I am excited to have Renee from School Sparks visiting Mess For Less! Renee Abramovitz is a recently retired preschool and kindergarten teacher who is passionate about helping young children succeed in the classroom and beyond. Visit Renee at www.schoolsparks.com for a free kindergarten readiness test and other resources and tips for bringing out the best in your young child. Today, she will be sharing some great tips for finding free educational resources online. Take it away Renee!
As a teacher and mother, I was always on the prowl for quality materials to provide my children with fun learning experiences. Fortunately, the internet makes finding free educational materials extremely easy. In fact, a simple search for “kindergarten worksheets” yields nearly 5 million results. But the vast amount of potential resources can also make this search quite confusing and overwhelming and the challenge becomes finding the quality free materials among these 5 million resources.
Fortunately I have found a few simple guidelines to help parents and teachers navigate the millions of free resources on the internet and target only those that are truly educational and will provide meaningful learning opportunities for your child.
1) Take the time to find appealing materials. Children need to be engaged. When they are drawn to a worksheet, for example, because the drawings are delightful and colorful, they will stay focused and involved for longer. So if your child loves dinosaurs, do not simply search for “kindergarten worksheets.” Try searching for “dinosaur counting worksheets” and you will likely find free resources and worksheets that are most appealing to your child.
2) Look for materials that offer a variety of approaches to teach and reinforce the same concept. For example, if a child is learning the names of the letters in the alphabet, a valuable teaching resource will provide several opportunities to learn this. Perhaps your child will color the letter on one page and circle the uppercase and lowercase letters on another page. A variety of activities will keep your child interested while allowing him to practice the same skill – and practice is what is needed for skill acquisition. You may need to find this variety of resources across a few different websites. The trick here is to find one website you like and then use targeted key words to find similar materials. For example, don’t simply search for “alphabet worksheets” and then hunt website by website for activities that focus on letter sounds. Instead, search for “letter sound worksheets” or “sounds of the alphabet worksheets.” A targeted search will save you a lot of time.
3) Look for materials that provide a range of difficulty. The ideal resource will provide beginning level worksheets to introduce a concept and then offer additional worksheets that present increasingly challenging tasks. So do not be afraid to explore a website and do not limit yourself to one set of worksheets simply because of your child’s age. For example, if your child is about to start kindergarten, check out the website’s preschool, kindergarten, and first grade worksheets. The preschool worksheets might be a nice introduction, the kindergarten worksheets might be right at your child’s existing skill level, and the first grade worksheets might be a nice challenge for your child once he masters the other worksheets.
4) Find materials in a variety of skill areas. Children have more fun when they are able to practice honing skills in a variety of areas, such as letters, numbers, visual discrimination, auditory processing, and fine motor skills, to name a few. When you have materials that allow for practice in several learning areas, your child will stay interested and curious. So if you find a website that has wonderful alphabet worksheets, for example, take a minute and explore the rest of the website. If you really like a particular website’s alphabet worksheets, the chances are high you will also like their math worksheets.
5) Hands-on activities keep children involved. A child learns best by doing something himself. While adult demonstrations or stories can give a child information, the best way to actually gain skills is through practice. So do not be afraid to let your child take control of the mouse for a minute or so and use it to point to things on the website that interest him. Or bring up a free game on a website like www.starfall.com and allow your child to point (either with his finger or with the mouse) at the correct answers and play the game online rather than print it out.
With a little effort, you can easily target free, quality educational materials on the internet. Using these five tips, for the cost of printer paper and a little ink, you can easily help educate your child at home without breaking the bank.
Thank you so much Renee! When I was teaching Kindergarten we used the Starfall website with the kids and they just loved it and learned a bunch at the same time. Here are some of my favorite posts from the School Sparks blog:
The Importance of Story Time
Memory Game with a Twist of Rhyme
Letting your Child Dress Himself