Educational Gaming

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.

Screenshot 2014-11-25 15.40.21

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.

Hungry-Fish

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?

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9 thoughts on “Educational Gaming

  1. It is so natural to me that you would use games that work on these primary skills. The games that you highlighted here seem like great games to work with little ones. I went and tried the demo for Teach Your Monster to Read. I was a little surprised about how fast he moved around, but I got it. I knew the sounds ck, g, and d, so I earned underwear. The prize was a little weird. Great choice for interactive letter learning.

  2. True, underwear is a strange prize, but primary kids think it’s hilarious. Just look at the success of the Captain Underpants book series! You’re right, he does move a little quickly – I kept missing on one of the games because my reaction speed wasn’t quick enough. Apparently it’s because I’m old. The kids didn’t struggle with it at all.

  3. Kate,

    I didn’t get the Teach Your Monster to Read to ‘play” on my Macbook. I will try to get on my nephew’s computer in a bit. With the Holiday, there are at least 3 of us online right now. My son is very interested in numbers so I will check and make sure I have Hungry Fish. I think I have something similar but not as many options. I will continue to look at your app and website suggestions for my Prek and Kinders. I do not look for new apps often bc I hate to let favorites go. My son used to love character theme games, Thomas and friends and Mickey Mouse Club House Road Rally. He loves music too. Little Fox Music Box and Nighty Night! are my faves (better interactive art) but he loves Pink Fong’s The Gingerbread Man and Toca Band ( better interactive music). I have too many art apps to mention but my students tend to pick the ones my son likes. I am incorporating Word Slapps app for my non verbal students. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/word-slapps-vocabulary/id413888079?mt=8.

    Valerie

    • Kate

      We did try Teach Your Monster To Read. Took a while to load on my nephew’s Windows Surface but it was fun to play. The manipulation of the tools might be challenging for 4 year olds. They would love the challenge though.

      Valerie

      • I’m glad you tried it. It took the kids a little bit to learn to control their monster, but they got the hang of it pretty quickly. Thank you for the Word Slaps link!

  4. Hi Kate:

    I didn’t get the chance to play either of your games but I did go to the Hungry Fish website and watch the tutorial video. It seems like Hungry Fish would be a huge hit! I think it’s neat that students have the ability to match numbers to get the desired integer and once they ‘level up’ they can customize their fish. I think that’d be a cool thing for them to do. What I’m most interested in knowing how you utilize these games in your classroom? Do you use them as reviews or rewards? I’m not sure if you mentioned in another post or not but do you have technology in which all students can play on their own? I’d be interested in hearing a little bit more about how your classroom integrates these games.

    To answer your questions, I don’t currently use any games with my students other than typing games with my sixth graders. I haven’t heard any complaints yet! Sorry I don’t have too much to add to your questions but hopefully you will find some other primary teachers out there who can share some ideas with you!

    Thanks for sharing! ☺

    • I use them for practice and knowledge aquisition. I never use them specifically for a review, but sometimes the kids choose to use the games and then review just by chance. I don’t use them as rewards because I want them to be seen as learning tools themselves – another way to learn, not something that you earn by learning a different way. I set up the iPads in rotations in my reading centers and kids get a set amount of time to use pre-selected apps and games. Your sixth graders could use them in stations. Good luck!

  5. Kate,
    Thanks for sharing the two kindergarden gaming resources. My youngest child is in French kindergarden and her teacher is always on the lookout first and foremost for french sites for her students. I feel that I could easily share with her the Hungry Fish app and if there should be some english vocabulary, I’d imagine the volume could be muted. The concept of having the students work with addition and subtraction would not have to have any language barrier for the students in my school to be able to still play the game. My daughter is loving working with numbers at the moment and I see a lot of benefit with this game. With Teach Your Monster To Read, I could share that with the English kindergarden teacher, however, not my daughters teacher. I could still personally start her learning to read in english at home though. When she gets to grade 3, I’d say her basic english reading skills could be apparent using this site as that is the year the french students take English Language Arts. Thanks for the share!

    • Hungry Fish doesn’t have any words in it, so it would be suitable for the French class. You could definitely use the Monster game at home. Even just the littlest exposure along the way will help! Good luck with the French school!

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