Published with Permission
Written by Andy Harris
Computer games are here to stay. There’s no denying it. There is something extremely compelling about video games, especially for today’s kids. Some games are not appropriate for kids, and it is right to be nervous about them. However, some games can be useful reinforcement tools for your lessons. If you can find a fun way to reinforce skills in math, reading, typing, or science, maybe you should reinforce them.
ABCya (abcya.com) is a website containing dozens of games written by frustrated schoolteachers who could not find quality educational games easily and couldn’t afford the few quality games they found. The games are available for free on the website and are grouped by age level and topic. The site does feature Google ad-word advertising, but the ads are small and unobtrusive and are mainly visible on the home page. Each game page hosts an ad, but I didn’t see anything objectionable as I used the site.
Although the quality of the games varies, they are all well made, and most are quite entertaining. They were created with the public school audience in mind, so there are a few themes (there’s a Halloween game in the K–1 section) you’ll want to be alert to. All the games use Flash technology, so they’ll work fine on any reasonably modern computer. They should play on Android devices (although many games rely on the keyboard) but sadly will not work on iPhones or iPads. A few of the more popular games have been converted to apps and are available for 99 cents each.
Kindergarten–1st Grade Games
Many great games are suitable for younger learners. Often these games are best played together with a parent or older sibling.
Here are a few of the highlights in the K1 section:
• Refrigerator Magnets—This game allows you to create words by dragging letters onto a picture of a refrigerator. Yes, I love real refrigerator magnets, but we always seem to lose the M. You can’t lose letters with this version, and you can print or save your results.
• Letter Bingo—Play bingo as the computer gives you the letter name or sound.
• Keyboard Zoo—Cute, early tool for learning where keys are on a keyboard
• Word Search Junior—Simplified “make your own word search” puzzle. Use your own vocabulary words or names of people in your family.
• Connect the Dots—Numerous connect-the-dots games to reinforce counting skills
• Marble Math—Simple math problems with digital manipulatives (marbles) to help students work out the problems . . . and pirates too!
• Make a car, house, face, pizza, etc.—A number of related games begin with a background image and allow you to put your own parts together to make your own custom object. All can be printed or saved. Not super-educational, but it’s a lot of fun.
2nd–3rd Grade Games
The second- and third-grade games add more typing and math to the mix. Here are a few highlights:
• Typing Games—Three different games introduce typing in different, fun arenas: munchies, cup stacking, and keyboard challenge.
• Decimal Tiles—Nice online manipulatives for math
• Time and Money Games—A couple of games to practice time telling and money addition skills
• Math-Man Jr.—A variation of Pac-Man that reinforces addition and subtraction skills
• Geography Games—A series of games about states and capitals, as well as interactive maps
• Jet Ski Addition —Online, multi-player game. The speed at which you answer questions determines how fast your jet ski goes.
• Word Cloud—Not really a game, but one of our favorites. Enter in a number of words and they are turned into colorful graphic art that you can save or print. Really fun way to make cards, place mats, and other fun print-outs.
4th–5th Grade Games
The games for fourth- and fifth-grade students are (appropriately) a little more detailed. They cover more sophisticated topics:
• Synonyms and Antonyms—A couple of games help kids review these ideas.
• Spelling Bees—A game that reinforces spelling with vowels
• Dirt Bike Proportions—An online, multi-player game for practicing ratios (I got schooled by a fourth-grader)
• Multiplication Grand Prix—Similar to the dirt bike game but with multiplication problems
• Percent Panic—Very similar to an old arcade game, but it teaches percentages.
• Label the Skeleton—Simple anatomy game
• Tower of Hanoi—Fun puzzle game that’s actually used in advanced computer science courses to teach a process called recursion
Just for Fun
Some of the games on the site are just plain fun. They may have some educational value, but mainly they’re just fun. These can be fun to play together or to save as reinforcement after your kids have done some of their schoolwork. They’re pretty fun for adults too:
• Bouncing Balls—This is a variation of a popular arcade game. Shoot colorful balls to make matches and clear the board.
• Civiballs—A logic game something like Cut the Rope. Several variations are available.
• Mini Train —My personal favorite. Drag and drop bridge pieces so that the train can cross over a gorge. Or make the train jump over the cliff and crash into hundreds of pieces. I know. A piece of me is just wrong.
• Fruit Collection—Bounce the fruit into the basket. It gets hectic in a hurry.
• Rotate and Roll—Rotate the entire game board to deliver balls to their home. It’s actually quite addictive.
There are more great games to discover on this site. I haven’t shown you all the games, and new ones are being added all the time. Be sure to check out the site and see how you can integrate it into your school. As always, stop by my website if you have questions or want to chat about this topic or anything else about computing and home school.
Andy Harris is a home school dad, father of four great kids, and husband to the greatest home school teacher ever. He has taught all ages of students, from kindergarten to university level. Andy is the author of a number of well-known books, including HTML/XHTML/CSS: All in One for Dummies, Game Programming–The L Line, PHP6/MySQL Programming for the Absolute Beginner, and Beginning Flash Game Programming for Dummies. For more information about his books, to see where he is speaking next, or to just say hi, please stop by his web site: www.aharrisbooks.net.
Copyright, 2012. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine, July 2012. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.