These are a few of my favourite things…

By Brooke Trenwith

Adapted from an original article published in NZAGC’s Tall Poppies Magazine in July 2018.

Those that have met me do know that raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens are definitely a few of my favourite things but when it comes to working with gifted students, my go to is the never ending, always evolving, inspiring range of online resources.

In this edition I share some of my favourite resources that are being used around New Zealand and the world to inspire and challenge students. Some are free, some are not… some have been around for a long time, some have just arrived.  This is by no means an exhaustive list but more of a starter pack for those looking for new ideas (or to be reminded of old ones).

And I do not guarantee that by the time you read this they will all still be there. Such is the nature of the World Wide Web. But I do guarantee that every week new and exciting apps and sites will spring up – the key is share with each other what they are and how you use them.  If you know of other sites that are of use, please do share them with me or others. You can drop me an email or comment on my Potential to Performance Facebook page. We are stronger if we work together.

Social Action


You loan money (in US$25) to individual and groups worldwide who have applied for interest free loans.

They pay it back and you loan it out again.


Sometimes due to unforeseen circumstances they do not pay the money back so you cannot re-loan it.


Often you receive updates as to how the recipient of the loan is going.

Multiple choice questions that get harder the more you answer them.

A range of subject areas are available and for every correct answer, 10 grains of rice gets donated to help fight world hunger.

You do need to have an account (free) for the rice to be distributed.  If you are just playing without being logged into the account then the rice is not distributed.

This is an awesome replacement for spelling tests or maths basic skills.



Science lessons that start with a video on a big question  and then follow on with an easy to follow practical activity.


The free ‘school membership’ is only for a year.


You can email the creator any of your tough science questions and he will answer them for you.

You can choose from a wide range of badges to complete.  Each task is marked for difficulty and there is a wide range of choice for what needs to be completed.

There is a small cost involved for each.

There are also lower level certificates or activities available.



A new ‘cool’ picture every day with a writing starter, sick sentences, questions and a drawing activity.


It can be very difficult to find your favourite pictures once the site moves on.


This used to be free – and it now a subscription 🙁

A world-wide challenge to write a novel in one month- it doesn’t have to be a good one!  The idea is to the get through the word count and build confidence.

Only in November for the Nano Writing adult programme.

There are elementary and high school downloadable PDF books on how to write a novel that can be used at anytime through the Young Writers Programme link.

Turn your writing into 3D animation.

You do have to pay for this…

When I first heard about it, it was free…



Maths activities that allow you to show working and align really well to the New Zealand Curriculum.


You do need to join and have an account.


Some schools are using this for their maths programme in class. There is a charge for this.

Free maths activities from Google Earth

There are more than 30 but it is not enough…

Love the linking with the real world.

The Rich Learning Activities are awesome.

Would love to see more philosophy linked into the problems.

Used in most schools around NZ.

Set up as Investigations that build a love of maths learning.

There is a small fee for this.

I love the Super Award challenge.



Philosophical modules for a range of children’s books. Includes an explanation of the philosophy used and then questions for discussion.


Some of the books are difficult to find.


You can just use the questions without actually understanding the philosophy and still get deep discussion.

Collects and files newspaper articles on a range of topics.

You do need to login and join.

You now need to pay for this – it used to be free.

Gives you an article a day or you can search under reading ability or topic.

Website is a bit clunky.

They state using the article a day will build children’s background knowledge, vocabulary and stamina.

Social & Emotional Support


Designed for introverts by an introvert.  Great blog articles to help understanding.


Site has taken off a number of their free resources.


Watch Susan Cain’s TedX Talk – fantastic!

Books, TV shows, movies, games/toys, clothing that all about providing strong role models for girls.

Some of the toys are difficult to get in NZ.

Many schools are using this with boys as well so that boys are being exposed to positive female role models – rather than the just the “princess being rescued.”

Scientifically based activities designed to combat depression and anxiety and build feelings of well-being.

You do need to log on and create a free account.

Many of the activities can be done without the app or site once you are familiar with them.

Mindfulness recordings for a range of ages for both home and school.

Listen to a few of them first to see if the accents bother you.

Many schools are already using this in school and a University of Sydney study found that practicing  mindfulness had a positive impact on achievement.



Vanessa is a trauma informed specialist in Aotearoa NZ. She has some great resources and tips for teachers and whānau.


Some of the tech does need money to purchase.


Vanessa is also on our Teachable Online Course series. She has developed a trauma informed practice model that is founded in biculturalism.

Brooke and Ness often work together with schools to help teachers learn about trauma informed practice.

A free font that is designed by a dyslexic graphic designer with the purpose of it being easier to read.

Some non-dyslexics hate it.

Some schools are trialling this as a font for all handouts in schools.

This app will read anything on your computer and all voice to text options.

You do need to train your voice for it.

It can be used during e-asTTle testing in schools.

Massive Open Online Learning

The above sites are probably my favourite of all of the above.  These Massive Open Online Courses are FREE university courses from around the world that are all short video based.  Some are only open at certain points for registration, others (like Learning how to Learn on Coursera) are available at any time.  For most, once you are registered you can access them whenever you would like.

Please do not be put off by the ‘University’ statement.  As the courses are free, if they are too hard you can just try something else.  But there are thousands of courses with many being available in multiple languages.  Do some with your children and give them a go.

So which one first?