Update: When I created this list, and video, we were closing out the 2019-2020 school year. All of the websites listed here had opened up to parents and students at no cost. This year, the majority of the sites are presenting modified options like free trial periods, so that students, families, and even educators can access some of the features. I continue to recommend them because they are still great resources for learning. I just want you to be aware that not all are completely free at this time.

What I’m hearing now, about a month into remote learning is, “Susan, we’re just so overwhelmed, we’re just trying to keep up day to day, and the resources out there are hard to plow through.” 

What I’m going to do for you in this post, and video, is look at 10 different resources. I’m covering things that will be easy to share with families. Many of us are having trouble getting our families involved and helping parents to build confidence in teaching their students. Some have extremely limited access to online resources; it might just be their cell phone. So, I’ve picked resources that are easy to use and visually appealing. I think that’s important for parents, as well as for teachers. 

Each of the resources is linked in the heading so that you can quickly access and evaluate each one.

1. Remote Learning Resources

The very first website that I’d like to share with you is actually a Google Doc presentation titled Remote Learning Resources, which was created by the ASD Nest Support Project for the New York City Department of Education. At first, you might think the links and the presentation don’t work, but don’t do that. There’s a lot. Just scroll down the document to find the links.

This is a slide presentation that gives teachers, parents, and families resources that are helpful. And they’re very visually appealing — they’re easy to read. Many of the links are about how to set up the learning environment. As I went through this, I thought, “Okay this is the same mumbo jumbo that everybody’s heard a million times.” But then I saw they really gave some cool resources! 

2. Visnos Digital Timer

One great resource is this digital timer. We use timers in school and parents can use them too. Isn’t this awesome? A parent could put this on their phone, or they could put this on their student’s laptop, and they could say “Okay, I only want you to work for 30 minutes. Here we go.” And then it starts to click (You can choose to have the clicker sound or not.). What a nice, clean interface for students. 

The Visnos website also has (Get this!) stuff for educators! There’s lots of different things there for educators. This is worth going through; it’s easy to read. It’s not overwhelming. And I think that you’ll appreciate it. 

3. Back-to-School Learning Hub

This is another resource that also supports families. This is called Family Learning Hub (now updated to Back-to-School Learning Hub) by IXL. It gives students and parents an opportunity to learn on their favorite device. It has a guide to help. It’s got learning plans. I think this is exciting because it gives you math examples, ELA examples, etc.. This is so important for parents and teachers trying to figure out how we help kids at home.

This is a resource that let’s you choose a learning path, find relevant skills for your child, and so on. I thought this one was definitely worth your time and your effort — it has printable resources, family stories, and a blog.

Update: Family Learning Hub was free to the end of last school year. Educators can still sign up for a free trial and students get 10 free questions every day if they don’t have an account through their school.

4. Headsprout

Another site that is visually appealing and easy to access is called Headsprout. It’s for kids’ reading. You know, the last thing we want kids doing is spending all their time playing video games or playing games that aren’t really going to contribute to their skill set. We want to minimize that loss, and we know this is a danger. So what can we do? We can use Headsprout. It grows kids’ reading skills. 

There are free sample episodes and a free trial. This is another resource that you may or may not have known about that might be worth a try, and also will be there to help parents.

5. Actively Learn

Some of our kids really need to be actively engaged in learning. I love this website called Actively Learn. It says right on the homepage, “Meet the challenge of remote learning.” This was free for the remainder of last school year to help you meet your child’s or your students’ needs. There is still free access for an educator account, and a student sign up. 

I looked at this and I thought, “Wow, this is so visually appealing!” This is because of the large images, which means this will work really well on a phone, if that’s all the student has, or a small tablet or device. They have things for news articles, English language arts, science, social studies, lots of resources in this catalog to browse. I clicked on ELA just to check it out, thinking, “I’m a teacher, let’s say we’re trying to do figurative language.” Some of these websites, you look at them and they are beautiful, but it’s not what you’re teaching. So, I decided to search figurative language. It’s one of my favorite topics because a lot of students struggle with it, especially those students who are English language learners. 

When I clicked on the search, I got a “figurative language” lesson plan and other headings like “How does word choice impact the story?”; “Close Reading experts”; “Figurative Language Instructions.” Really good stuff! I thought, “Wow, there’s poetry, there are short stories, there’s videos. How can you go wrong?”

6. Emotional ABCs (Link)

One of the other areas we struggle with is social emotional learning. This website, Emotional ABC’s has some great resources for you. I’ve had teachers come right out and say, “Susan, what do we do for our kids who have social emotional issues? How do we possibly help them?” Well, here you go! A really great resource: Emotional ABC’s, and it’s an award winner. 

7. Otter

Now, I’m coming from a different place on this one. I use Otter all the time; I use it on my phone. I can open up Otter and hit record and it’ll start typing exactly what I’m saying. I also turn this on when I’m listening to something online and I want to remember it, whether it’s a video or a TED talk. Otter transcribes the words for me and it’s pretty darn accurate. If you have students that need captioning — for instance, Zoom has that captioning effect, but in order to use it you need a third party — Otter will type everything that you’re saying while you’re teaching your students through Zoom, and then you can get that text to the students. Zoom does have its own transcript but if you’re in a situation where that’s not going to work for you or you’re using a platform that doesn’t have speech-to-text, then this is a great tool for you.  You get 600 minutes free no matter what. Even when there’s not a pandemic you get 600 minutes free, and that’s fabulous. 

8. Streamer

As an educator, you are concerned about security. Can you trust an unfamiliar web link? Streamer Solutions has created a COVID Academic Resource.This resource will actually set up a website for you that is private and secure. And it’s completely free, typically for the first 30 days. You get a free captioning and note-taking translation website that you can use “to facilitate off campus communications.” It’s also great for schools trying to use it with IEPS and getting speech-to-text and accessibility for IEP meetings. 

9. Do2Learn

This is an angel. Many of us educators know this website but a lot of our parents don’t. Do2Learn has some great free resources that you can share with parents. If they have a printer, that’s even better, as some of these handouts can be printed. There’s also a lot of games, a teacher toolbox, and behavior management tools. Really a wonderful resource to use and access right now for your parents and your students.

10. BrainPOP

I’m going to end with one of my favorites, and that’s BrainPOP. I have been using BrainPOP since my own children were in elementary and middle school. If you haven’t tried it yet, this is your opportunity. 

It has little videos for many different topics. They’re adorable. For example, a young student and a robot talk to each other. It’s absolutely phenomenal. BrainPOP covers many subjects. They’re engaging and fun and they have quizzes to go with all the different lessons. This is a boon for your students right now. It can work off a phone, and it’s visually appealing. 

These 10 resources are absolutely worth checking out. Because I’m looking for things now that are visually appealing to you, and that are easy to implement for you and your family, whether you are teaching face-to-face, hybrid, or virtually. 

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