Engaging Tools That Won’t Break the Bank

As a future teacher, I want my classroom to stand out to students. When they come in the room, I want them to be excited and engaged.

In the world we live in today, textbooks, pens, and paper just don’t cut it!

Plenty of schools are moving to technology-based classrooms, but as someone who grew up using pen, paper, and a dry erase board, I’m still getting used to understanding exactly how technology can be used in the classroom!

I decided to explore the app store a bit, and man, I was NOT disappointed!

I limited my search to free apps, but I saw a number of other apps that were a few dollars that look like they could be used in the classroom, as well!
Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Post-It Plus. This app makes me so happy.
    • I am an avid post-it note user, but when you’re using post-it notes in an activity- whether it be a poll or formative assessment- things can get messy and you can run out of room. This app allows you to snap a picture of post it notes, and it converts it to a digital format!
    • Post-its can be expensive! This app allows you to use digital post-its on your device
    • You can export the Board you create with post-its as an image, or use the post-it notes you and the class created to make a powerpoint presentation
    • Great for organizing and activities!

  • Popplet lite. A great graphic organizer.
    • This app has a “lite” version that is free, but you can also buy the premium app.
    • Students can make graphic organizers with this app, which can help support them as they make connections in the classroom!

  • EarthNow. Developed by NASA
    • This app, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labratory, allows students to observe Earth’s “vital signs,” including air temperature, Carbon Dioxide, Ozone, and water vapor.
    • Students can also view digital models of satellites, read about their launch dates, and what they measure.
    • Latest events scroll across the main homepage
      • red dots highlight the areas where the event occur
      • by selecting the red dots, students can read details about the event
    • Great for any science classroom for keeping up-to-date on Earth events.
  • Word Clouds. Great for Making Thinking Visible Activities
    • Free app.
    • Students can type in words and generate a word cloud.

  • These three apps are free and easy to use in the classroom

Hands on Activities

While technology is amazing, it can also be beneficial to put away the technology and let kids explore nature and materials with their hands, but this often requires teachers to purchase supplies. Where can teachers go for affordable materials?

  • The dollar store. Simple, but practical. This is especially beneficial for some “last minute supplies” or when you need to pay for something out of pocket.
  • http://www.discountschoolsupply.com/ This website has materials sold in bulk at discounted prices. When there is a lab or activity you plan on integrating in your lesson, check out this site, especially when you’re looking for materials that can be reused for years to come.
  • One thing to consider when purchasing classroom supplies and materials for engaging activities is the ability of it to be reused. If you have to spend a few more bucks for nicer materials, in the long run, it might be worth it. Durability does not always mean costly, though. A large bag of beads and some pipe cleaners can be reused for years!


  1. Meghan,
    I hadn’t even considered using apps to make the classroom more engaging for students. This is a great idea, and I’m sure there a a million different options for relevant apps (there’s an app for everything!).
    I also really liked the NASA EarthNow program. I think that this is a great resource to use to get students engaged and interact with the material. I would absolutely love to mess around with the program as a student, and I’m sure some of your students will, as well.

  2. Meghan,

    I really appreciate your inclusion of ideas for materials! The rest of us mostly just covered lesson plans and stuff for the classroom, but you really took it a step further by including price points for supplies and resources. Great work!


  3. Shay-
    Even though the first two are just techy graphic organizers, I still like that they could be saved on a device for future reference for students. Graphic organizers themselves are really engaging, I think, especially for students who are more visual and those who need help organizing topics and key points. I love hanging students’ work around the room, but sometimes the walls get filled with their work, and I would like students to easily reference their work, which I think the apps help them do.
    Not all schools have these devices, but I feel like in some schools with tablets and devices, teachers often don’t know how to use them. If the school does not have devices, I think its important for administrators and teachers to look into funding and grants to give students access to these resources whenever possible. I do realize this is not a reality for all students, though. My high school did not implement 1-1 devices until two years after I graduated. There were laptop carts teachers could reserve, though, and my sophomore year the school purchased two iPad carts for reserving, as well.

  4. Meghan,
    While these resources are great for teachers (I love the post it plus for organization), how are those first two engaging for students? Yes, it is a way to ~techify~ graphic organizers, but does that make them more engaging? Also looking at costs, many schools and students won’t have iPads or iPhones to download these on. While many schools are working on having a 1-to-1 program for computers, there might not be many iPad to go around.
    I do love the Earth Now app that you included. I think students can look at that to really see all the conditions on the Earth. If they are interested in a certain area, they would be able to use that to find out more. I also think the dollar store and bulk supplies store are amazing for teacher to use just because you can get so many supplies for cheap.

  5. Meghan,
    These resources are wonderful. I will be bookmarking this blog for future use. I also love how you provided hands-on activities, which sometimes get lost in the shuffle during our modern age.

    • Tom-
      Thanks! I love seeing technology in schools; it does open up a world of resources for students, but I’ve also seen classes where students just seem stuck behind their computer screens, and there is so much that they could experience first hand, not through a computer screen!

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