Home Content Areas Fine-tuning Your Virtual Assistant: Alexa Skills for All Content Areas

Fine-tuning Your Virtual Assistant: Alexa Skills for All Content Areas

by Dr. Bruce Ellis
Alexa skills

Amazon’s Alexa can be a big help in a lot of contexts. But have you embraced the use of Alexa in the classroom yet? If you’re new to the idea of virtual teaching assistants, hop on over to this post to get some background on how Alexa can be a valuable addition to your lesson plans. If you’re already on board with Alexa, you’re in the right place to discover all the skills that will allow Alexa to be more helpful and relevant in your classroom, no matter what you teach.

Adding Skills

Begin by locating the Skills section in the free Alexa app that is associated with your Echo, Dot, or Tap.

While you can use the search feature, I have found it to be quicker to just browse the Education and Reference category. By default, your search results are listed by relevance, but you may want to change that to sort by average customer rating. Below are some skills that you might want to enable and how they can be used in the classroom. Search for the bolded skill name.

Primary Learners

  • Speak Listen Learn – Speak Listen Learn is being launched with the ability to sing the alphabet, teach letters/pronunciation, words, play sound effects, animal noises, tell jokes and more.
  • Animal Workout – Animal Workout allows kids to become different animals while getting exercise. Alexa will offer up encouraging words as they go along to also boost motivation and confidence.
  • Music Bop – This Alexa Kids Skill consists of fun, interactive adventures that get the kids moving around whilst also incorporating educational themes.

ELA

  • Earplay – Students will enjoy these choose-your-own-adventure stories featuring sound effects. You will need to sign up for a free Earplay account for Alexa to access.
  • Spelling Bee – The spelling bee is designed for students (grades 4 and 5) to help them practice their words. You can also use Spelling Champion, which will let you enter your own words to practice.
  • Amazing Word Master Game – Match your word skills against Alexa as you take turns saying a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word said. Earn more points for longer words. Consider having elementary students work in groups and take turns saying their word after Alexa to see how many points the class can get and if they can beat Alexa. Be sure to enunciate clearly; otherwise she might mistakenly think you said a shorter word!
  • Word Chain – Similar to the Amazing Word Master Game above, this skill limits the game to two categories: names of countries or names of countries, states, and capitals. Social studies students will find this fun and challenging…especially since you cannot repeat a place previously said.
  • Difficult Word Quiz – This skill reminds me of the word quiz section of Reader’s Digest. You’ll find it very appropriate for middle and high school students to expand their vocabulary for the SAT and ACT. Each quiz has ten words, and you must choose the correct definition of each.
  • The Magic Door – This is a choose-your-own-adventure skill that lets you explore the sea, hills, or dark forests. There are sleeping dragons, temples, the faint sound of music, and other mysterious sights and sounds to lure your students in. They probably won’t be able to finish the adventure during the class period. So then you can have them write their own endings to the story.
  • Short Bedtime Story – Each of these stories is 30 seconds to one minute long and can be personalized to one student’s name. These might work well as writing prompts. The Amazon Storytime skill has professionally narrated stories for children ages 5 to 12.
  • Magoosh Vocabulary Builder – Alexa will ask questions about five different vocabulary words to help you increase your vocabulary.
  • Highlights Magazine – Bring the family together to try some terrifically toothsome tongue-twisters, laugh at family-friendly jokes, and reconnect with Goofus and Gallant™. If you’re up for a challenge, push your imagination to the limits with brainteasers, or host a poetry slam in your living room. You can also listen to stories about animals, friendship, sports, and more.
  • Listening Comprehension Practice – This is an interactive story game suitable for all ages. Hear fun, quick stories and answer questions at the end to sharpen your listening comprehension. Each story is about Hutch, a boy in the 5th grade with a big brother and little sister. Listen to Hutch’s adventures and hear him make up his own entertaining tall tales. New content is added weekly, so check back often.

Math

  • Math Mania – Solve these addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems.
  • The Queen’s Mathematician – Mischievous elves have kidnapped the Tree Queen, and she can only be rescued if you, her best mathematician, unlock the charms that are keeping her hidden. Kids 6-8 use early elementary math facts, solve word problems, and stretch their imaginations and vocabularies in a quirky tree house castle full of surprises and kid-friendly humor.
  • My Math – This is a powerful skill that can do lots of different things to help students master math facts.
  • 1-2-3 Math – A math challenge which tests your elementary computing skills, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, comparison, etc., in three modes.
  • Lemonade Stand – This game skill simulates owning a lemonade stand. Alexa states the weather forecast for the (simulated) day and then the player buys cups of lemonade to sell, buys signs for advertising, and sets a price for a cup of lemonade. The game focuses on the following player skills: careful listening, math, money, business, understanding odds and chance statements, and managing expectations.
  • Railroad Math – Railroad Math is a math challenge which tests your elementary math skills, including addition, subtraction and multiplication.

Science

  • NASA Mars – If your students are studying Mars, you might find this skill very resourceful. You can ask Alexa questions about the red planet or the rover Curiosity. Other similar skills to check out include Planets Trivia or Star Facts or Earth, Moon and Sun Facts.
  • Science Buddy – Science Buddy is a fun and interactive way for kids to learn about science. It quizzes topics including earth science, biology, physics, and energy. It is based on the National Science Bowl but with simpler questions; Science Buddy will ask you ten multiple-choice questions with three choices each.
  • Outer Space Alice – With Outer Space Alice, kids learn about the International Space Station, geography, languages and other fun facts about the world.

Social Studies

  • This Day in History – Check in with Alexa to find out what events happened on this day.
  • Black History Facts – Live stars share important facts about African American history.
  • Kids Court – No more “she pushed me/he started it.” Send them to Kids Court and let Judge Lexy decide.
    While you rest, they will learn some basic facts about the U. S. judicial system. They will learn to present their cases coherently and speak up for themselves.
  • Texas Fun Facts – Help students learn more about their home state.
  • Kids News – Kids News provides fun entertaining daily current events, science and other types of news.
  • Colonial History – Looking to learn more about our Founding Fathers and the era that they lived in? This skill shares interesting historical information about the era of American colonial history.
  • Time Machine – Listen to the top headlines of the same day in a randomly chosen year from 1851 on.
  • Kid Power – Want to get active and save lives? UNICEF Kid Power is a way to play games and transform your activity into food packets that UNICEF delivers to malnourished kids around the world.

Other Subject Areas

  • Jeopardy – Each weekday, Alexa receives six questions by the show’s official writers. How many can you get correct? This may be a great challenge for gifted and talented students. There’s also a Teen Jeopardy available.
  • Twenty Questions – Young students will enjoy thinking of an animal, vegetable, or mineral and seeing if Alexa can deduce it by asking yes-or-no questions.
  • Ditty – Ask Alexa to make a fast song with Ditty, which turns any message you give it into a song. This is a great way for students to quickly create a song about a particular topic.
  • Learn Spanish – Learn the most commonly used phrases in Spanish.
  • Take part in the breakout explosion and have your students Escape the Room. There are currently four different rooms to try and escape from. This activity is great for logical thinking and problem solving, as well as small group teamwork.

More Skills Coming

New skills are added every week. And as more folks rate the skills, you’ll find that it’s easier to find the best content. Regardless of the user rating, though, be sure to enable the skill and test it out yourself before you introduce it to the classroom. And if you have an idea for a skill that should be added and are interested in creating it for Alexa, jump over to Getting Started with the Alexa Skills Kit or the set of YouTube videos on Developing Alexa Skills.

If you find a skill that is great in the classroom or just plain fun, leave me a comment and we can enjoy it together!

 

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