Sep. 27, 2011 at 5:19 PM ET
By Jessica Manger, Techlicious.com
As an elementary school teacher, I’m always asked the same question, “What can I do at home?” There's a wealth of educational sites that can help you build your child’s reading and math skills in fun and motivational ways, but the following are my favorite resources.
Leading to Reading
Get your pre-reader moving, singing and on the road to becoming a fluent reader with Leading to Reading. There are two levels of this site: “Babies and Toddlers” and “Preschoolers." The first section contains music, read alouds, lullabies (in different languages), games, and videos. When your back is aching from “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,” turn on one of the videos, referred to as “Finger Plays,” which uses popular rhymes and hand gestures to teach coordination. “Preschoolers”offers activities that are a step up from “Babies and Toddlers”, as it focuses more on letter recognition and reading comprehension. Along with sing-a-longs and games, there are books and an exploration section that features nonfiction videos, fun facts, and videos about animals. The “Grown-ups” tab contains articles and ideas to get your child reading, author interviews, and featured books. Also available and free are downloadable coloring pages that reinforce the alphabet. Besides having stories and lullabies in different languages, this entire site can be translated into Spanish.
Starfall is every teacher’s best-kept secret. This site is the complete package, transitioning your child from letter and sound recognition to fluency and comprehension. Students from pre-school all the way to 2nd grade, as well as special education students and English language learners, will enjoy these phonics-based, interactive animations. There are four levels: “ABCs”, “Learn to Read," “It’s Fun to Read" and “I’m Reading." “ABCs” focuses on the basics of the alphabet, “Learn to Read” begins to include vocabulary and grammar, and “It’s Fun to Read” and “I’m Reading” get your child on the road to comprehension and fluency with more difficult texts from a variety of genres. Most of the lessons are followed up with a reinforcement activity or interactive book. Although the intention is to complete the site sequentially, there’s nothing stopping your child from exploring their heart away. This site also offers printables for offline practice. Recently, Starfall added a store, which offers even more resources, as well as an expanded site with extra videos and math-based activities at a yearly subscription of $35 (for three simultaneous users) for a year.
If you want your child to hear how a story should sound when it’s read aloud, who better to model it than James Earl Jones? Created by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, Storyline Online presents literature read by SAG members such as Amanda Bynes, Betty White, Lou Diamond Phillips, Melissa Gilbert and Elijah Wood, so you know they’re bound to be entertaining. Each book comes with a short biography about the reader as well as activities and ideas to further your child’s understanding of the story. While viewing the video, you have options to have captions turned on or off and see it in full-screen viewing mode. You can even read viewer comments or leave your own feedback when the video is over.
Need help trying to figure out which books are just right for you child or how to encourage higher order thinking? ReadWriteThink offers this and more in an easily navigable site. One of the more expansive sites, ReadWriteThink offers parents resources for children anywhere from kindergarten through 12th grade. The purpose of this site, which was created by International Reading Association, is to encourage both reading and writing. Activities and project ideas, games and tools, tips and how-to’s, printouts, and podcasts are all available to offer ways for every age group to connect to reading on a deeper level. This is a searchable site; so if there is a particular skill you want to work on with your child, just use the search-by-keyword feature to find resources. There are even some terrific classroom resources that parents can dip into (I won’t tell!).
An all-around great site that focuses on English, science, and math is Bitesize. Children from 2nd grade up looking for math assistance can choose from such topics as “Numbers,” “Shapes,” “Space,” “Measures” and “Handling Data." To further assist in the topics, each of the games comes with step-by-step lessons that can be read online or printed. These lessons have easy-to-understand tricks and tips for improving math skills. After your child reads through the lesson and plays the game, they can take a quiz to test their abilities. These games, which can be played in full-screen, are fun and have pretty impressive graphics. One of my favorite games on this site, “Questionaut,” takes you through fantastical worlds and breathtaking graphics while asking questions about math, English and science.
Arcademic Skill Builders
Created with children in 2nd grade and up in mind, Arcademic Skill Builders uses an arcade-like interface to focus on addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, integers, decimals, money, fractions and time. To encourage some healthy competition, your child can choose to either play with other people online, or practice their skills alone. Because there is no real interaction between the gamers, it is completely safe. After they finish the various levels of each game, you can view their score, accuracy and rate at which the questions were answered. It also lists the missed questions and gives you the option to see your child’s progress in graph form.
Who knew problem-solving could be so much fun? Based on PBS’s popular cartoon series, "Cyberchase," this site has students from 3rd grade and up working on their math and problem-solving skills. Your child will get to practice basic math facts, geometry, measurement and algebra while solving real-world issues. There is also a page entitled “Parents & Teachers” that assists parents and teachers in game choice. In this section, along with a brief summary of the game, the specific math topic, and, if applicable, science topic, is listed. After your child gets their fill of math practice, they can also watch videos, read adventures, and create art. A section titled, “Quest,” will lead a character, customized by your child, though an online quest in order win awards and items to decorate their cyberhome.
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