As a teacher, there’s always been a question that I wanted to have an answer to.
“I’m done. What do I do now?”
Early in my teaching career, my answer was, “If you’re done, you’re done.” That was my veiled answer for, “I don’t know what you should do next.”
If you’re ever stuck without a good answer — like I was at times — it’s nice to have something solid you can pull out of your back pocket, so to speak.
When my students have had free time on their hands, I have always loved to direct them somewhere online that is engaging or interesting as well as academic in some form. In my years as a high school Spanish teacher, I’ve been happy to direct them to places where they’d learn about other things than Spanish with that free time. Just as long as it was academic in nature.
(To be clear, that free time doesn’t have to be spent online. Although the suggestions I’ll make here are, great alternatives can include drawing, creating with Legos or Play-Doh, or more!)
Here are some of my favorite spots to direct students that will encourage and inspire them. File them away for a rainy day, and if you need something stimulating for your students, pull them out!
I have curated all of these sites on a copyable Wakelet collection. Feel free to make a copy, edit as needed for your class, and assign through Google Classroom or just share the link or QR Code.
Please add to the list! If you have a favorite, please include it in a comment at the end of the post. Thanks!
1. Free Rice — Freerice.com is a free website that is educational and helps students give back. Each time you answer a multiple choice vocabulary question right you generate enough money for the United Nations World Food Programme to buy 10 grains of rice to help reach Zero Hunger.
Note: Freerice.com is still working, however, they are working on some technical problems with the website. You can try their beta version and sign up for a new account there.
2. The Blood Typing Game — This site makes the idea of blood typing (and how different blood types interact with each other) crystal clear. The game, housed at NobelPrize.org, places you in an emergency room. There’s been a car crash, and patients need a blood transfusion. It walks you through drawing blood, deciding what type it is, and completing the transfusion, making science connections all the way.
3. GeoGuessr — GeoGuessr uses Google Maps Street View to place you on the ground somewhere in the world in full panorama. The problem? You have NO idea where you are! You must use context clues to guess your location and pin it on a map. Choose to be dropped in certain continents, countries, cities, etc. … or make your own GeoGuessr game with GeoSettr!
4. Smarty Pins — Smarty Pins is kind of like GeoGuessr’s cousin. It asks questions from categories like arts and culture, science and geography, and history and current events. The answers are locations, and you must pin them on a map to answer. It makes geography a game, and the closer you guess, the better your score is.
5. iCivics — This site puts a flashy twist on civics-related topics, puts a ton of resources in teachers’ hands and lets students play REALLY fun games. My favorite is “Win the White House,” where you take the place of a candidate for U.S. president. Fundraising, platform issues, the electoral college and more are part of the game. I’ve played it and really enjoyed it myself!
6. Quiver — If coloring sheets are part of your life — with your students or with your own children or grandchildren — you MUST know about Quiver. Print coloring sheets from the Quiver website and color them. The Quiver app (iTunes) (Andriod) uses your camera to scan the coloring sheet and bring its characters to vivid, 3D life!
7. Wonderopolis — Kids are curious. They love to ask questions and we might not, ok we often don’t, have all of the answers. Wonderopolis is a site that asks and answers interesting questions about almost anything. Searchable and categorized by subject, students can explore over 2,000 wonders and even ask questions of their own.
8. A Google a Day — Most of us search the internet daily, if not multiple times per day. But effectively searching for something is a skill. A Google a Day challenges users to put their searching skills to the test by asking them to answer a question using Google search. With Google’s search education lesson plans you can take this game even further and begin teaching search literacy in your classroom.
9. Code.org — Coding is a skill that gives students a huge advantage for the future. For so many of us teachers, the problem is that we know little to nothing about coding or computer science. Thanks to Code.org, students can find self-guided coding activities and tutorials. They’re leveled for all ages, from elementary school up.
10. Street View Treks — Google Maps Street View lets its users see what life is like from the road, in full panorama. Street View Treks take that same technology to some of the most spectacular locations in the world, from Mount Fuji to the Grand Canyon to the Taj Mahal in India. Swim underwater at the Great Barrier Reef or climb the El Capitan rock face at Yosemite National Park.
11. Duolingo — As a world language teacher, I may be a bit biased, but I believe that there are huge benefits in learning a second language. Duolingo works a lot like Rosetta Stone, guiding students methodically through language lessons. But it’s free! They can earn “lingots”, and in-game currency to unlock new fun lessons.
12. The 5 Clue Challenge — Michael Soskil has traveled the world working with teachers and students. In his travels, he created short videos where you get 5 clues to guess the animal, location or person. Students will simply play the video, pause to do some research then take a guess. After the 5th clue, students will get to see how quickly they got their answer. Students can even create and submit their own videos to challenge others.
13. TED-Ed — TED-Ed is filled with tons of short video lessons on a variety of topics. Students can watch anything from “How Thor got his hammer” to “Can you solve the vampire hunter riddle?”. The goal of these videos is to spark the curiosity of learners. Each video offers students the opportunity to watch, think, dig deeper, and discuss.
14. Crash Course — Crash Course is a YouTube channel filled with educational videos for kids ages 12+ and adults. Videos offer content delivered by entertaining teachers combined with animated graphics. Each playlist contains a course focusing on a different content area. Topics include Engineering, Media Literacy, Psychology, World History and more.
If YouTube is blocked at your site, or if you want to avoid the “suggested videos” you can also view Crash Course videos on pbslearningmedia.org/collection/crash-course
15. Crash Course Kids — Made by the creators of Crash Course (I bet you had already figured that one out for yourself) Crash Course Kids combines the same engaging lecture-style content delivery with animated graphics that focus on grade school science. Topics include Earth Science, Physical Science, Biology, Geography, Engineering, and Astronomy.
This channel began with 5th-grade science but more videos have been added and all can be great additions to any science curriculum grades 3+.
16. Sci Show Kids — Another creation by the same producers that bring you the Crash Course series, Sci Show Kids is a compilation of informational science videos for students of any age. These videos are hosted by Jessi and her robot rat “Squeaks” and answer questions that inquiring young minds really want to know. Students can watch playlists of videos dedicated to science on the playground, getting to know your emotions, simple machines, experiments, and many more fun topics.
17. Pixar in a box — Pixar has partnered up with Khan Academy to bring your students Pixar in a Box. With video tutorials and interactive lessons, this course gives us a window into the jobs of Pixar animators. Topics include the art of storytelling, animation, rigging, color science and more. This course shows students that the subjects they learn in school — math, science, computer science, and humanities — are used every day to create the movies we love from Pixar.
18. Google Arts and Culture — Discover exhibits and collections from museums and archives all around the world. Explore cultural treasures in extraordinary detail, from hidden gems to masterpieces. See super high-resolution images of some of the best works of art in the world. Walk world-famous museums. Examine historical happenings in detail.
19. Dollar Street — It’s hard for most of us to imagine what it’s REALLY like for a family living on $30 a month but Dollar Street does a pretty fantastic job of showing us the reality of many families around the world. Homes are sorted on Dollar Street by monthly income one end showing the poorest, the other the richest and everything in between. Click on any picture to view images and learn more about families around the world.
Thanks to Jornea Erwin who shared Dollar Street with us in her 2018 DitchSummit presentation on Appsmashing.
20. Google Quick Draw! — Quick, Draw! tells you what to draw. Then, Google’s artificial intelligence tries to guess what you’re drawing. It’s a neat way to introduce students to artificial intelligence OR to look at how we convert words/ideas into images.
We also asked the #Ditchbook community for their ideas. Check out the responses to this tweet to see even more fantastic resources!
” /> Hey, #Ditchbook community!
We are working on updating a blog post and we would LOVE ” /> to hear ” /> ideas ” /> from you!
What are YOUR favorite sites for students with free time on their hands” />
What OTHER strategies/ideas/activities do you have for students with free time” /> pic.twitter.com/hirhVDrVUm
— Ditch That Textbook (@DitchThatTxtbk) February 14, 2019
What are YOUR sites for students with free time on their hands? What OTHER strategies/ideas/activities do you have for students with free time?
Are you looking for quality, meaningful professional learning that both equips and inspires teachers?
Matt provides in-person and virtual keynotes, workshops and breakout sessions that equip, inspire and encourage teachers to create change in their classrooms. Teachers leave with loads of resources. They participate. They laugh. They see tech use and teaching in a new light. Click the link below to contact us and learn how you can bring Matt to your school or district!
Is Matt presenting near you soon? Check out his upcoming live events!