Learn some engaging ways for using the Amazon Echo Dot and Alexa in the classroom to infuse technology into morning meeting, math, reading, writing, spelling, and more! Students will love using the Amazon Echo Dot’s voice control to ask questions and get answers, but there are a ton of other ways to integrate the Echo Dot into the curriculum too.
The Amazon Echo Dot is a voice-controlled search device that uses Amazon’s Alexa. Think of it like a stand alone Siri, but it has the ability to connect to other features and apps. The Amazon Echo Dot uses wifi and once set up, you will not need to log in or use any additional devices to access the basic features – although you can set up many “skills” through the Alexa app that are worth checking out. This coupled with the fact that it is relatively inexpensive makes it ideal for use in the classroom. Click on my affiliate link to learn more about it:
How to use the Amazon Echo Dot and Alexa in the Classroom
The Echo Dot is activated by saying “Alexa…” then speaking a command or question. You will know she is “listening” when the device flashes blue after saying her name. She is “thinking” after you state your command or question if she continues to light up the blue green ring. So the Echo Dot is the device but Alexa is the search engine you are tapping into.
Speaking clearly is a must for Alexa to understand. Sometimes she will not understand so rephrasing the question helps. This is actually a great habit for students and can help address speaking and listening standards in the classroom in an authentic way, similar to how I have students use Siri on the iPad to practice fluency.
Set up the Echo Dot in an accessible area in the classroom. You will want to set guidelines as to when students can access it. A good rule is to only allow one student at a time. Like all new things, at first there will be A LOT of students NEEDING to use it ALL DAY LONG. But this will settle as the Echo Dot becomes a tool and not a novelty device.
It can be helpful to keep a notebook of questions or phrases that “work” when asking Alexa. Students can practice asking Alexa questions they have about anything or they can get inspired by the questions on sites like Wonderopolis. Kids are curious so encourage them that if they have a question to ask Alexa and you can even add Alexa into the popular phrase “Ask 3 before more me” during times you are working with students.
In addition to using the Amazon Echo Dot as a voice-activated search-engine to answer questions, you can also use it for more specific queries and activities with the following questions:
Questions to ask Alexa in the Classroom
“Alexa, how do you spell…?”
Alexa can give the spelling of most words. In writing workshop you might want to set up an editing station with the Echo Dot to limit the amount of students wanting this service. Frequent flyers can write down their words in their writing notebook or circle words as they write. Then on their day, students can check those words all at once.
“Alexa, what is the weather today?”
Once you have set up the device and it knows your location, the Echo Dot can be used to give weather reports and forecasts. This is a fantastic routine to add into morning meeting. Students could take turns being the weather reporter.
“Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?”
You can link Alexa to Google calender. If you are using Google Classroom too that means any assignments or events you have set up will be accessed by Alexa too. During morning meeting, Alexa can go over the day’s events and assignments. You can also add events to the calendar by saying “Alexa, add an event to my calendar.” Add birthdays, field trips, special classroom events and parties to the calendar too.
“Alexa, pick a number between ___ and ___.”
Alexa can be used as a random number generator too. This is great for partner selection, turn taking, data collection, raffles and more!
“Alexa, roll the dice.”
If you ask her to roll the dice, she will give you a number between 1-6. Just like the random number generator, you can use this for turn taking or set up the Echo Dot in a math center for a week.
“Alexa, pick a card.”
Just like the last two options, having Alex draw a random card from a virtual 52 card deck can be used in math centers or turn taking. This could also be a fun experiment in probability.
“Alexa, flip a coin.”
Alternatively you can ask “heads or tails” and she will tell you a result. Use this to make quick, fair decisions when you don’t have a coin on hand or like others above, pop the Echo Dot in a math center.
“Alexa, set a timer for…”
You can use Alexa as a countdown timer by telling her a duration. Once set you can ask how much time is left and even pause and resume the timer.
“Alexa, rock, paper, scissors…”
This is just for fun, but you can play a round or two of Roshambo with the Echo Dot. This would make a great reward or brain break in the classroom.
“Alexa tell me a story…”
Asking this will launch Alexa into a random story. So far, I have only heard fairy tale and folk tales…nothing inappropriate. Set this up as a center during reading and have students draw an illustration while listening. They could also write a short summary of the story too.
“Alexa, Simon says…”
Whatever students say after Simon Says, Alexa will repeat. Have students practice reading sentences with spelling and vocabulary words or the phonics pattern you are studying. Since students have to read fluently for Alexa to understand, this makes great practice for an otherwise tedious but worthwhile activity.
“Alexa, Count By…”
So far I have tested 5s and 10s but it could be a neat math center to have students try various patterns and record her counting.
“Alexa, random fact.”
This could be used during morning meeting to learn one new, random thing each day. So far all of the facts have been appropriate and I have not seen evidence otherwise that Alexa’s responses are not G-rated.
“Alexa, what is ____+_____?” or “____ x ____?” etc.
Alexa will do simple calculations. Students could play a version of beat the calculator but versus Alexa!
“Alexa, what is the definition of _______?”
Alexa can look up and define words using an online dictionary. With young students this might not be the best since often times definitions do not help them understand the word without context, but I do like that it would encourage students to notice words and to try to pronounce unknown words too.
“Alexa, what is a synonym for _______?”
Alexa can also be used as a thesaurus. Again, I would limit the students who can use this during Writing Workshop – maybe set it up so a group of students rotates into the Echo Dot writing center for editing.
If you want to connect the Echo Dot to the free Alexa App on your Smartphone, you will also get access to a bunch of additional kid-friendly skills to do on Amazon Alexa. You can also enable Kindle or Audible books to be read aloud on the Echo Dot if you have accounts on those sites.
Be sure to occasionally ask the Echo Dot, “Alexa, what new features do you have?” since it is always updating. Be sure to connect with me via social media if you are using an Amazon Echo Dot and Alexa in the classroom – I would love to hear how you are integrating this affordable and versatile piece of technology into your school day!