There are literally thousands of educational games and sites on the internet for our students to use, so how in the world do I go about picking the “best of the best” in educational games for elementary schools? Honestly, it all depends on the needs of your students, but I’d like to share a few that I see my students continually use as their “go to” set of games that they get to play in the computer lab when they have completed their assignment, usually in Google Classroom. I’m a believer in letting students have as much free choice as possible, while also maintaining absolute control over the content that I want them to access. A website was the solution.
I was inspired by another campus technologist here in my district, who has an amazing teacher website that she uses daily to load student activities for the day. I took that concept and incorporated it in Google Classroom and use my website as a stand alone game site for my students. The site has gone under many iterations, and has finally landed on a STEAM design, where the links are organized by topics – Science, Technology/Coding, Engineering, Art, Math, with a smattering of ELA links at the end. What resulted is a site that students can go to and use throughout the school day as a source of enrichment activities.
So here’s my Top Ten List of the links that get the most hits on MrEnglerTech.com.
I absolutely LOVED this site when I was teaching 4th grade math and science! There are a ton of interactive simulations from elementary through post secondary, and it is free for teachers to register and gain access to tons of submitted lesson plans and activities. The best part: the kids love the site too!
This is another collection of games that my students love. There are quite a few academic and socio/emotional topics addressed on here, providing a wide variety of engaging games for younger learners.
If there is one site/game that receives more requests than anything else, it’s CodeMonkey. My students’ love of this site is what spurred me to apply to become a Teacher Ambassador. CodeMonkey teaches students how to code in an engaging, fun, and challenging environment, and the best part – it’s TEXT based (well …mostly now). And now they have code activities for pre-readers AND block coding, plus advanced coding courses that will push your advanced coders (I’m currently stuck on a level as I type).
Digital Citizenship is a current trend in educational technology that we really all need to be addressing, and Google has some great, and free, curriculum to use along with this fun, interactive game. Interland has great resources for parents and teachers online, and is aligned with the ISTE Standards.
This game is exactly what it sounds like. Build a bridge. But it tackles some very real world engineering challenges – like building with constraints, like a budget 🙂 The challenge is to build the most stable bridge possible with the materials provided. It also allows students to test a variety of solutions in order to come up with the best possible solution (for maximum points) – hello growth mindset! The music is awesome too.
This is a silly game to which my kids seem to gravitate. The concept is to build the tallest, most stable structure possible. We do this with toothpicks and mini marshmallows in class, and then they get to play this game. We push the engineering design process here at my school and this is a really fun way to get kids into that process.
If you want to teach your kids how to draw using letters and numbers, and have them be wildly successful; this is for you. I have yet to see a student or colleague who doesn’t just fall madly in love with this site. The best part – you kids are going to sock and amaze each other with their artistic abilities. We do this on “Fun Fridays” and the art that my students produce in under 8 minutes is incredible.
My degree is in Music, so anything that takes music and technology and smashes them together in crazy cool ways is always going to find me gravitating towards is and this awesome set of musical experiments from Google does all of the above. They even have a twitter feed for people to share ideas. This is another one of those “frequent flyer” sites that my students usually visit.
If my students at school could pick one math game over all others, they would pick Prodigy. It’s free, like most of the links on here and there is an option for them to purchase a paid account for more coins, but that’s up to their parent/guardian. Teachers can also monitor student progress and assign activities and assessments to the class or individual students, etc. It’s also integrated with Google, so students can log in with Google, which makes account creation a breeze. This one consistently shows up on top pick blogs.
I’m a math lover by heart. My mom still tutors math, after teaching Algebra I for more than 26 years at the high school level – let’s just say it’s in my blood. And yes – I’m old school when it comes to learning your facts. I believe you need to memorize these by heart. I still remember my math fact mountain in first grade, and my little clothespin mountain climber that moved up the mountain to the next fact family every time we went to Mrs. Hinman’s desk and recited them by memory. So here’s a fun, basketball game for kids to practice their facts and earn up to 5 attempts to make a basket. My kids enjoy this one as well…not as much as prodigy, but still popular.
A few quick searches for “top picks” will reveal a host of other games. Think about what your students need, and then go forth and research! The students we service today need to be engaged. Using games to help reinforce concepts taught in class, when done correctly (with teacher support and monitoring, is a win for both the student and the educator.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kevin Engler is a Tech apps teacher/campus technologist from New Braunfels, TX. He is a CodeMonkey Ambassador, SeeSaw Ambassador, Google Trainer, USA Archery Level 3 Coach, and Archery Trainer for the National Archery in the Schools Program.