The iPad App Every Teacher Should Buy {Teachers Talking Tech Link Up}

Welcome to Teachers Talking Tech on Thursdays! I'm hoping to have a few friends link up this week and get the linky party started! If you missed my introduction post, click here to read more. 

The iPad App Every Teacher Should Buy

Today I am going to tell you the long journey that I went on to make my iPad my better half in the classroom. Do you have a minute?

It all started last fall when I started teaching in a classroom with no means of displaying a PowerPoint. No SmartBoard, no Elmo. Just a 28 inch television that was in the far corner of a room and very difficult to view from where my students sat. One of the reading decoding programs that my district uses is Orton-Gillingham. A few very generous teachers took the time to transfer all of the lesson information and steps into PowerPoint presentations so that teachers could use their SmartBoards and Interwrite Boards to display them. Well, except people like me without either.

Aside from the lack of resources, I had another roadblock. As a consultant teacher I only ever teach Orton to 4-5 kids at a time. Even if I had a SmartBoard, I wouldn't be able to use these PowerPoints when I was working with one group because it would be too distracting for the others.  Enter the iPad. 

Our school doesn't have individual iPads for teachers, but I was willing to give my personal iPad a try. I just needed to find out how I could easily display PowerPoints without paying for an expensive presentation app. Well, long story short, there wasn't a good way to do it without purchasing the expensive app. Am I the only one who agonizes over purchasing apps, but will mindlessly buy a $4.00 drink at Starbucks 2-3 days a week? I digress. So I read reviews and decided to splurge on Keynote for (gasp!) $9.99. Little did I know I was investing in the most powerful app on my iPad (other than Pinterest..)!

(Side that I am a traveling teacher, this has became my lifesaver. I literally have the materials to teach 180 Orton lessons and a million other things..... in my purse at all times. How cool is that?!)

Keynote is Apple's equivalent of Microsoft PowerPoint. It functions just like it. I opened it up and quickly realized that if I didn't create the PowerPoints myself on the iPad itself, then I had to find a way to transfer all of these PowerPoints to my iPad and then open them in Keynote. As other iPad users know, you can't stick a USB drive into an iPad! And worse, I can't access school wifi on a personal device so I couldn't email them to myself! SO MANY ROADBLOCKS. But I am one determined chick so I kept going. 

Enter Dropbox (free!). I created an account on their website and downloaded the app. I dragged all of the files that I wanted into Dropbox online and thought I was good to go. Then I got to school the next day and realized I couldn't view any of my files because I wasn't connected to wifi. Rage.

But I kept going. 

Turns out, if you "favorite" a document on Dropbox, then it is accessible on your iPad without wifi connection. Perfect. The rest is history.

This is a screen shot of my Dropbox app. The documents with purple stars are favorited and therefore they are accessible on or off wifi. In the top right hand corner you simply click on the arrow and hit "Open in Keynote". Once you open a document in Keynote, it is automatically saved in Keynote so you only have to open a document once.

So now that you've read my sad story about how long it took me to get here, take a look at all of the wonderful things that you can do!

Display Existing PowerPoints

Even if you don't have 180 reading lessons already on PowerPoint like I do, you probably have a lot of other PowerPoints that are valuable. If you don't yet, you can certainly acquire some. If you Google "PowerPoints for Teachers" you would be amazed at what you can download in seconds! One of my personal favorites is Pete's Power Point Station. 

This is a generic Jeopardy game that I store in Keynote and use time after time. I can modify it right on the iPad to suit the upcoming test or skill that we are reviewing! This is a crowd favorite. 

Here is a PowerPoint that I downloaded for free from Pete's Power Point Station that my kids love to play. 

Make New Presentations

I've used Keynote to create spelling and sight word review activities. It literally takes me 5 minutes to type in our spelling words each week. You can also add animations to the slide to have only one letter display at a time!

I've created PowerPoints to focus on very specific facts or skills that my students are struggling with.

Have the Kids Make Presentations!

If you thought jeopardy was the crowd favorite, wait until you see this. My kids LOVE to make what we call "Reteachable Moments". We take photos of our work as we go (on the iPad) and then I let the kids create a presentation that tells what they learned today. It is the ultimate exit slip/ticket-out-the-door and it is a huuuuuge motivator! Sometimes we do it at the end of one class, other times we do it as the culmination of a larger unit. 

In summary...

1. Get Keynote.
2. Get Dropbox.
3. Get going!

See how other teachers are using technology in our linky party every Thursday!


  1. Great ideas! Thank you for sharing them. I am now thinking of the ways I can use this!
    Conversations in Literacy

    1. What a convenient app! I use Orton Gillingham too, so this app works wonders for me! Can't wait to set it up for next year.

      Love the linky! So glad I could join!

      Teaching Special Thinkers

  2. Hi Sally,

    You know I use my iPad at work all the time and have to pass it around to customers and I don't really want them closing the app I'm trying to show them to play Angry Birds so I turn on Guided Access. Try this some time:

    Objective – Enable audience interaction with the lesson Application, while restricting other un-authorized access during a lesson.

    Steps to Take -
    1. Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access.
    2. It lets you set a passcode
    3. Go to your lesson Application (in your case Keynote) - Press the home button 3 times quickly – It asks you if you want to enable guided access.
    4. Once you select “Yes” – the user cannot leave the lesson app unless the Passcode is entered.
    5. To disable Guided access – press home button 3 times quickly – enter Passcode and “End” the guided access.


  3. Wow! I'm impressed! It looks like a great app!

    Thanks for sharing!
    A Sunny Day in First Grade

  4. I am so happy I found your blog as I too teach special education and use Orton Gillingham. Do you sell any of your stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers, etc? I am going on maternity leave in the Fall and want to have things pre-planned for the sub.

  5. Help:
    How do I gain access to your OG lessons?


  6. Help:
    How do I gain access to OG lessons?


  7. Can you please tell me where I can find a copy of your Jeopardy Game template? I tried Pete's PowerPoint Station but couldn't find the same copy. Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. Hi I'm mother of a dyslexic child .I been my daughters advocate for dyslexics also trying to get more support for others here in Nevada .I don't have a lot money to buy the actual program for Og .I'm currently in school pursing my degree in special education .Is there any way someone knows were to get the orton Gillingham lessons ? My goal is to start a nonprofit for children with disabilities here in Nevada .

  9. Hi I'm mother with a child who has dyslexia .I don't have the funds to buy the actual Og system ,Since I'm currently seeking employment and going to college in special education.I do have keynotes in my iPad could somebody tell me were ö could get the orton gillingham lessons please .I have been my daugthers advocate and others in Nevada .


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