Review by Dana Villamagna, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2013
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USA for Kids - games for discovering America and the US states and their capitals

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Fun way to celebrate U.S. culture and geography, but not much depth

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Teachers say (3 Reviews)
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2-5 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: A nice variety of American cultural touchstones, including music and sports, are presented in different game styles.

Cons: Activities aren't necessarily aligned with learning goals, and content doesn't go into much depth.

Bottom Line: Warm, engaging spotlight on American culture and geography with fun practice games, too.

You can use portions of USA for Kids in a whole-class U.S. geography lesson, or as fun solo states and capitals study, presidential history, or thinking and reasoning skills practice for individual students. Some students may not initially consider certain musical instruments or sports as being specific to American culture, so this app can also provide some good discussion starters about what makes American culture unique. And, since you can play in English or Spanish, this could be a great resource for ELL students learning U.S. geography.

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USA for Kids - games for discovering America and the US states and their capitals is an app that uses games and videos to introduce kids to a variety of slices of American history and U.S. geography. The app includes puzzles of presidential faces, a find-the-differences game featuring common American animals, a sports matching game, videos, historic sites, and more.

On the main screen, kids choose from eight activity icons. In the free app, four activities are free (musical instruments, U.S. sports, animals, and presidents). Three are "free to try" (videos, locate the site, and identify state capitals' locations); you can purchase the full U.S. states puzzle, or you can buy all features at once. Once kids tap an icon, they read or listen to the basic instructions for that activity, tap again, and then play or watch the video. All games come with audio instructions, and most are easy enough for young grade school-age kids while interesting enough for older grade school-age kids, too.

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Kids can begin to learn about America's culture, history, and geography. As they play games, they'll solve puzzles, observe, and build memory skills; it's a low-stress way for kids to learn snippets about Americana and practice recalling what they may already know. There's not a lot of progress data saved, or any real way for kids to reflect on their learning. There aren't a lot of opportunities for critical thinking, and it would be nice to see some more detailed info provided about specific topics, like American animals and sports (currently those activities include images only, no names or details about either).

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Engaging activities touch on many different areas of American culture and geography. Design would be more user-friendly for younger kids if free, free-to-try, and in-app purchases weren't intermingled.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Skills such as puzzle-solving, finding difference, estimating location, matching, and more help kids learn and recall information. Some games could benefit from added depth, including a bit more information on topics.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Helpful, succinct written and audio directions. Feedback is encouraging, though not related to performance. There's not much data for kids to track game progress, only shaded stars for correct answers.

Common Sense Reviewer
Dana Villamagna Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Fay C. , Other
Hanover County Public Schools
Ashland, VA
Great for quick snippets of American symbols and culture, but lacking in depth

I think that the USA for Kids app is a good starter for elementary students to dive into the basics of our presidents, flags, symbols, and geography. The animals portion of the app is probably the most educational for students to learn about animals native to the United States. However, this app is very surface level as students are not asked to critically engage in the material. Additionally, they received very little feedback on the activities where they were manipulating the information (for example, a red X when something is wrong, but no feedback on why it was incorrect). Overall, while I would use this as a basic introduction in the future, I think there are more engaging and in-depth, stimulating apps that teach students about American symbols, presidents and places that I would turn to for anything beyond surface level learning.

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