This week, Education World searched the Web for interactive learning games for students in the elementary grades. The sites below represent some of the best we found. Keep them in mind when you're looking for a way to engage students' interest while increasing their knowledge or enhancing their skills! Included: Ten sites that offer a variety of online learning games.
Are your students tired of even your most creative skill drill activities? Do they groan when you suggest another math blast, spelling bee, or vocabulary quiz? Do they need a break from preparing for end-of-year high stakes testing -- but you haven't got a minute to spare for purely frivolous fun and games? Or are you just plain tired of competing with the excitement of multi- media for your students' attention? Don't despair! You can combine fun and learning while putting your students' love of computer games to work for you by introducing them to some of the engaging learning games available on the Web.
This week, Education World searched the Web for interactive online games for students in the elementary grades. The ten sites below provide some of the best games we found. Not all the games are obviously academic, but all will contribute to the knowledge or skills necessary for academic progress, while offering your students a brief break from academic pressures. So keep them in mind when you're looking for a fun activity that's not just a waste of time!
Most of the games require a Java enabled browser, such as Internet Explorer, or a free Shockwave Player.
Free Online Games and Puzzles
Thinks.com provides this large selection of online games and puzzles, which has something for every grade and skill level. Daily Puzzles (using Java) include word searches, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and codebreaker puzzles. Every day, a new puzzle is added to each of those categories, and their daily archives, which date back to October 1, 2002, make them sizable resources. Other Games and Puzzles using Java include checkers, Chinese checkers, Mr. Potato, scrambled words, Mastermind, and more. Shockwave Games and Puzzles include Shell Game, Space Run, and (my personal favorite) Dog Bones. This is a commercial site, however, and not all its pages are appropriate for kids. You'll want to make sure your students stick to the games and puzzles pages and do not click any other links in the menu bar on the right.
Games, Games, Games, and Surprises
The NIEHS (National Institute for Environmental Studies) Kids Page offers an extensive array of original games and traditional games with an environmental twist. Here, kids can look for the hidden images in a Johnny Appleseed drawing, play science concentration, bash toxic waste bugs, design a spirograph, learn about vericomposting, play name that tune, and create experiments in art. In fact, you'll find a game linked to almost every curricular area! This site contains no ads and no off-site links, but most games require a Java-enabled browser.
Interactive Fun Puzzles
This child-safe site features a total of15 math and logic problems arranged in two separate skill levels. Level One puzzles provide practice in counting, adding, sorting, hand-eye coordination, visual discrimination, and problem solving. Level Two puzzles focus almost entirely on logic and problem solving, and include such old favorites as The Frustrated Farmer and Magic Squares. Many of the puzzles at this site are challenging for elementary age students and they make terrific activities for those students who always finish first and complain of being "bored." This site contains no ads or commercial links and so requires minimal supervision.
This parent-designed site intends to provide a safe site where kids can have fun while practicing basic skills. The site is arranged into six game categories -- New Games, Math Games, Alphabet Games, Vocabulary Games, Memory Games, and Problem-Solving. Within each category, games follow several different formats. In the Math section, for example, kids can play Math Pinball, Tunnel Blaster, and Calculator Quizzer, while in the Memory section students repeat the pattern of the musical turtle or play a version of the shell game. The site also includes games created by teachers and offers teachers the opportunity to create their own games as well. This site is designed to resemble a hand-held game player, which I found confusing -- but kids probably won't. My one objection to the site is that the one ad is prominently -- and temptingly -- displayed at the top of the game and, unlike at most kids' sites today, it is not labeled as an ad.
This site offers an assortment of interactive games in a variety of formats. Most are logic or problem-solving games, although some, such as Crab Race and Code Breaker, deal with probability, and Story Builder is a MadLibs type activity. The site also offers a number of word searches, matching activities, memory games, and logic puzzles, as well as such traditional games as Tic Tac Toe and Word Star, a version of hangman. Kids also can click the balls at the bottom of the browser window to find coloring pages, craft activities, pencil puzzles, brain teasers, jokes, and kid-submitted writing. Squigly's Games are almost entirely ad-free, although students should be careful to avoid the "Try This!" link at the top of the right hand column -- it leads to a downloadable trial of a commercial game -- and the postcard section, which requires kids to enter their e-mail addresses.
Up to Ten
Click Games: 6-10 to find games and activities for kids ages 6 to 10. Games are arranged in six categories -- Coordination, Races, Puzzles, Mixed Bag, and Boowa and Kwala. Coordination games deal mostly with eye-hand coordination, providing activities in which kids manipulate keyboard keys to catch falling objects or negotiate mazes. Puzzles are drag-and-drop jigsaw puzzles of 30 pieces or more; Mixed Bad includes a variety of logic, problem-solving, visual discrimination, and general knowledge activities -- in games ranging from "Where in the World?" to "Spot the Difference." Boowa and Kwala contains easier jigsaw puzzles, and Races is just what it sounds like. This is a busy, colorful site with lots of (sometimes annoying) sound effects -- but it's also a great ad-free stress reliever, where your most active students can work off some energy productively.
Yahoo! Kids Games
This site, although not the largest kids' game site, probably has the most variety, with activities ranging from arcade games to knowledge games. Board games include Chinese checkers, chess, Go, backgammon, dominoes, and tic tac toe. Sports games include Shooting Hoops and Downhill Challenge. World Capitals, Flag Flags, and Element Lab are included in the Test Your Knowledge section. Arcade Games, Word Games, and Card Games complete the categories at this eclectic site. Like the rest of the Yahoo! Kids Site, this section is child-safe, and the few ads are all clearly marked.
The sites below generally contain only one game or a few games of limited interest. If you're looking for one of them, however, the sites are worth a visit.
Article by Linda Starr
Copyright © 2009 Education World
Links Updated 02/25/2013