Resource Spotlight: ABCya!
I’ve said before that I find games to be a highly effective way to learn. Having fun while you’re doing something improves retention, and a positive attitude on the part of the student means that we can get a lot more accomplished.
ABCya.com is one of the best sites I’ve found for free educational games for a number of reasons. First, the quality of the visuals is consistently excellent. Second, I’ve never found a grammatical error in any of the games. These might seem like they should be the standard for educational sites, but I’m sorry to say that not every site lives up to these standards.
Beyond the basic quality issues, ABCya.com has a wide variety of types of games, covering multiple topics, for a variety of age ranges (grade level suggestions are one each thumbnail on the home page). New games are also periodically released. This is not to say that it’s perfect in every way. Many of the games have sound that I can’t turn off, which makes it markedly more difficult to hear what a student is saying. Also, the sidebar ads can be distracting, and waiting for an ad to load before a game will start is annoying, though this doesn’t happen on every game.
Though the free offerings are excellent, a paid subscription ($9.99/month, $7.50/month for a six-month subscription, or $5.83/month for a year subscription) will remove the ads, as well as give full mobile device access, and the ability to play games full screen, as well as other features.
What games do I get the most mileage out of? Dress for the Weather has been a frequent favorite with students. This game has you pick which puppy you want, then pick appropriate clothing on for various weather scenarios. There is some flexibility in terms of what works, but only to a point. Putting sandals on your puppy in winter, or a raincoat if the puppy is at the beach, will lead to a red X instead of a green check, and you’ll be required to fix what your puppy is wearing. This is one of those games that is best for fostering communication, as I get students to talk to me about what is smart clothing for the various weather situations. I’ve also had some students write a story for each of the puppy’s outings.
Blue Ribbon Blitz is a relatively new game, which gives students the chance to compare two objects, working on concepts like taller, narrower, lighter, etc.
There are multiple games featuring the Fuzz Bugs, which are cute balls of fluff. These creatures feature in games about color patterns, addition, and graphing. Fuzz Bugs Farm takes players through a board game style setup, where they have to pick which of three words is an actual English word. The only problem with this game is that the correct answer isn’t always clear, even to me. Sometimes two of the choices will appear to be valid, but the game will only accept one.
The Parts of Speech Quest series has a fun, retro graphic look, and has multiple tasks to get all the way through the game. I use this one quite often with students who are at the age where the different parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.) are an important part of their learning.
Another game I use quite a bit with older students is Journey to the Past Tense. As the name would suggest, this game is all about past tense verbs, a topic where many students struggle. There are different stages to get through, and the questions are seldom the same, so the game can be played over and over.
Fun Factory is an excellent way to work on punctuation and capitalization. Three levels are available, each with progressively more challenging options. The easiest level has only capitals, periods, and question marks; the hardest includes those, but also commas, quotation marks, and apostrophes. It’s essentially a proof-reading exercise, where an improperly punctuated and capitalized sentence has to be fixed by the student. Each corrected sentence leads to a part of a toy being manufactured. Once all the parts are made, they get assembled to create a toy car, doll house, motor scooter, etc.
The last category of games that I frequently use are the “Make a . . .” games. I usually use these as a fun activity at the end of class. Whether pizza, cupcake, cookie, or ice cream, they all work pretty much the same way: we assemble the various types of foods, using different options. My main goal here is to foster communication as the student tells me what options they want, and we also discuss what we like when it comes to food. One time, I had a student say he wanted to make a “Toxic Pizza;” we spent a fair bit of time talking about what the most disgusting toppings for pizza were, learning a lot of new vocabulary while having a very good time.
ABCya.com is one of my most frequently used websites, because it has a wide variety of excellent games—this list only scratches the surface of what’s available. It’s worth checking out!