Must-have iPad Apps for Back 2 School (All Free)

With Back to School right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about which apps we want to download and introduce to our students in the first weeks of school.  With so many incredible apps out there, how do we decide which ones to introduce first? 
Back to School Must-have iPad Apps
For me, I tend to reflect on the apps I used most frequently throughout the previous school year because I want to take the time to allow my students to truly master them.  I’ve learned from my mistakes that introducing too many apps at once can confuse and overwhelm students and I end up wasting valuable instructional time re-teaching them. 

So here’s a list of MY must-have apps, which all happen to be free.  Many of them can be used across multiple subject areas and grade levels, but I’m writing this post with my current second graders in mind.:)

I use Popplet Lite frequently to help my students map out their thinking.  In reading we use it it for skills like sequencing and retelling, and also for vocabulary. 
Popplet can also help students visualize tricky math concepts.  Here's a "popple" of a number in standard, expanded, and word form.  

Pic Collage is another great app for your visual and hands-on learners.  Students can take pictures of things in real life, such as nouns or geometric shapes, and make a collage.  Here’s a shape collage my 2nd graders made and an angle poster my 4th graders made. 

We also use Pic Collage for hands-on math practice, like these addition and subtraction sentences. 


My students use Doodle Buddy a lot as a white board for practicing spelling words and for solving math problems. 

Doodle Buddy offers lots of fun pen colors as well as “stamps” that really motivate the kiddos.  I had my students stamp and write out addition sentences as well as arrays.   
Storykit allows students to create an electronic storybook.  This was a choice during Daily 5 and we also used it to publish various books throughout the year.  Students can choose to illustrate their books by drawing a picture on the screen, uploading their own image, or taking a photo of a paper illustration.  Students can even record their voices reading the text aloud.
If you do QR code activities, a QR scanner like i-nigma, is a must.  If you’ve never used QR codes in your classroom, I’d highly recommend trying them out.  They’re great for engaging your students and getting them up and moving around the room.  Click here or on the image below to download a free base-10 block QR code scavenger hunt.  I have many QR code freebies in my TpT store for multiple grade levels to help you get started. 
If you plan on doing any digital/paperless activities using Google Slides, you will want to download the free Google Slides app. Students will not be able to edit/annotate Google Slides activities unless this app is installed. Here is a screen shot of one of my digital task card sets being edited using the Google Slides app.

If your students need to work on sight word practice, you may want to download a couple of sight word apps, such as Sight Words: Kids Learn.  You can check out my post about my favorite sight word apps here.

Lastly, I would recommend introducing a couple of fun math apps depending on what topic you plan on teaching first.  You can check out these posts on my favorite free math apps for place value, addition, geometry, time, and money.

Showbie: A Digital Workflow App for iPads

Are you going 1:1 this year or are you looking for a fast and simple digital workflow app?  I’ve been using Showbie since the beginning of last school year in my second grade 1:1 iPad classroom and would highly recommend it for any grade level. 

Showbie allows you to quickly and easily assign, collect and review student work in an organized fashion.  As students submit work, you can provide immediate feedback by adding text and voice notes directly onto their assignments.  The Showbie app is free, but there’s a Pro upgrade available, which I am giving away at the end of this post!

My listening center and my number of the day warm-up are two activities that we use Showbie for every single day.  As you can see in the pictures, some of my students prefer to write and some prefer to type on the recording sheets. 

Many times, when we are doing a whole-group or center activity on the iPads, I like for my students to send me a picture from their camera roll so that I can check for understanding.  For example, this subtraction cube activity was a whole-group lesson and the Popplet sequencing activity was a reading center. 

Usually, with these types of activities, I’ll have my students take a screen shot of their iPad and then send me the image from their camera roll.  I walk around all day with Showbie open on my iPad so I can be sure my students are on-task as well as understanding the content.   

One of the amazing features of Showbie is that it allows the teacher and students to attach voice recordings.  We used this feature for fluency evaluations on the iPads about once a month.  In the picture below, you can see that my student is about to record himself reading a part of a book. 

After my students play back the recording to themselves, they open and fill out a fluency self-evaluation form and send it to me via Showbie. 

Sometimes I will have my students send me a voice recording of themselves working through a math problem and explaining their thinking.  In the picture below, this student is writing out his thinking, and next he will send me a voice recording explaining how he thought about the problem.  This can be a very powerful way to check for understanding.   

Showbie is very user-friendly and they have lots of great tutorials on their website to help you get started.  Setting up a class is very simple.  Showbie will give you a unique classroom code for your students to type in to join your class (no student email addresses are required). 

Then you can start adding assignments to your class.  Click on the wrench by your class name and then the plus sign for a new assignment. 

There are many file types you can add, such as a PDF or an image from your camera roll.  You can even take a picture of a worksheet or graphic organizer and upload it.  If you want to provide a more detailed description of the task/assignment, you can add a comment or voice note along with the file.  The assignment will show up on your students’ iPads immediately, and they can easily open it and begin working.

As students turn in their assignments, a paperclip will appear next to their name.  You simply click on a student’s name and their completed assignment opens up. 

You can make a mark on their assignment and send it back to them immediately.  If they need to fix something, you can make a note directly on there and they can resubmit it to you.  Here's an example of a math quiz that I graded and sent back to a student. 

The free version of the app is wonderful, but you do have the option to upgrade to Pro, which has some cool features such as larger file size and longer voice notes and video clips.  The folks at Showbie were kind enough to offer me the Pro version for this past year and I found it to be my #1 must-have app in my classroom.

Now here's your chance to win a one-year Showbie Pro subscription for YOUR classroom.  Simply comment below with your first name, email, and the grade you teach.  I will choose a random commenter on Friday, July 31st.    

This giveaway is now closed.  My random number generator (AKA my husband) chose lucky #7.  Congrats, Stephanie!  Please check your email.  Thank you so much to everyone who entered!