Finding appropriate, free educational software for the primary grades online can be difficult. The sites mentioned in this article have been used in an elementary school setting by the author and are appropriate to support math and reading instruction with young students.
Online Educational Materials
While educational materials online are often plentiful, the quality of those materials does not always meet the needs or standards of the teacher looking to utilize that material. Simply typing in educational software, or free educational software, may complicate matters further as the sheer number of sites that pop up can be overwhelming and their usefulness can be difficult and time consuming to evaluate. Sites like Educational Freeware and articles like Jonathan Wylie's How to Evaluate Educational Software provide reviews of free software and tips for which websites, and downloads are legitimate and valuable for parents, teachers and students.
Starfall is a free website that provides interactive and downloadable materials for teachers and parents to use as a supplement to support reading and phonics development. Primarily the site is appropriate for children in kindergarten and first grade. Since it's a web-based program, it's relatively simple to use. The site offers materials at four levels: Starfall ABC's which addresses alphabet and sound recognition; Learn to Read materials which focus on blending and chunking sounds; It's Fun to Read materials which begin to offer variety in the types of materials presented; and finally I'm Reading, the site's most advanced level which offers selections with high frequency words to promote reading success.
Vocabulary and Spelling City
If you're looking for a way to spice up spelling and vocabulary tests or provide practice and review for weak spellers, try Vocabulary and Spelling City. This site allows teachers to import their classes' spelling and vocabulary lists to create activities. It also has popular spelling lists already available. Games like Unscramble, Alphabetize and Speedy Speller are just a few of the growing number of activities on the site. For less technology savvy users, Spelling City has video tutorials that explain how to use the site and give ideas for implementing their activities in the classroom. Since the teacher is able to import her own word list, this site can be used for any grade level from the youngest elementary school spellers to students studying for the SATs.
Personal Educational Press
For an easy way to create flashcards, study tools and quizzes that are tailored to your subject and grade level needs, visit Personal Educational Press. This site allows you to create materials in four different subject areas – Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies – and in four different languages – English, Spanish, French and German. The site is very basic which, for novices, also makes it pretty user friendly. There are no frills and no tutorials, but with a few minutes of trial and error, the different options become easy to navigate. Plus, as with the above mentioned sites, the materials are free.
The Professor Garfield site allows teachers, parents and students to read online comic books, or have them read to them, in English French, Spanish, Chinese and Russian. The animation is engaging and familiar to elementary school children, as Jim Davis' popular cartoon cat Garfield is the star throughout the site. There are games, parent and teacher resources, and information regarding how to link the activities to standards-based curriculum. The comic books are easy to navigate and by simply clicking on the text the words are read aloud.
Selected Websites With Free Educational Software for the Primary Grades
While the websites listed are a tiny sampling of what is available on the Internet, they are sites that I have personally used and found to be both easy to navigate and child friendly for anyone working with elementary school age children.