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The Great Fire Wall of China

As my regular readers know, I am writing from China these days, and have been doing so four years so far. Sometimes the blog becomes inaccessible to me, making it impossible to post regularly. In fact, starting in late September 2014, China began interfering with many Google-owned entities of which Blogspot is one. If the blog seems to go dark for a while, please know I will be back as soon as I can get in again. I am sometimes blocked for many weeks at a time. I hope to have a new post up soon if I can gain access. Thank you for your understanding and loyalty.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Websites for Kids

Parents have been asking me to recommend some websites. Out of the universe of possibilities, I have selected several worthy contenders:

RAZ-Kids: This is a leveled set of readers with quizzes. The child reads a book online and then takes a quiz. The child can go on to the next book after passing the quiz. Some of the books are audio, allowing the child to listen and follow along instead of reading alone. Many schools offer similar programs, but they all suffer from being online. Children need to read on paper, not on screens. Besides being unhealthy, screens fail to train the eyes to move properly across the page. Studies have shown that reading on screen reduces speed and comprehension. I really like the old-fashioned SRA (anybody else remember SRA?)

In fact, all online resources suffer this same shortcoming simply by being online. I strongly believe the current fascination and quick adoption of anything labeled “technology” is misguided. Nevertheless, I have collected some websites to help your child learn various subjects. I recommend limiting the amount of time children spend in front of a computer screen.

California Treasures: A comprehensive literature, grammar, and writing program popular in many schools. The main menu is here. Supporting activities are here and here. Unfortunately, some of the links do not work.

National Geographic for Kids: Lots of interesting articles in easier English.

Practice English Grammar Online:

Practice Math Online: IXL


Adapted Mind

Math Playground

More Games

E-Learning For Kids

Some of the lessons offer a “certificate of completion” the child can print out and bring to the teacher for possible extra credit. Please monitor to ensure your child actually earns the certificate.

Science Lessons: 40 animated science lessons. Children younger than nine years old may have difficulty with the animation. Older children find it easier to make the connection between animated events and real-world events without confusion. Students can learn about the human body in the “health” section of this website:

Math Lessons: 336 Math Lessons. I just discovered these lessons online. From the same publisher as the science lessons, the goal of these lessons appears to be preparing students to maximize scores on tests, rather than maximizing understanding of math concepts. Not only is the English is slow and easy, but students can repeat any page they want as often as they want. I recommend using these lessons AFTER the child has completed the in-class concept-building lessons. In fact, I will soon use some of these lessons in a comprehensive review.

Computer Skills: This section, from the same publisher as the math and science lessons, helps children learn various computer skills on their own, such as creating a Powerpoint presentation.

Kids Health: A comprehensive resource.

The Open Door Website:

The Open Door website can be used as a online science text based on IB (International Baccalaureate) standards. The text requires reading skills. There are no audio files, but there are extensive illustrations and photos. As of 2014, the science information is quite comprehensive, but the math sections are still extremely meager. This page is an index of quizzes on many science topics. Most of the quizzes can be saved as PDF files and printed out.

The Utah Education Network has collected this nice group of interactive science activities for grades 3-6. The reading is minimal, and the instructions are mostly obvious and intuitive.

Crickweb: The nice thing about the Crickweb science pages is the simple design of each activity and the vocabulary building which will help ELLs with their regular reading.

BBC: The BBC has a number of math, English and science activities, but the audio and video require a lot of bandwidth and may require too much time too load or sometimes never finish loading. I like this interactive series about the body from the BBC (

For students who want to DO science experiments and activities, here is a set of websites with lots to choose from.

Science Experiments:

Science Activities:

Web Ranger