Heidi Reina, M.S., Ed, is an educational technology integrator and teacher, reviewing free educational websites and apps.
Start Learning with World-Class Materials
These ten websites and apps rise to the top in providing the best quality free content for kids. There are thousands out there. But not many provide a consistently high quality of content, backed by the best learning and teaching practices.
With many schools closed, most of these site have set up additional resources to help support kids learning at home.
A hallmark of these resources is that they are associated with major educator organizations in their field and are updated regularly. Many provide interactive games for students. Some specialize in specific content areas. I have used resources from all of them in my classrooms, after-school tutoring, and in my educator consultations.
Best Learning Websites for Students of All Ages
The websites described below include:
- Khan Academy
- Kennedy Center Education
- National Geographic Education
- PBS Parents & Learning Media
- Smithsonian Education
- Science Buddies
Language Arts for Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle and High School
If it has to do with reading and writing, it's hard to find a better resource than ReadWriteThink.org. Developed by the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English, it uses research-driven interactives and lessons to help kids express themselves.
I've used the interactives with my students for poetry writing, scaffolding for research papers, story mapping, and critical analysis. The lesson catalog on the site for teaching these skills is broad and deep. And the site includes parent and after-school resources.
Beginning teachers and homeschool parents will find their strategy guides particularly useful for understanding the hows and whys of the approaches used.
Many of their interactives are available as Android and iOS apps.
Khan Academy Kids
2. Khan Academy and Kids App
All Subjects for Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle and High School
Khan Academy and the Khan Academy Kids app expand the range of subjects and grade levels taught each year. PreK-12 students can now learn math, science, social studies, humanities, reading, finances and economics in self-paced snippets.
It's helpful for students who need to review a concept they might have missed in class. Homeschooled kids can take an entire self-paced course in any of these topic areas.
Teachers and parents can set up accounts for their children and monitor their progress.
There are several college test prep courses as well. Study for the SAT, LSAT, and GMAT to name a few.
With so many school closures, Khan Academy has set up a resources page with tutorials for teachers and parents, and a recommended daily schedule of school work from home.
Sal Khan started out creating a set of math video tutorials for college test prep. He has turned the videos into a non-profit educational powerhouse.
Math for Elementary, Middle, and High School
Illuminations is to Math what ReadWriteThink is to Literacy. Illuminations.nctm.org offers a broad selection of lessons, interactives and games for all math skills students learn in grades preK-12. The lessons incorporate common core standards and are rich with hands-on tactile activities for multi-sensory learning. Interactives like Octagon Island and Plotter the Penguin (a particular favorite of mine) help students understand concepts and practice problem solving.
The Brain Teasers section provides opportunities for students who excel in math to be challenged, or to work in groups to develop solutions. And the Success Stories section offers many tips from teachers who've used the lessons and interactives in their classrooms. Other features include 5 mobile apps and a periodic newsletter, Bright Ideas, with the latest and greatest on teaching and learning math.
STEM and Social Studies for Elementary, Middle and High School
CK-12.org started out as a service to offer free online science and math textbooks (FlexBooks) to grades 6-12 students and teachers. It has evolved over the last few years from the teacher-centered textbook model to a student-focused site. So they now offer interactive lessons, videos, quizzes, difficulty scaffolding, and concept maps
CK-12's Braingenie offers interactive lessons and quizzes in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) topics, and students can track their progress using the free registration and login. This platform also offers opportunities for students to compete in multi-players matches.
FlexMath is another interactive CK-12 platform for students, particularly geared to help students practice problems in Algebra after they have been introduced to the concepts. This platform offer examples and hints to students as they learn.
The partners who contribute content to and finance the work of CK-12 include Microsoft, NASA, Google, Stanford University, KQED, Wikimedia, and the California Charter School Association, to name a few.
5. Kennedy Center Education
Visual and Performing Arts for Elementary, Middle and High School
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts authors the premiere website for K-12 education in studio art, music dance, and theater. Kennedy Center Education is loaded with lessons, projects and activities for visual and performing arts, and creative ways to integrate the arts into all subject areas.
Rather than write an essay or answer multiple choice questions, why not have kids demonstrate their understanding of a historic event through the creation of a history box, or a play re-enacting it? The Kennedy Center site has a catalog of ideas to differentiate learning by giving your kids diverse ways to express their thoughts and understanding of literature, historic events, science and math concepts.
6. National Geographic Education
Earth Sciences for Elementary, Middle and High School Students
If it has to do with the Earth, National Geographic Education, provides authoritative teaching, learning and research resources. NG offers material in social studies and geography, as well as earth, life and environmental sciences.
K-12 students have the opportunity to explore our world through a variety of investigative activities. Many have accompanying lesson plans, videos, interactives, images and background material. NG has a fine collection of map interactives for creating historical maps, and theme maps for the environment, population, climate, politics and economics.
Integrated Subjected Learning for Preschool Through High School
Aside from parents, our children's first engaging learning experiences often comes from PBS shows like Sesame Street and Between the Lions. Two PBS websites, PBS Parents and PBS LearningMedia PreK-12 Resources for Emergency Closings, have a wealth of associated learning content that tightly complements their educational programs.
PBS Parents has a strong focus on preK-5. I love their interactives for beginning readers and the variety of creative activities they offer to help kids master basic reading, writing, science and math skills.
LearningMedia's Emergency Closing resources are organized by grade level and subject. When you create an account, you can set up a personalized library of additional resources you want your kids to focus on.
8. Smithsonian Learning Lab
History, Earth Sciences, and Art for Elementary, Middle and High School
Our country's best known and most extensive museum system, The Smithsonian, is also host to valuable educational resources that are found nowhere else. Smithsonianeducation.org organizes these by educators, families, and students.
For educators there are lesson plans in Art and Music, Language Arts, Earth and Life Sciences and Archaeology, Math, History and Geography. For caregivers and families, there is an extensive collection of distance learning resources, with maker activities, interactives, and videos.
And the museums' newest interactive, Smithsonian - Seriously Amazing, answers some interesting questions that connect history, science, and the arts.
9. Science NetLinks
Produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sciencenetlinks.com offers lessons, interactives, videos, podcasts, hands-on activities, and experiments. I like their exceptional search feature for finding specific topic lessons quickly.
Interactive games like Antibiotic Attack help kids understand understand the balancing act doctors must play when weighing the use of antibiotics versus their detrimental side effects. In a related hands-on game, Bacteria Zoo, kids play doctor to diagnose an unknown infection.
Science Netlinks also has a growing list of science apps that are useful for kids "out in the field," to record their observations and data and share it with the world. Other apps include games and visually stunning interactives.
10. Science Buddies
Science Projects and Activities for Elementary, Middle and High School
Your child may need to participate in a science fair. Or they may simply be curious about how things work. Science Buddies is the premiere site for helping them to find a project that interests them and fits in your budget.
The site has an extensive catalog of detailed projects. It has a forum for kids to ask questions. And It has a guide to the scientific process and to putting the project together.
It's not all about projects, though. There's a section of more than 100 hands-on STEM activities that are just plain fun.
And That's a Wrap on the Ten Best Learning Sites for Kids!
New Guestbook Comments
Heidi Reina (author) from USA on June 16, 2015:
Thanks for your feedback.
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on June 15, 2015:
I don't have little kids now, but this looks like some pretty good resources.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 14, 2015:
some of these sites provide very resourceful tools and advices to teach kids at home
georgepmoola2 on March 25, 2014:
Good, well-researched lens on an important topic.
lesliesinclair on March 19, 2014:
Nice resource for lots of families,