Kindergarteners use a lot of educational games, both with and without technology. We use games to to engage students in learning by drawing upon their age-appropriate instincts to play. The same is proving true for educational games on computers and tablets. Due to the fact that most kindergarteners are unable to read or write fluently and indpendently for much of the year, many online educational sites highlighted in our Wilkes classes are difficult to integrate into our classrooms. Games, however, are a great way to start kids on the path of being comfortable navigating and utilizing technology as a medium for learning.
My students this year love the web-based game Teach Your Monster to Read. It has two levels for differentiation: First Steps and Fun With Words. In both games, students create a monster and travel through a magical land finding (earning) customizable items for their monster and parts to fix their monster’s broken space ship. In First Steps, students play a series of mini games that teach and identify letter names, sounds, and common digraphs and blends. After teaching the mini games, it gives the students the choice of which game they’d like to play to learn the rest of the letters and sounds. Occasionally, they add new games as you progress to a different level.
In Fun with Words, students use their monster to blend and segment words, identify words within a sentence, and read full sentences that utilize quotations and different punctuation. The game is scaffolded to help students hear, read, and find the words and sound segments. some (as in the image above) have the sentence that the student has to read and follow the direction. Other games have similar word or word segment bubbles and require kids to listen for and match the sound. As students progress, the sentences and words become more difficult. My students love this game. Even when it is hard, they continue to try until they succeed at the tasks. As an added bonus for teachers, after creating an account, you can create student groups, track progress, and assign skills for individual or groups of students to work on.
Another game we use on the iPads is called Hungry Fish. In this math game, students begin by feeding their customizable fish with the bubbles containing numbers that match the number on the fish’s belly. As the levels increase, the difficulty increases. Students must add bubbles together to add or subtract (depending on which game you are playing) and feed their fish. Correct answers grow the fish larger, incorrect answers shrink him down to nothing. Teachers can set student levels, or the game will do it for you. If a student fails to pass a level, it drops them back down to something they can succeed at before moving them up again. Again, students get to customize their fish after earning rewards. Hungry fish reinforces fluid mental math and addresses Common Core math standards in grades K-4.
Both of these games are huge hits in my classroom. Students love the enthusiasm (and British accent) that comes along with Teach Your Monster to Read as well as the challenges that come along with “caring for” their fish. I highly recommend both of them for primary classroom use. Along with reinforcing CCSS concepts and skills, games allow for students to take risks in their learning with a low affective filter for failure. As Jane McGonigal speaks to in her TED Talk (below), video games that include current affairs may be a format for solving real-world problems, as those who play them continue different avenues for success instead of giving up at the first sign of failure. It is definitely worth the watch.
Which educational games do you use in your primary classroom? Are there any that prove successful? Are there any that you thought would be great but your students don’t like to play?