Hey, you know the kids–the ones that are either shy, withdrawn, or don’t comprehend the material you are teaching. These are the same students whose body language screams, “Please don’t call on me!” Of course at some point you will have to call on them in class, but why not provide other avenues for them to show you what they know. FREE online programs are available to help you assess your students and engage them at the same time.

The Answer Pad
The Answer Pad

One such tool is Answer Garden. There is no sign up requirement to use this site, but it is an easy, fun, and quick way to check for student understanding or to elicit responses from students. You simply ask a question, choose your mode, and decide between 20 & 40 word character responses. Providing your password and email address enables the site to send you a reminder of your password, so you can later go back and edit it if you wish. All you need to do is share the web address with your students. They provide their short answer and you project it on your screen to begin a discussion. It couldn’t be easier to both assess and give those quiet ones a voice.

Lino and Padlet are two similar sites in that they are both basically online bulletin boards where students can respond with digital sticky notes. You set up the question and give students the web address, and they can respond with sticky notes. With Padlet, students can write their response or record it. In addition, they can add images, take a picture of themselves, add attachments, and videos. Lino allows students to add images, videos, and attachments to their sticky notes. The biggest difference between the two is that there are many more backgrounds that can be added with Padlet. Students will have fun responding to your questions with this tool.


Yet another tool to give reluctant students a voice in your classroom is Today’s Meet. Today’s Meet is basically a back channel where you can ask you students a question and they can respond to you and others in the class. It’s a very simple tool which does require a sign-up. Just type in a title, provide a time limit for how long the room will be open, and then open your room. Once open, begin the conversation with a question, share your web address with students, and watch the responses come in. Each person is limited to 140 character responses, but that’s probably a good thing so someone doesn’t ramble on and monopolize the conversation. Kids love this tool!

Finally, The Answer Pad is a fabulous tool where you can create classes and then easily choose a formative assessment tool to give your students. To add students, you can manually add each student, import them, or give older students the registration code that you create. Then, simply click on “quick connect” and then choose your class. You can choose from a number of different types of questions to ask students like multiple choice, thumbs up or down, and a likert scale. In addition, you can “push” several templates to students like an exit ticket and a cause and effect graphic organizer. If you want all of the templates, you will have to purchase a plan which will cost you $9.95 a year for 35 students and $19.95 a year for 200 students. This sounds like a real bargain to me. However, there is still plenty to like in the free version.

There are probably many more tools to enable everyone in your class to participate, but these are definitely some of the best on the Internet currently and best of all, they are free and fairly easy to use. If you would like tutorials to help you get started using these tools, please check out my class entitled Teacher Tech Tips—Easily Boost Teacher and Student Success.