December 26, 2009
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Having an audience for kids is a motivator. Winning a prize for your writing is huge motivator. Here are five writing contests just around the corner:
- Young Writers and Illustrators Contest
A creation of PBS Kids and Reading Rainbow, this is a contest for all kids in K-3rd grade who want to write & illustrate a story and submit it for judging for a chance to win local and national prizes. Everyone who enters gets a Certificate of Achievement.
Deadline: PBS Stations will hold local PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contests during February and March. In late January go to pbskids.org/writerscontest to find your local PBS station and Contest deadline as well as to print the Entry Form and Rules.
- The Betty Award
A writing contest for kids ages 8-12 where kids can win up to $300.
Deadline: All entries must be postmarked no later than May 15, 2010. Winners will be notified by July 15, 2010.
- Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award
International writing competition for writers age 13 and above. Amazon and Penguin are seeking the next popular novel. Each winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance.
Deadline: Entries must be submitted between January 25, 2010 at 12:01 a.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and February 7, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).
- Writer’s Digest 79th Annual Writing Competition
GRAND PRIZE: $3,000 cash and a trip to New York City to meet with editors or agents. Writer’s Digest will fly you and a guest to The Big Apple, where you’ll spend three days and two nights in the publishing capital of the world. While you’re there, a Writer’s Digest editor will escort you to meet and share your work with four editors or agents!
Deadline: May 14, 2010.
Add $5 per manuscript or poem to Entry Fee(s) on all entries submitted after May 14.
- Kids Can Do It Essay Contest
Ongoing essay competition where kids can win $50, an autographed book from Sandra McLeod Humphrey, and an award certificate to hang in the classroom.
Deadline: Ongoing. Next contest begins January 1, 2010.
This list just scratches the surface of the writing contests out there. A word of caution though: there are several scam contests looking to take advantage of young writers. Here are some articles you should read before entering any writing competition:
Do you have other contests to recommend? If so, please share.
December 21, 2009
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Ok, so you’ve probably seen some of these, but I needed a snazzy title. I recently compiled two lists of sites from Richard Byrne’s Blog – the site is an amazing resource, and I’m pretty certain that Richard doesn’t sleep. These aren’t in order of greatness – they all have their own specific applications for education. A few of these appear on my Sites for Kids (and Teachers) page.
- XP Math is a good place to find math games, math videos, math worksheets, and math e-books. The games section of XP Math offers games for basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and probability. Create an account on XP Math and you can keep track of your scores.
- Word Twist is an online version of the popular board game, Boggle. Word Twist comes in two versions a four by four grid and a five by five grid. The purpose of Word Twist is to identify as many words as possible using the letters in the grid.
- Super Text Twist is a simple word game similar to Word Twist which asks plays to identify words from a set of jumbled letters. The Super Text Twist game be played online or downloaded for use offline.
- Parade of Games in Powerpoint was developed by faculty at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. Parade of Games in Powerpoint provides teachers with games and game templates for classroom use. The games and game templates are available for download in Powerpoint format. Some of the games and game templates that teachers can find on Parade of Games in Powerpoint include Bingo, Jeopardy, and scavenger hunts.
- Arcademic Skill Builders offers a collection of twenty-one quality games for sharpening math and language arts skills. All of the games can be played online and six of the games are even enabled for play using a Nintendo Wii remote.
- The Problem Site is loaded with great games for students. Some of the games are traditional “hang-man” style games, some of the games are traditional games with a twist, and some of the games are completely new. Each game is designed to help students develop problem solving skills. The games are categorized as word games, math games, or strategy games.
- Ghost Blasters is designed to help students learn to multiply and divide quickly in their heads. To play Ghost Blasters select a multiple of which each “bad” ghost will have a value that is a multiple of that which you chose. Students then use their mouse to blast every “bad” ghost. For example, if I select “5” at the beginning then all bad ghosts will display a multiple of 5. I then have to blast all of the bad ghosts to gain points, but if I blast a “good” ghost (a ghost that does not have a multiple of 5) I lose points.
- Learning Games for Kids offers games for mathematics as well as many other content areas. Most of the games on Learning Games for Kids can be played directly on the website although some do link out to other sources.
- Learn With Math Games is a site that I like because it offers online games as well as PDF templates for games that teachers and students can play in their classrooms. Learn With Math Games is organized by grade level and by mathematics topic.
- Gamequarium developed by Diana Dell (a great person to follow on Twitter by the way) offers an excellent catalog of mathematics games and video demonstrations of mathematics functions.
- Primary Games offers a collection of mathematics games as well as games for other content areas. You can grab some of the games on Primary Games and embed them into your own blog or website.
- Grammar Ninja is a fun game for students to play as they develop a working knowledge of the parts of speech. Grammar Ninja has three levels for students to work through. As long as you answer questions correctly, they continue through the game, but answer incorrectly and the words explode.
- Mad Libs offers a widget that you can install on your blog to allow visitors to play Mad Libs. I’ve always thought that having a “fun element” on your classroom blog is a good way to keep students actively visiting the blog without prompting from you. If you’re an English teacher, the Mad Libs widget might be something to consider adding to your blog.
- The World Food Programme’s website offers students a large selection of educational online games and activities. The games are categorized by age group. Some of the games, like Food Force, are about world hunger while other games are more general in nature.
- Taking it Global, an organization for youth interested in global issues, has a small games section that includes a game based on the flags of the world. Flags of the World asks students to match flags to their respective countries. After matching each flag to its country students can click the “learn more” link to find more information about that country.
- Shape It Up is one of many good educational games and activities on Kinetic City. Shape It Up is an activity that would be good for use in an elementary school Earth Science lesson. The activity presents students with “before” and “after” images of a piece of Earth. Students then have to select the force nature and the span of time it took to create the “after” picture. If students choose incorrectly, Shape It Up will tell the student and they can choose again.
- The Houghton Mifflin Company produces Grammar Blast. Grammar Blast offers 35 interactive grammar activities for students in grades two through five.
- The Grammar Practice Park produced by Harcourt School Publishers provides 12 games for students in grades three, four, and five.
- The British Council’s Learn English website offers 69 interactive activities for learning the rules of grammar. The activities are not listed by grade level so you will have to preview them to determine which activities are best suited for your students.
- Scholastic Inc. has a page for elementary age students called Maggie’s Learning Adventures. On Maggie’s Learning Adventures visitors will find five grammar activities as well as activities for learning Spanish, Math, and Science.
- The BBC’s Skillswise website is a great resource for a wide variety of content areas. On the grammar and spelling page there are 21 activities suitable for students of middle school and high school age.
- Playing History is a collection of 128 games related to topics in US and World History as well as civics and geography. The games come from a variety of sources across the web. Feedback on every game and suggestions for future additions are welcomed by the hosts of the site. Visitors to Playing History can search for games by using the tag cloud, by using the search box, or just browse through the entire list.
- Think About History is a fun trivia game on History.com. The object of the game is to cross the playing board by correctly answering a sequence of history trivia questions. The game has multiple levels that get progressively more difficult throughout the game. The questions on Think About History are a mix of video-based and text-based questions. The game can be played as an individual game or a two player game.
- Fling the Teacher is a website containing 68 history quiz games. All of the quizzes have at least fifteen questions and a few of the games have more than 100 questions. The average is 30-45 questions per quiz. Prior to starting each quiz game students can create their own custom game character.
- Scavenger Hunt Through History is a game designed to be played by students in junction with Freedom: A History of US produced by PBS. Freedom: A History of US contains is an overview of US history containing videos, documents, and pictures. In addition to the resources previously mentioned, there are quizzes for students to test their knowledge.
- National Geographic Kids has a wide variety of games, puzzles, and activities for students of elementary school age. National Geographic Kids has nine games specifically for developing geography skills.
- Learning Together offers four activities for learning about the geography of the United States. Learning Together also offers a game about world geography and a game about European geography.
- Owl and Mouse Educational Software offers nine, free, interactive maps for students. The maps cover every continent except Antarctica.
- Traveler IQ Challenge has 14 interactive geography games. The activities can be embedded in a blog or website.
- Geosense is a fun way to use and improve your knowledge of world geography. Players can play against the computer or challenge another player. Geosense can be played anonymously or you can register and have your scores recorded for you. There are four Geosense maps (US, World, Europe, or advanced) that players can select from.
- Smarty Games features games for developing basic mathematics and reading skills. There are six mathematics games covering basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The reading section has two alphabet games and nine animated stories. In addition to the mathematics and reading activities, Smarty Games offers activities for learning to read a clock, puzzles, mazes, and coloring activities.
- Planet In Action is a fun website that features three games based on Google Earth. All three games utilize Google Earth imagery and navigation. The three games are Ships, Places, and Moon Lander. In “Places” you navigate, from a helicopter view, five popular places including the Grand Canyon. In “Ships” you become the captain of a fleet of ships to navigate famous ports of call. And in “Moon Lander” you take control of the Apollo 11 moon lander and guide the “Eagle” to touch-down.
- The National Center for Education Statistics hosts a collection of games and tools for students. Dare to Compare is a quiz section of Kids’ Zone where students can test their knowledge of civics, economics, history, geography, mathematics, and science. After taking each quiz the students are shown the correct answers. Dare to Compare also allows students to see the national and international average rate of correct answers.
- Brain Bashers offers visitors a nice selection of word games, logic games, and puzzles. Brain Bashers is updated regularly with many games that change daily and new games added every week. Brain Bashers was developed and is maintained by Kevin Stone. Kevin Stone is a mathematics teacher in England.
- The Discovery Channel website lets you test your trivia knowledge while playing the same quizzes the contestants on Cash Cab play. Play the Cash Cab quiz game and earn fictitious money for every question you answer correctly. Answer three questions incorrectly and the game is over.
- Kids Spell provides eight free games that help students learn to spell more than 6,000 words. Kids Spell is a part of the Kids Know It Network. The Kids Know It Network provides educational games for all content areas taught in grades K-6.
- Spin and Spell has been featured on a number of blogs over the last year. Spin and Spell asks students to select a picture and then spell the name of the item. Alternatively, students can have word select for them and then identify the correct corresponding image.
- GamesGames.com offers sixteen free spelling games. Most of the games seem to be designed with grades 3, 4, and 5 in mind.
- Spelling City not only offers games, it also offers the capability for students to type a word and hear it pronounced.
- Catch the Spelling offers more than two dozen categories of spelling games. Each game has the same format; as words fall from the top of the screen, players have to “catch” the appropriate letters in the correct sequence to spell the word displayed at the top of the game. Players “catch” letters by moving a cursor at the bottom of the page. In some ways it reminded me of a cross between Tetris and Frogger.
- Read, Write, Think offers a crossword puzzle builder as well as pre-made crossword puzzles designed for all grade levels K-12.
- Just Crosswords has a new puzzle maker with which you can build crossword puzzles, save them, print them, or embed into your website or blog. Just Crosswords also has more than 300 categorized, educational crossword puzzles.
- Variety Games hosts a free crossword puzzle maker. You can select the dimensions of your puzzle or allow your puzzle to be auto-formatted. To use the puzzle in your classroom you will have to print the puzzle.
- Armored Penguin has a very flexible crossword puzzle builder. You can select from a simple puzzle maker or large puzzle maker depending on the number of clues that you want to include. Armored Penguin’s program also gives you the option of including or excluding an answer key.
- Ed Helper has a basic crossword builder that accepts up to thirty words. Ed Helper has other basic puzzle builders for free. To use the more advanced options, like larger puzzles, you will have to subscribe to the service.
- Quiz-Tree provides a wide variety of free educational games and activities for students and teachers. Most of the Quiz-Tree games and activities are web-based. Some of the games and activities are available as downloads for Windows operating systems.
- Multiplication.com has four pages of games for kids to use to practice the multiplication tables. (There are also addition, subtraction, and division games). I played a couple of the “car wash” games today and they were quite enjoyable. After playing the games I can see how kids would get addicted to the games in a good way.
- Fit Brains is a collection of free games designed to strengthen five areas of cognitive brain function. While the website seems to be targeted toward an older audience there are some games on Fit Brains appropriate for students at all grade levels above the third grade. Reading through the background information about Fit Brains you do get the impression that the games are grounded in sound neuropsychology. The Fit Brains blog has a number of interesting articles about brain science that teachers and parents will find interesting.
- Math Cats is a website full of short math activities and math games. The activities and games are based on word problems. What is nice about the games is that they are fairly straight-forward and easy for students to self-start. Math Cats is appropriate for students in elementary and lower middle school grades.
- Handipoints: Remember those “star charts” you had a kid, the ones where you earned stars for good behavior or doing your chores? Handipoints has taken the star chart concept and built a website on it. Here’s how it works, parents (or teachers) create a list of items for their kids to do. The kids then check off each task as they do it. For each task or behavior goal completed the child earns points. When the child reaches their goal they can cash in their points toward playing the Handiland game. Parents/ teachers can also print the completed charts and provide offline rewards.
- Novel Games provides a large list of fun, simple, educational games. The list of games includes numerous math and word games. All of the games are free and are available in multiple formats. All of the games on Novel Games are easily embedded into your class blog or website.
- ABCya is a great place to find all kinds of free educational computer games for elementary school students. The games do not require any special plug-ins or downloads in order to play. ABCya also does not ask for users to register. ABCya is divided into grade levels (K-5) then subdivided based on subject area. The categorization system ABCya uses makes it quick and easy to find an activity appropriate for each student.
- Starfall has many free teaching resources including pdf files of handouts to use with students. For students Starfall has numerous online games designed to teach reading and writing skills. Starfall.com includes a page for parents discussing activities that they can do with their children to help them learn to read and write.
- Sheppard Software has a fantastic collection of free web-based educational games. Sheppard Software’s free games cover Science, Math, Social Studies, and Language Arts. Most of the games are appropriate for elementary and middle school students, but some games are appropriate for high school students. The geography games are particularly good.
- Decimal Squares provides simple games for students to use to develop their math skills. The games do not require an account to play and they work on any web browser that has current Flash plug-ins installed. The games are best suited to middle school students, but could be used with upper elementary grades or with high school freshmen.
- Rice University has partnered with CBS, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and the National Science Foundation to produce web adventures based on the CSI television series. The web adventures are designed to teach students the process of forensic investigation and problem solving. There are three cases or levels to the CSI web adventures. Unlike a lot of educational games, the CSI Web Adventures are created with the highest quality graphics and navigational features.
- Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has a great collection of interactive learning activities. The activities are categorized according to grade level and vary in format. Some of the interactive activities are like video games (Squish the Fish for 1st graders) while others are more like virtual scavenger hunts (Conservation Investigation). The games and virtual scavenger hunts could easily take students an hour or longer to complete and the students would learn something new throughout the activity. In addition to the interactive activities, Shedd Aquarium provides a host of great Marine Science lesson plans for grades K-12.
- Pest World for Kids is a fun educational website for students in elementary school grades. Pest World for Kids has a great index of pests which includes information on what they look like, where they are found, and how to prevent pest infestations. The Pest World for Kids website has four fun educational games that students will enjoy playing as they learn about insects and rodents. In the teacher section of Pest World for Kids, teachers will find lesson plans to accompany the educational games.
- MSNBC offers a gallery of online games related to the news. The gallery is called the NewsWare Arcade.
- Kids Past offers an easy-to-read World History “textbook” for kids. To accompany the textbook Kids Past offers five history games to which students can apply the knowledge they gather from the textbook.
November 12, 2009
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Looking for something fun for the kids, yet educational – not just a time killer? I recently had some students test out Typershark. Each of my students did a search for Typer Shark and located the site: www.popcapgames.com. I then instructed them how to download the free trial version which took less than 5 minutes and they were off.
The free download gives you 60 minutes of trial time and then it costs $6.95 to purchase the full version. One thing I can’t figure out is why did they create the letters that you are supposed to type with all caps? This doesn’t really help the user with the shift key.
The students really got into the game and it held their interest quite readily. With its ocean diving theme and constant threat of sharks coming at the diver, the user must type the letters on the screen quickly and accurately in order to progress to deeper levels. While not as robust as Mavis Beacon and not as flexible as Custom Typing, Typershark is a solid program that will help students become more proficient keyboarders.