Review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2013

Professor Garfield

Options almost overwhelm in lasagna-loving cat's fun educational site

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Arts
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K-4
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Pros: Garfield's always a charmer, and kids will appreciate his mellow guidance through reading and writing games.

Cons: The site can be challenging to navigate when looking for the right content.

Bottom Line: Kids can certainly build literacy skills here, but a little more organization would clarify the site's goals.

Visit the Teacher Resource Center for lots of ideas and materials you can use in the classroom. This section is searchable by grade and standard, which actually makes it much easier to navigate than the kid's side of the site. Here you'll find printables, lesson plans, among other resources, all centered around improving kids' literacy skills. Also, for kids with learning difficulties, there's Sparktop, a social network focused on helping them work through challenges.

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Created as a partnership between the nonprofit Professor Garfield Foundation and Ball State University, the site features Jim Davis' famous cat character, who's acts as resident "edu-cat-or" on a jazzy spaceship. Robots help kids decide which activities to try first (and there are quite a few of them). You might drop by the "Art-Bot" to watch videos on how to draw Garfield and other animals. Garfield's creator, Jim Davis, inspires budding cartoonists with upbeat tutorials that also teach story structure at the same time. 

Overall, the site contains a plethora of learning-related materials. A PDF called Humor 101 shows kids how to use adjectives and colorful language to punch up their comics. "G-Cubed" is an addictive multiplayer trivia game. Smaller kids might like a visit to "Orson's Farm" to have some fun with rhyming words and an introduction to phonics. A favorite feature is "Word Wrestling" in the "Reading Ring." Kids can drag and drop comic strip panels into the correct order and then answer questions about what's going on; they can learn about sequence and practice reading comprehension. The list goes on and on.

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There's a lot going on in Professor Garfield's world, and it all looks pretty cool. Garfield creator Jim Davis has given his own input to the project, and partnerships with Encyclopedia of Life, Pixton, the National Institute of Health, among others, ensure that the educational content is solid. Every section has subsections, as well as many, many options within; there are so many choices that the site can feel a bit overwhelming.

It's great to have all these resources, but it's hard to tell exactly where to go for just the right content. For instance, in the Sleep Center, a project offers kids five activities to choose from, all of which teach them about healthy sleeping habits. There are two comic creation options, X-Treme Comics, and the Comics Lab -- both of which are worthwhile in their own ways -- but it's a bit confusing why they're both there. While there is a helpful site map, even it is tricky to find. There's a lot for kids to learn from Professor Garfield; he just needs to simplify his classroom structure.

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Overall Rating

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

Who doesn't love Garfield? As soon as kids catch a glimpse of this classic cartoon cat, they'll be drawn into the colorful and well-designed games and learning activities.

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

Some games have helpful info baked right in, like Bedtime Matchup, where kids play a fun matching game with jammies, pillows, and toothbrushes. But, with so many resources, it could be hard for kids to zero in on a specific learning task.

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

There are so many resources for teachers, parents, as well as kids that it can be hard to find exactly what you need. However -- if you can find them -- there are teacher's guides, printables, and an FAQ section to help.


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Polly Conway Classroom teacher

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