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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Educational Websites for Parents: Reading and Math

I am going to list some useful sites to use at home with your kids.   Some are free sites and others are membership sites.   The membership sites are worth the cost, usually less than $8-10 per month per site.   As a former educator, I can not stress enough, how much kids learn through the use of computers and iPads.  Kids want to handle everything they see their parents using and giving them the opportunity to work on a computer or iPad is so motivating.  The better sites give them proper feedback (sounds, stars, reward certificates that they can print) and even allow you to go on and check on their progress.

Here are some of my favorites:

One More Story

I discovered this site last year when my daughter was a preschooler.   I loved it because it had great picture books for preschool aged children.  The children select a book and it is read out loud to them, highlighting the words as they are spoken.  Besides entertaining the children, it visually reinforces the concept of left to right, one spoken word is highlighted at at time, etc.   It reads at a good pace and the children can use the site independently.  They can select the book of their choice and turn the pages as they are ready.  

I loved this site so much that I would give this is a birthday gift to children that I knew.  I would go on the site, purchase a 3 month or 6 month membership for them, print out the voucher with the code on it and slip it into the birthday card.   A very unexpected present for some kids (and parents!)    For the price of 1 or 2 hard covered picture books, kids can have access to a number of books for a period of 3 or 6 months.
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One of my favorite sites!   It's a membership site like but has titles that range from preK to 5th or 6th grade reading levels.    Most schools in this area are using the DRA as an assessment tool to measure students reading levels and will share with you at a parent conference, the level that they are at.    

When you go into a book store or a library, how do you know which titles are at your child's level?  You don't.  It is not marked anywhere (although, Scholastic Book Orders now have reading levels listed underneath the titles, which is brilliant).   This site lets your child select titles at their own level.    Ask the teacher what level they are at and let them practice at home.    They have fiction and non fiction titles, probably 20-25 per level, with accompanying activities to go along with every title.   

If I were doing private tutoring with children right now, I would use this site on a regular basis.  It has everything you need.   Vocabulary, writing, comprehension questions.   It's worth every cent spent on this site.   

To parents: I would find out your child's reading level and let them practice at one level below for a while to gain fluency and confidence, to start.   What I mean is this.  If your child is a level 12, according to the teacher, they are probably being instructed at a level 12 in school.  At home, I would suggest reading level 10 regularly for practice.   If you are the parent of a child who is an excellent reader and you feel that they are not being challenged at their level in the classroom, you can provide higher level reading experiences for your child at home.   This is often the case in younger grades when some children read beyond their peers.  As unpopular as this is to say, it is ultimately the parents job to enrich their children at home.   Many schools (and teachers) do an excellent job of differentiating instruction and teaching reading in small groups to reach each reader at their level, but practice at home is always an option.  (Maybe ask the teacher if they can not do the homework that the rest of the class is doing and do their own program at home?)   

There is also and learning-z, that have developed after reading-z.....Still have to check those two out!  


This is a site for math practice for kids preK-8th grade.  The cost per child is about $10 a month, and a few dollars more per month, for each additional child.   This site lets children practice and reinforce math skills and concepts at home.   What I love most about this site is that it allows parents to log on and check their progress.    If you decide to leave the kids home with a babysitter and you want to check later on, it lets you know what they worked on.  (If you are like me, you probably browse the history on the computer and see what they were doing while you were out.....that's a fun one.  Try that some time!)

In my years of teaching math, I found so many students who were able to grasp the concepts but lacked the skills to complete problems correctly.  For example.  Multiplication facts are usually a 3rd grade skill.   They are supposed to be mastered by the end of 3rd grade, where teachers give daily minute drills to test their memory of "the facts."   By 5th grade, many kids were still not automatic.   When trying to teach fractions and division, the kids understood the concept and the steps, but made errors in simple computation, resulting in a completely wrong final answer.  

Schools have recently started to intervene and assess students basic computation skills to ensure that they are ready for higher level math concepts.   If their skills are not sharp enough, not automatic enough and kids can not recall their math facts based on the average number that they should have for their age, they are at risk for math failure further along in their schooling.   Schools have intervention plans in place now to help prevent children from falling through the cracks.   How frustrating it was to me when I was tutoring children whose parents said they were failing math, to spend an hour with them doing flash cards, that their parents could easily be doing with them.    Parent would say that they failed their test on averages.  I would look at it and see a failing grade.    My first attempt to diagnose and correct their work would be to make up a sample problem and watch them do the problem.   In 4th, 5th or 6th grade, to see a child make a mistake ADDING 4 or 5 two-digit numbers.......when surely they learned this (but did not master it) in 2nd grade.  

My advice to parents is this:  If you have a struggling 4th grader, start off doing LOTS of practice in 2nd and 3rd grade math.  Chances are the reason they are a struggling 4th grader is due to the fact that they did not master and/or retain previously taught material.

Khan Academy

OK.   This is an amazing resource for middle and high school aged kids as well as college students and adults!    It's a library of over 3000 videos on all topics, ranging from mathematics to history to art.   I heard about this site once and checked it out, but did not see a reason to use it right now, as my children are very small.

I was on vacation with my husband a few months ago and he said to me, "Have you ever heard of Khan Academy?"   I was shocked that he knew about it.   He was sitting beside me reading a book that mentioned it.   It turns out that people in third world countries are being provided with iPods and iPads as a teaching tool and they spend HOURS a day learning from this site.   This site provides them with the equivalent of a high school education and their goal is to try to pass exams and compete in colleges and universities with students who have had formal and traditional education.   If it works for them, it can certainly work for our kids!    

Many times, when our high school students (or high school aged babysitters in my case) ask for help with their school projects, we are unable to help them or guide them because the topics are not on the top of our heads.    Super site and surely it will grow and expand over time.  

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