I know a lot of teachers make resolutions to cut down their screen time (both in the classroom and out), but I’m not ashamed to admit that I love to use my phone. While it can be both a blessing and a curse, my smartphone makes my life easier and more fun! Here’s a list of my favorite free apps for English teachers and how to use them.
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I’ll never forget the first time I was three chapters into a “new” Ruth Ware murder mystery only to realize I had already read it before. Prior to this, I had never been a fan of tracking something that is supposed to be fun, but at that moment I knew I needed a system for keeping up with the books I’ve read. Though Goodreads is a popular choice, I went with Storygraph and fell in love with all the nerdy data it gives me! Here’s a look at my 2023 reading stats:
(Hit the arrow on the far right over The House Maid to see my data)
Beyond the fun data, the biggest draw for me is that it helps you pick (and diversify) books by mood. Once I noticed that I was super heavy on the tense, dark, and mysterious, I made a goal to read a different genre after each thriller. I had never read cupcake romance before in my life until this year and now I’ve found a new genre that I adore! I also think it’s awesome that Storygraph was created by a female coder, and unlike Goodreads which is tied to Amazon, Storygraph is a small business that I love to support!
If you follow me on Instagram then you may have noticed the DRAMA unfolding in my marriage. You see, my husband has a spending habit that drives my frugal self bananas. While I browse Thriftbooks and check out books from library apps, my book-bougie husband buys TWO versions of every book he reads. He loves to listen to books during the day and read physical books at night. I get that. It’s a strategy I use myself to read more books. However, he BUYS an audiobook and a physical book for every reading selection.
While Libby has been a favorite of mine since back when it was Overdrive, its popularity is great for the reading community but bad for availability. When he wants to read a book, he wants to read it right now. Waiting in line for months just wasn’t doing it for him. So, in an effort to try to reign his book bougieness without stifling his love of reading, I asked for advice, and the people delivered!
Hoopla is a free library-based app like Libby without wait lines. While it doesn’t have nearly as a robust selection as Libby, there are a lot of popular audiobooks available for immediate checkout! Between Libby (free), Hoopla (free), and Spotify’s new audiobook library (technically free if you are already paying for the music subscription), I’m hopeful he’ll be able to live that luxurious book life on less, ha! 😉
Do you want to learn more about how audiobooks can enhance your classroom library, keep reading here: Independent Reading Research: Promoting Audiobooks and eBooks
If you love checklists as much as I do, then you’ll see why Google Keep made it on my list of fun free apps for English teachers. For those who haven’t heard of Google Keep, it is essentially a tool to organize your life. You can create notes on the go, make to-do lists, keep reminders, collaborate with colleagues, and access everything from your phone or desktop. And thanks to this fun tutorial, you can make your Google Keep lists both cute AND functional.
Would you like to edit and use my Google Keep Canva template? Grab a free template copy here:
Though this app is several years old, it’s new to me and SO COOL. I heard about it on one of my favorite comfort podcasts and think it has so much potential for personal and classroom use. Picture this: You are preparing to teach Of Mice and Men and want to hook students and set the mood. You open your Radioooo app, set the music machine to 1930, and take students back in time through their ears. This app allows users to select a decade and country, producing playlists based on that combination. For instance, you could choose 1950s and France, and the app generates music that fits that era and country. It’s a fun way to spark curiosity and add some ambiance to your classroom or commute to work.
One of the greatest joys of my life is travel, and I’m blessed to have done quite a bit of it over the years. Ever since the pandemic, I’ve actively tried to practice more gratitude for the ability and privilege of travel. Something that helps me do this is my Been app. I get such a jolt of happiness every time I get to add a new country or state to my map. And when I’m daydreaming, I’ll often just open up the app and reminisce about the incredible places I’ve been and the experiences I’ve had there.
So, Been isn’t necessarily a teaching app but it’s helpful for teachers who love to travel. By using Been, you can input all the places you’ve traveled and create a map of these destinations. Not only is it a good way to keep track of your travel experiences, but it can also serve as a conversation starter with students. As I write in Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning, growing up I thought my teachers were rich because they got to travel. I dreamed of one day being rich enough to travel like them too, and while a teacher’s salary looks a lot different to me now, it absolutely gave me my “rich life” as well.
If you too have wanderlust and want to travel more with points, I’m going to share my favorite travel credit cards. I use my travel credit card like a debit card and pay the entire balance each month. As always, please protect your finances and make the best decision for your spending tendencies. For me, this has proven to be a fantastic way to travel more for free because I’m usually able to cover the flight costs using only points.
These are my favorite cards because of their SIMPLICITY. To use your points, all you have to do is purchase a hotel, flight, or anything travel-related on any site you wish then log into your CC account and click “erase my purchase.” Magic!
While this list of my favorite fun free apps for English teachers leans more toward personal use than classroom use, it is my greatest wish that it will inspire you to cultivate your interests outside of the classroom. I truly believe that teachers with the time and energy to pursue their passions outside the classroom will not only have more longevity but more happiness too. So with that, here’s to more personal reading, cuter organization, eclectic music, and adventurous travel this new year!