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Education World reviews some of the best K-12 games for use classroom use. Who says education cant be fun?

There are times -- shortened school days, end-of-the-year crazies, standardized test review -- when online games are just what the doctor ordered. But which games have educational value? Education World has selected some of its favorites for early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school classrooms -- and has thrown in a dozen more with subject-specific purposes. Let the games begin!

EARLY CHILDHOOD (PREK-1)

Literacy Center
Literacy Center reviews the concepts of letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and simple words for grades PreK-1. Each concept is reviewed in five or so games or activities that are easy for students to play with minimal supervision. The layout of the site is very clean and quite simple to navigate, although a pop-up window for each concept can be confusing to close at first. In fact, closing that window is perhaps one of the only parts of the site a young child might need help with. The narrator has an adult, American Midwest accent, great for imitating sounds and particularly helpful for use with those with mild or moderate hearing loss. All games are available in English, German, French, and Spanish, helping in the ESL classroom as well as for early childhood.

ELEMENTARY (GRADE 2-5)

Maggie's Earth Adventures
This Web site rates high with students for "cool" value, with cartoonish characters, joysticks, and so on. Don't be fooled however; the educational value is there too. Games are available in Spanish and English and usually involve Maggie and her dog Dude. You can rescue Dude from the top of a building by answering math questions and moving a helicopter closer and closer. Or, you can review fish anatomy or the earth's layers in labeling games. Getting to the games can be tricky: click English, the red button, and Click Here for More Games to reach the list of Math and Language Arts games.

MIDDLE SCHOOL (GRADES 6-8)

MarcoPolo
MarcoPolo, a site teachers generally associate with lessons plans created and endorsed by such national organizations as NCTM and NCTE, also offers a number of educational games. Sub-sites here are related to the arts, math, economics, grammar, and more; each site contains subject-specific games. For example, click Read Write Think on the right side of the page, and then click Student Materials to find such engaging games as Comic Creator (making a comic strip), Character Trading Cards, Printing Press (make a newspaper), and Literary Graffiti (visualize what you read). Each game is linked to at least one lesson plan (including standards, printable materials, and more), giving you the opportunity to turn play time into a class period or more of serious learning. And be sure to visit the Illuminations site for some of the best math applets on the Internet, period!

HIGH SCHOOL (GRADES 9-12)

MathForum's Problems and Puzzles
For older students, word "games" are replaced with "problems and puzzles." Still, these online activities are among the best at reviewing a number of secondary math concepts. The focus of the site is the problem of the week -- a math puzzle for secondary students (also available for elementary students) that requires thinking outside the box. Students submit their solutions and work; if correct, those are published on the site. Great for bellwork or as a filler activity. Also see the dozen or so secondary math games linked here.

BEST OVERALL (PREK-12)

Internet4Classrooms' Assistance With Assessment
Not a particularly fun-sounding site? Well, this actually is a diamond in the rough for K-12 classrooms. Two educational consultants have searched the Web for the main concepts covered in most state standardized tests, listed those concepts, and then listed the online games that address those concepts. Is your sixth grade class struggling with place value? Check out the five games recommended for reviewing place value. Want games that specifically address mouse skills for preschoolers? They're here too! Note that secondary subjects are limited to grade 9-10 offerings -- such as Algebra II -- but if you are like many educators who must, if only occasionally, teach to the test, you can't afford to miss this site.

ALSO WORTH A LOOK

Early Childhood

  • Little Fingers -- a hit with kindergarten students in particular.
  • Starfall -- don't miss the free teacher materials and worksheets.
  • GameGoo -- The oddball graphics and stories keep students engaged as they learn!

Elementary
Funbrain -- excellent Math and Language Arts games, but contains ads for movies, candy, and so on.

Middle School

  • APlusMath -- What the site lacks in breadth, it makes up for in elegant, easy-to-use, fun refresher games. Math-o is a particular hit in grades 2-3.
  • PowerProofreading -- An excellent way to review grammar concepts in a variety of genres (letters, e-mails, scripts, and so on).

High School
Quia -- Previously, Quia, a fee-based online testing site, offered its games for free, but the site now charge for them. Still, a good choice for games for elective courses. (How about Samoan, Basque, or Hairdressing?)

Overall/Other
Hot Potatoes -- Can't find what you're looking for? Create your own puzzle or game using this free software.

Learn about more great sites for students, parents, and educators by visiting Education World's Site Reviews Archives.

Article by Lorrie Jackson
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World

05/02/2006