In the teaching profession there is nothing more helpful and valuable than free, ready-made, and easy to use resources. If we can save time on the planning and preparing end, that frees up more time for ALL.THE.THINGS. Here are some of my top 5 favorite free resources!
Desmos.com started as an online graphing tool, and it is great for that, however it has evolved into an easy to use platform for interactive activities. If you sign up for a teacher account (which is free), you can use their “custom” option to create quizzes, exit tickets, and interactive assignments. It allows you to upload videos and photos, you have their graphing tools at your disposal, students can respond with a text answer, a sketch, multiple choice, ordered lists, etc. Students log in by going to student.desmos.com and putting in the alphanumeric code you give them (which is generated randomly when you create an activity). They do not need an account to use the site. From the teacher dashboard you can pause the activity to help control the pace, you can anonymize the students names for times when you want to share out student responses (it changes their names to famous mathematicians), and you can write notes for yourself. As well as all these custom options, they also have a large database of activities made by others in their team at your disposal. It is an excellent free resource that works great for Prompts, Learning Labs, application tasks, quizzes and even assessments.
Geogebra is another tool very much like Desmos, except it is solely for math and science and is predominantly about modeling (which is great for project based learning!). They have 3-d and 2-d graphing calculators, as well as free ready-made classroom resources made with the website tools. Signing up for an account is also free (like Desmos.) I have used this mostly for 3-d graphing, to help students visualize and model objects in 3-dimensional space. This resource would be best used for an application task, or a prompt.
Khan Academy is a great free supplemental tool because you can look up specific concepts and standards to find videos and practice problems to supplement your classroom teaching. I find it is also a great tool for self study and research, and for quick quizzes to get an idea of student’s understanding. Khan Academy also has practice tests for the SAT’s and will tell you which areas you need to practice/study more. I have also known some homeschool families to use it as their primary curriculum. This resource helps support project based learning because it allows students to research what they need at their own pace and self-assess their own understanding. It would be best used as a resource with an extended project.
This is a great tool for taking a sort of litmus test of where students are at, for encouraging automaticity, or to pose a thought provoking prompt. Kahoot is a database of quizzes for all content areas. It is free to create an account and you can share the quizzes you make with other’s using the site (or you can use the quizzes on the site without making your own account!). Students log in with the random code you give them, and they can participate either as individuals or as teams. For project based learning, this can be a great tool for quick prompts and application tasks, since you can upload whatever you want for the question and you can determine how long students have to respond. Students get points for fast response time, and for whether they are correct or not, so it encourages friendly competition. The stakes aren’t high, but they still want to do better than their peers!
5. Google suite
The last free resource in this list is really several resources in one. If you have a Google account (which is free) you have access to Google suite, which includes many online resources like Google sheets (a spreadsheet tool), Google Docs (a word processing tool), Google slides (a presentation tool like powerpoint or keynote), and more. If you work for an educational institution that pays for a business account, there are more options, such as Google forms, which allows you to make online interactive assignments, quizzes, polls, etc. The best thing about these tools is that they allow for collaboration. Students can all contribute to shared documents to store their data, photos, videos, put together their report, make their presentation, etc. And, because it’s an online tool, it can be accessed from any device equipped with internet and with access to an internet connection. They also have apps available for mobile devices so documents are easier to read. This resource is most beneficial to project based learning as a collaboration tool, though I have also used the Google classroom tool as a delivery method for prompts, learning lab documents, application tasks, etc. I make the instruction sheets and expectation rubrics, then upload them to Google classroom for students to access when needed. There is so much potential in these tools the options are almost limitless.
These 5 free resources are staples in my lesson planning and teaching. You can either use them as tools to support your teaching, or use the ready-made resources available to enrich and supplement your curriculum. When it comes to project based learning, the main things to focus on are inquiry, innovation, reflection, and problem solving, and all of these resources can help you achieve this, whether it’s a thought provoking prompt question, an interactive trial and error task, or ease of collaboration when group problem solving. I hope you find these resources as helpful as I have!