Friday, November 26, 2010

Fun Brain - The Grammar Gorillas

Fun brain is a site with many educational games for kids. It is a free site so doesn't have any bells and whistles.
The Grammar Gorillas asks kids to determine which part of speech a word is. I like that it has a beginner level and an advanced level. I also like that it asks them to find the part of speech in a sentence, not in a list of words. This way kids can see how the words are used in the 10 sentences they are given. Some words can be a noun when used one way, and a verb when used another. It makes them think a little bit harder and asks them to use their vocabulary knowledge as well as their part of speech knowledge. I also like that it has a list of helps so if you forget what a preposition or conjunction is you have the definition and examples right under where the question is.
I don't like the fact that the questions are so small and that there is really no positive feed back other than a number on a scoreboard. Kids will become board with this game quickly unless they are working toward some carrot. This is an easy fix. Parents have to provide the carrot by saying "If you get ________ questions right, then you can play ________." (for my son the carrot is a game of his choice on the internet for 15 to 20 minutes.) Make sure it is something they like. The other problem I see is the child picks the level. My son is FAMOUS for picking the easiest level that he has already mastered because it is easy and he doesn't have to think. This is why I have the computer in the kitchen and why computer time is when I am cooking or doing dishes. I'm also not a fan of the ads on the page, but that is how they make the games free.

Beginner Level

Wrong Answer -
I like that it teaches them what they did wrong up in the left corner. I just don't think that many kids will notice this unless someone points it out to them the first time it happens.

After they have answered the 10 questions they receive this certificate.

I recommend the beginner level for 1st and 2nd graders and the advanced level for 3rd and 4th graders. This game would be a great review game for 5th and 6th graders.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Buyer Beware!!

As this Christmas season approaches I have been researching toys for my kids. I am a BIG fan of educational toys and my kids really love learning. I was looking into the new Leapfrog learning systems and found that another blogger had written a review on the didj, their system for kids 5-10. I was excited because my son picks up on things pretty fast and I wanted a system that would grow with him. I don't mind buying him new games, I just don't want to buy a new system. They are expensive!
This blogger said that her child has one and she was disappointed because the older kid games were more like the Nintendo DS games, and didn't have a lot of education in them. Man. How sad. Why can't we make learning more fun for our older kids, not just our younger kids. Sure it is easier to have them jump along a given path with their ABC's then to create a program where they find the value of x or use a digital protractor to determine which triangles are right angles before they can go through the castle door to slay the dragon after answering his questions about a passage they read earlier.
Many games claim to be educational but really aren't. Talk to someone before you buy the game or look closely at what you are getting before you spend the money.
Here are some truly educational board games that I used in my classroom.

Totally Tut- This is a game that can be played with children as young as 8 but can be challenging for adults too. Your goal is to make every line in your pyramid equal to the number at the top. Younger kids use addition and subtraction, older kids use multiplication and division.

Doubles Wild - My second graders LOVED this game. They all fought over who would get to play it. This game teaches grid coordinates, and for older kids multiplication facts (which are very important to memorize!!!)

Bananagrams - This is game is just like Scrabble. It just doesn't have a board. Anyone can play. This would also be an easy game to make with your computer by just putting letters in boxes and cutting them out. Make their spelling words worth extra points!

Timing it Right - This game helps kids learn to tell time. You first role the dice, move your piece, make the clock show that time and then read what you get to do from the book. This is great for second graders. This is a difficult concept for them!!

Bike Racers - This great game helps build reading comprehension skills. It's works for up to 15 people and is a lot of fun.

Around the Garden - This is kind of like sorry. You have to guess the vocabulary word with the clues given. The less clues you use the more spaces you get to move. I had a parent make cards for this game so it fit with my students vocabulary words. It was great.

I found the last two games on the Lakeshore Learning site. I only wrote about the games I have played from this site but the others look great too.

Remember educational is a loosely used term to get people to buy something. It is easy to say the game is educational because it teaches strategy. While this is important it's not always what you are looking for. Make sure you do your homework so you aren't disappointed when you open that game for the first time and find out the education the game is teaching is colors for your 10 year old.

What educational games have you found that have helped your child learn something? What games have you found that claim to be educational but really weren't?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I found this as an ad on facebook. See it pays to look at those ads once in a while. You have to register for this site and give your child a name and password. The site was created by Dr. Martin Fletcher, a graduate from Michigan's School for Professional Psychology. He has created a fun world of brain-boosting games that help young kids get excited about learning.
This site teaches the reading basics. My son and I had fun exploring the free sections. There are two other sections that we weren't able to get into because we didn't pay the fee. What we did see was pretty neat though.

Kabongo begins by having a parent help register the child. This way the games cansee what they have mastered and can make the activities more difficult.

My son was excited to play and earn the rewards. I loved that the first reward was immediate. After the game is explained the child then gets that chance to prove they know what they are doing. As soon as they do it right they receive a reward ( a sticker for their comic book, a section of their skate park).

My son really enjoyed these games. I also found the subscription very cheep. They are doing a deal where you can unlock galaxy garden for just 7.95. You pay once and play forever.

I haven't seen how difficult this site gets yet but I recommend this site for Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st. Some second graders would also benefit reviewing with these games.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Squanky the Tooth Taker Tooth Tally

My son and I found this game on the Game Goo site. It helps kids identify synonyms using a character that many of them know. The "Tooth Fairy." Each one of the Goo Games begins with a little story to get the kids interested. They then teach them what they want them to do and show them how to do it. This is great because they can be independent and so that Parents aren't guessing while their kids wait patiently (whining) as Mom figures it out so she can show them what to do.

Squanky the Tooth Taker Tooth Tally starts with a story of the tooth fairy coming to get the tooth of a group of children camping that have just lost some teeth. The goal of the game is to get as many teeth as you can for the tooth fairy without the kids seeing him. If the child picks the wrong word on the tooth the game teaches them what the answer should have been.

Kids need to have a basic understanding of vocabulary to play this game so they can they also need to be able to read fairly well.
The game has 2 different levels and in each game to make sure the child knows what they are talking about they have added antonyms in as one of the choices so the child has to think "Does this word mean the same as the word in the box or is it the opposite?" At the end of each level the child gets to put the 5 teeth they collected in a beavers mouth. To find out what happens once his mouth is full you will just have to play it yourself. I will tell you that it is pretty funny.

I love that this game is educational, free, and that it it entertaining. I don't like that there are so few words in their word bank that it is easy for kids to just memorize the answers so they can get the reward. If they would add more words and levels that became more challenging as thy went on this game would be amazing.

I recommend this game for an advanced 1st grader, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade. Some 4th graders might even enjoy just playing and reviewing.