English teacher, I have created a list of my top personal favorites. I left out some of the obvious ones like the Google Suite (docs, sheets, slides, etc) and YouTube. Everybody already uses those so no need to beat a dead horse!
So, without further ado, I give you my list of the best apps for middle school English teachers!
This is absolutely a must-have app for not only middle school teachers, but elementary and high school as well!
NewsELA takes news articles from various media outlets and adapts them to varying levels of text complexity (Lexile levels). It also has short quizzes and written response options for students to practice various comprehension skills.
This is all neatly organized in a teacher dashboard that tracks student activity.
Seriously, this app is a no-brainer!
After years of using podcasts with students, I can tell you that this is an absolute goldmine! Our district has one-to-one iPads, so I use the Apple Podcast app which comes pre-installed on all Apple devices.
Within the app, you and your students will have access to literally tens of thousands of different podcast shows. With a little searching, you are likely to find a great podcast about any subject you can think of.
Here is a list of my favorite podcasts to use in the classroom!
Day One Journal
Journaling seems to be somewhat of a lost art. Fortunately, there is the Day One Journal!
This free digital journal is not only beautiful and has a user-friendly interface, but comes packed with loads of tech features to bring the journal to life. Add photos, videos, locations, etc.
Journaling is a special form of writing that provides countless personal benefits. This is an app that I cannot recommend enough!
I have been using Trello for years and have found it to be one of the most valuable apps out there! I began by using it to personally organize various projects, vacations, home improvement ideas, personal goals, etc. I even used it to organize all of my research for my Master’s thesis!
But I have also found that the organizational features work perfectly for classroom teachers, admin, and students! Once you get familiar with the general layout and basic features, I guarantee you will love it!
It can be used to organize student groups, keep track of meetings, sort data, organize research, etc. Anything that needs organization, this is the go-to app!
One of the great tasks for every teacher is to find books that students will actually like. The challenge is that every student has different tastes, and there are more books out there than any teacher can possibly read and know about.
That’s where LikeWise comes in. With LikeWise, students simply put in books that they enjoy and the app algorithm curates the best possible recommendations of what other books the students might enjoy!
The app also produces curated recommendation lists for podcasts, movies, tv shows, etc. But the book recommendations are phenomenal and provide students with recommendations that they can access anytime.
It’s also incredibly easy to make reading lists so students will never be left without another great book waiting for them!
Before having kids I loved to get comfortable, open up a new book and spend hours peacefully reading in silence. Once the kids came along, having hours of uninterrupted time to chill with a book is hard to come by.
That’s when I turned to Audible.
Audible is a subscription-based app that provides you with audiobooks. It used to be $15/month and you receive a credit that can be exchanged for any audiobook regardless of price.
However, they have recently developed something called Audible Plus, which now gives members access to thousands and thousands of audiobooks that are now included within the membership.
Over the past several years I have listened to over 300 audiobooks and have found it to be a great alternative to getting my reading fix as a busy dad.
But I have also found audiobooks to be an incredible way to boost student comprehension and interest in reading by delivering books in this format. Yes, it costs money, but it is worth its weight in Gold.
If you are not willing to shell out $15/month for Audible, Hoopla is probably the best free option out there. Hoopla is a service tied to your local library that provides you with access to digital content like movies, tv shows, books, audiobooks, comics, etc. And all you need is a library card!
However, like public libraries, it is a check-out system. So, unfortunately, the titles you want may not be available. There is also a limit to the number of check-outs libraries can do each day, so sometimes you need to get in early.
Also, audiobook selection isn’t great and the quality of the audiobooks is not even close to Audible.
However, it’s free!
Alright, so I have not actually used Udemy in the classroom, but I can’t help but include this in any list of best educational apps.
Udemy is a giant online marketplace of virtual courses. There are constant sales, so enrolling in a course will typically range between $10-$20.
Any skill that you would like to learn from tech tools, coding, web design (like this site), guitar, and countless others, you are going to find great courses teaching you exactly how to do it.
I encourage you to browse around and see what’s there. It really is a goldmine and worth spreading the word about!
There are countless ways for students to publish their work! With Canva, there are now opportunities for students to easily create digital content such as infographics, brochures, posters, slideshows, etc.
Not only does this add variety to the student publishing process, but I have found students are highly engaged with Canva. I have personally used this many times during research projects where students can use Canva to design a way to share their information.
Plus, digital design is a modern day skill all student should have experience with. This is truly a must-have app!
Okay, this is likely to be a controversial pick. You are probably thinking, isn’t Grammarly sort of cheating? Will students become dependent on this tool rather than developing the actual skills? Is this more of a crutch?
Hear me out. In my opinion, all learning requires feedback. What I like about this app is that it provides detailed feedback to students as to how they can improve their writing. While this shouldn’t replace the teacher, I do think it provides incredible instructional support for students.
Think about a basic spell-checker. You are writing an email and you misspell a word. Suddenly, the word is underlined in red. It draws your attention to an error that you otherwise wouldn’t have even been aware of.
So that’s the question: is it better to be aware of ways to improve your writing or not?
Grammarly, in my opinion, is an awareness tool. It is hard to improve something that you aren’t aware needs improving. It simply provides guidance to writers by pointing out ways to make their writing better.
It’s not a substitute for writing instruction, but I do believe it is a valuable supplement. It’s basically like having a guide on the side helping you to become a better writer. I’m sure not everybody would agree, but at this point, I believe the advantages outweigh any possible drawbacks.
CommonLit takes poetry and short stories and transforms them into fantastic digital lessons. Similar to NewsELA in the sense that there are quizzes and even a great “Guided Reading” feature that monitors comprehension as the student is reading through the material.
Not only is it free, but has a growing library of classic literature being added all of the time. Definitely a fan of this one!
Adobe Spark Video
Spark Video is a fantastic app that enables students to easily make stunning slideshows with recorded narration and music. It is incredibly user-friendly and the products look amazing!
If you are looking for a way for students to record a slideshow presentation, this is definitely the app I recommend. It’s fun, simple, and really enhances the creative process.
Adobe Spark Post
Similar to Canva, Adobe Spark Post is a simple way to make professional-looking images. Personally, I like to design slides in Spark Post and then upload the images into Spark Video to record the narration. That’s a simple way to create awesome slide videos.
Students are surprised how easy it is, and get really into the creative design process. Much better than another Google Slide presentation.
GarageBand is the app that I have my students use to record podcasts. It is a pre-installed app on all IOS devices, and since my students use iPads this is the obvious choice when it comes to vocal recording.
To continue with building a repertoire of variety and choice when it comes to student presentations, teaching them how to make a basic podcast is a lot of fun.
I have also found that it’s useful for students to record themselves reading. They can easily listen to and critique their fluency. Overall, GarageBand is a powerful and feature-packed little app that has countless uses for pretty much any classroom!
I have taught a lot of students with various special needs and Learning Ally is an incredible accommodation tool. Basically, it provides a vast library to all of the books these children want to read but makes them more accessible.
What I like is that it combines the ebook and audiobook format. The child opens up the ebook, presses play and the story is read to them as the text is highlighted to help the student to follow and read along.
If you have a student with an IEP, this is definitely an app worth looking into. It has helped so many of my students over the years!
This app provides detailed study guides for tons of novels, poems, and even the entire Shakespeare canon. I have found these resources incredibly helpful when planning out novel studies. But, I also like to provide students with access to this app, as it provides detailed analysis of each chapter to bring their comprehension deeper into the text.
Personally, when I read a classic, I enjoy reading the analysis after each chapter as it is sort of like a self-guided book club (after reading that it sounds kinda sad). But, seriously, this is a great app!
I’m sure nearly everybody has heard of FlipGrid at this point, but if not, prepare to fall in love! There are so many ways to use this app from class discussion, speeches, read-aloud, etc.
It’s basically like a classroom video discussion board. You post an assignment and students reply with video responses. From there, students can reply to each other with video responses.
I have used it for book club discussions and it works great!
While I now prefer LikeWise for book recommendations, GoodReads still remains a great resource for discovering new books. They tons of great book lists, reviews and search feature that it is pretty mind-blowing.
It’s also a giant community… it’s like social media for book lovers!
Anyways, for the time being, GoodReads remains the top dog among book resources. Definitely check it out!
Any teacher that has ever used Kahoot knows how much students love it! It basically enables you to turn a study review day into a game show!
Students simply login with their iPads, join the game and answer questions on their screens. I display the game board up on my classroom projector and we have a blast.
Students compete either as individuals or in teams to answer questions. If you remember those old bar trivia games, students earn more points for answering questions quicker.
Seriously, this is so much fun!
It’s so fun to experiment with different apps to use in the classroom. My list of favorites continues to grow and evolve.
What are some of your favorite apps? Leave them in the comment section below for me to check out!