Learning Fun for Kids Online

Home school and after school, kids online can access some great sites and games that are both educational and fun. This site reviews and links to the best, and also discusses some parenting articles and homework sites of interest to parents.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Homework Assignment: The Great Gatsby

Photo courtesy of Alyssa
Oh, no.

It was crunch time for my high school junior -- English Lit: themes in The Great Gatsby. Of course I remember reading the book! It's a classic by F. Scott Fitzgerald (*whew* thanks, wikipedia)

Sidenote: the first result on a google search is the 2013 film with Leonardo DiCaprio. The internet makes us stupid and smart all at the same time.


My daughter comes trudging in with a list of essay questions, and I can hardly remember the characters' names, let alone the plot (although it all starts coming back to me as we read the book cover and research "together").

The best resources (in addition to SparkNotes, of course) that we found are as follows (in no specific order):

1. The Twentieth Century Novel, an old 2008 blog by an English teacher (now professor) that's not being updated any more, has a page called the Final Discussion on Gatsby that gives a background on American society at the time (with a continuation here). Another couple of pages deal with themes: this one and this one. The mid-term exam gives an idea of the types of questions you can expect on term essays as well.

2. The Great Gatsby Study Guide from LitCharts. They'll email you a 10 page PDF that contains everything from themes to background info, plot overview, character descriptions, symbols, important quotes and a detailed summary and analysis.

3. Shmoop is a great site to get all the literary coverage you might need on The Great Gatsby, and it's presented in a way that might make old people (me) grit their teeth a little, but hey!, it's written for bored "I'd rather kill myself than read a book and write an essay" teens. (In defense of my old-codger attitude, one sentence reads: "Do we smell a Twilight-esque love triangle approaching?")

4. Enotes is another useful site with sample papers and analysis as well as teacher-written answers to some questions. For example, one question has to do with the portrayal of the American Dream, and there's some very good material on it there. You'll see a side menu of related questions too.

And just in case you've come up with a question about Jay Gatsby's car (his Rolls-Royce plays a crucial role in the story). It's described in the book as having “a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns.” (sorry, but I forget the chapter where you can find that quote).

Note: I would never buy an essay and submit it (or allow my kids to), but if you're stuck for ideas, you can scroll through some Gatsby papers at 123HelpMe, and maybe read the free ones. See if you can use them as prompts to help you develop ideas you may be having trouble with.

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posted by Stephanie @ Tuesday, August 04, 2015   1 comments links to this post

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Physics Classroom

My teen is taking physics in high school this year, and is finding it a tough course. She says half the class is usually sound asleep and sometimes the teacher seems to be too, although his eyes are still open...

A once-a-week tutor may not be enough to get her through, so I figured I'd look online for some help, and there's a wonderful place called The Physics Classroom, which describes itself as "an online, free to use physics website developed primarily for beginning physics students and their teachers."

 I don't know anything about physics, so I looked what I thought I might have a chance at: the very first classroom tutorial in 1-D Kinematics. I clicked on the Introduction to Lesson 1 - Describing Motion with Words and (within a minute) was able to score 100% on the "Check Your Understanding" portion regarding vectors and scalars.

I could see this as being a great review site for exam or test time and a reference for when concepts or definitions aren't well understood.

While most of the site is text, there are animations that help explain concepts like acceleration. Try the first question on this page and (if you're like me, and you get it wrong), you'll understand how helpful the detailed answer is.

Image source: FreeImages.com
Stock photo: Bored with Homework
Image ID: 446665
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posted by Stephanie @ Monday, October 27, 2014   0 comments links to this post

Friday, July 18, 2014

Educational Games for Tweens and Teens (and Me)

I played a game at Learn4Good called Arm Surgery 2, and now that it's over (and I didn't kill the patient), I think I need a bit of a lie-down!

You're guided through each step of the process, from x-ray to operation. You need to use the correct surgical equipment from scalpel and screws to tourniquet and tongs, and if you're too slow, you "fail."

If medicine's not your thing, you can play a fast food business simulation game, the goal of which is to "help you learn how to run a successful food service business." I think I'll brush up on my parking skills at Drivers Ed 2 (which starts off with a warning that it is for entertainment only and shouldn't be used as a "guide for driving") or perhaps I'll try my hand at being an air traffic controller with Airport Madness 3, which game is according to one player very challenging.

For a more serious game, 3rd World Farmer may prove to be an eye-opening experience, where you try to make decisions while dealing with extreme poverty. Questions arise, like would you take money to store chemical waste or house terrorists -- that money being needed to feed your family and pay for their medical bills.

Have fun - and learn!

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posted by Stephanie @ Friday, July 18, 2014   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Basic Rules of Poetry Explained -- with examples by The Beatles

Do you know what prosody is? Defined as "the patterns of stress and intonation in a language," it's prosody that gives poetry its basic beat or rhythm, broken down into three forms of verse:

1. syllabic
2. accentual
3. accentual-syllabic

If that's just too mind-numbing for you, join the club, and then get your poetry explained by Kyle Kallgren, the host of a series on Blip called "Brows Held High" (which is self-described as a mildly immature look into the strange world of the arthouse").

In this particular video, Between the Lines: The Beatles, Kyle uses (and sings!!) lyrics by The Beatles to illustrate various patterns that comprise the basic rules of poetry. Besides being fun to watch, it makes understanding the concepts much easier.

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posted by Stephanie @ Tuesday, December 03, 2013   0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 29, 2013

Scale of the Universe

The Scale of the Universe explores how big (and how little) stuff is when compare to other stuff -- like, for example, how "a small glass table top to a human is a vast plane of strange smoothness to a dust mite."

The interactive flash animation uses the metric system of measurement, so a human is shown to be 1.7 meters which is 5.6 feet. You can see how this compares to the 3-meter lengthwise measurement of some of the largest Japanese Spider Crabs.

Each image not only contains measurements, but information that's written in a fun and engaging manner -- take the rafflesia, for instance. Measuring one meter across,
it's the largest single flower in the world. It can weight up to 10 kilograms [22 pounds], which is actually pretty heavy. The flower smells like rotting flesh to attract flies, which will pollinate it.
Take time to explore this NASA/Michigan Tech site. You'll find the Astronomy Picture of the Day on the homepage while the index page leads to information on colliding galaxies, dark matter and supernova remnants.


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posted by Stephanie @ Friday, March 29, 2013   0 comments links to this post