You’re stranded on an island… what 3 apps are a necessity?

by Ariel Jankord

I may not be stranded on an island, but that’s what it feels like. The silly icebreaker question comes to mind: You’re stranded on an island, what three items do you wish to have? Because of the outbreak of Covid-19, my district and now the state of Kansas have discontinued school for this year. We are currently awaiting directions for online learning, but in the meantime, my mind has been busy with ideas.

Here are a few things I have been thinking about:

  1. My students all have access to different devices: phones, tablets, computers.
  2. I need to choose apps that work on all types of devices.
  3. Stick with what the kids already know.
  4. I don’t want to overwhelm parents, keep the number of apps minimal.

Here are the three apps I would choose, the why and how I plan to use it.


I have often told people if I had to choose ONE app it would be Seesaw. Seesaw is an app my students are already *very *familiar with. They have a year’s worth of work stored in Seesaw. Normally, we use the shared sign-in method, but Seesaw is helping teachers by making the switch to home learning codes a breeze. Initially, my students will probably feel a little funny logging in at home, just because 1st graders get giddy about all sorts of things, but I feel confident this is a tool they know well. With so much change and unknown, using tools students are familiar with will be key.

By using the activity feature in Seesaw I can curate videos, PDFs, or directions to pair with any assignment. I plan to record myself teaching, upload the video, and provide a quick activity for them to complete. It will be important to think carefully about activities. In my physical classroom, we have iPads and I often asked students to draw their learning. Knowing half of my class only has access to a laptop or computer, drawing is not going to be the most ideal way to express their learning. Instead, I will create drag and drop or matching activities. You can also allow students to do the work with paper and pencil and they could upload a picture of their work.


While posting videos in Seesaw with activities attached is a great way to push work it might feel a bit redundant after a while. Nearpod enhances engagement and allows me to add a variety of activities within one lesson. Another advantage of Nearpod is the simplicity of logging in for students. All they need is a five-character code, once the teacher has activated the lesson. Nearpod is a great way of creating interactive lessons for any subject.
When I create a lesson in Nearpod I use a variety of their interactive tools. Let me walk you through a Phonics lesson I created for my 1st graders. Typically I build my Nearpod lessons in Google Slides first. If I plan to add an activity I add a slide as a place holder and delete that slide once it’s imported in Nearpod.

First, as a little pre-assessment, I drop my students into a matching activity to see if they can match the spelling with the picture. Then I insert a self-made video of myself going through a phonemic awareness warm-up activity. After that, I insert a youtube video about the sound we are learning. Then, using the convert to draw feature, I ask students to circle the pictures that are spelled with the sound we are learning. Following that, I insert a second self-created video with a mini-lesson I would typically give in class. Students will then have a writing activity on the following page using the draw feature again. Lastly, I would insert a quiz. The “question” would be a picture and the students would select the correct spelling.


As I was pondering my choices thus far I realized what I was going to miss the most… seeing the beautiful smiles and hearing the sweet voices of my first graders. Flipgrid will keep the sense of community going. I plan to use Flipgrid as our morning meeting and share what’s going on in our lives. It will also be a place where we can share books we are reading and read-aloud our stories we are writing.

My first prompt on Flipgrid is going to be: Show and Tell. This is something all kids especially younger ones love. Show and Tell is much cooler at home because it’s much easier to show anything you want (it doesn’t have to fit in your backpack). I will model by showing off my pets. I hope to find other “icebreaker” questions to keep us connected as a community. I will also have a couple of ongoing grids: books you are reading, stories you want to share, and creations (we typically do daily STEM bins, so they can share whatever they are building or creating at home).

Most of my plans are on hold, but I’m looking at the situation as an opportunity to try something new. This is uncharted waters for us all, why not dive in?