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The Electric Company
Pros: Cute, simple games can help kids practice skills, and kids don't have to register to play them.
Cons: Games don't always feature many challenging levels, and kids can't contact each other through the site.
Bottom Line: Kids should enjoy -- and learn from -- the site's educational games; making them more complex and varied would help kids learn even more.
The site provides lesson plans, activities, and other resources for teachers. You can explain and demonstrate different language elements with the available exercises, including hard and soft c sounds; vowel combinations; and how consonants fit into words. Each activity is labeled with the grade levels that might benefit from its content and clearly identifies what skills kids will learn. Activities can be assigned to students to access on the site outside of class, or they can be shared with the class together on a whiteboard, giving students the opportunity to submit answers.
Teachers will most likely need to register for the site; you can view three items in the educator section and are then asked to create an account if you'd like to see more. However, registration is fairly simple; you just need to enter your first and last name, email, school zip code, and a password.
Similar to the TV show that premiered more than 30 years ago, the Electric Company website features information designed to help kids learn to read. They can play more than 15 games; watch short video clips; and see full show episodes, which will help them learn simple reading skills such as identifying letter sounds and spelling. The activities feature familiar Electric Company characters, and some also cover math concepts like counting.
Kids choose a character and an opponent, which helps personalize the experience. A narrator offers instructions and walks you through each step of the game as you play. Kids will learn how to convert sounds into spoken and written words and discover new vocabulary words and strategies to understand phrases and sentences. They can also practice identifying number sequences and larger and smaller digits.
Goofy graphics should maintain kids' interest; toppings ranging from onions to a sock shoot down with a loud gushing noise in the number-based "Sandwich Stacker" game, and the "Word Transformer" game rules are explained in a song. A few items like downloadable screensavers don't provide much educational value, but most activities support key language and math skills. In one game, kids fill in missing sentence words to prevent a jelly bean factory explosion; in another, they identify elements to create a news story.
Kids aren't rushed, and the narrator sometimes provides clues before letting them try again if they answer incorrectly. However, the games could use more challenges; several don't seem to provide many levels for kids to advance to.