August 30, 2012

7 Great Labor Day Websites

You’re bbq-ing. Friends are over. Life is good. Summer is ending, but that’s tomorrow. Not today. Today is about fun.

What do you do with the child who got sunburned so badly s/he can’t stay outside? Or those last fifteen minutes when the kids are hungry, tired, and completely disconnected with everything that they’ve been doing? Here’s a list of websites they’ll find irresistible. I’ve pulled out five I think are the best starters, but you can decide:

Google Moongoogle moon

You can access this from the downloaded software for Google Earth (under the satellite tool) or directly from the internet (click the link above). The online version includes built-in tours of the moon which are fascinating, but doesn’t have the flight simulator that my students can’t get enough of. They fly all around our galaxy, to other planets, other stars. They think it’s pretty amazing to land on the Sun!

I get students to the website and leave the rest to their curiosity and the explorative side of human nature. From first grade on, they figure out what to do. A great student-led activity to teach about space, exploration, science.


When I flipped my fifth grade classroom last year, this game was one of the most popular with the student. Three groups selected it as their tool and each presentation was great. It was easy to use, but sophisticated enough for growing minds. The concepts of balancing electricity use and the environment were clearly displayed as students simulated the importance of both interests.

Books Should Be Free

Ms. Noor’s website is one of the better free audio book sites I’ve seen. (A few others: StoryOnline has actors reading stories to children, but there aren’t a lot of options. The well-designed Speakaboos offers beautiful books, but they charge a fee. Then there’s the original, Project Gutenberg, though this site isn’t as user friendly as Ms. Noor’s). It’s clean, easy-to-maneuver, with just a bit of unobtrusive advertising to pay the bills, and she offers dozens–hundreds?–of age-appropriate free downloadable audio books.

Wacky Faces

This one is pretty freaky. The faces are real people. They smile at you, react to your mouse movement, wink, stick their tongues out. You have to see it to believe it.

Virtual Surgeryvirtual face

I found this website in my ongoing effort to align my tech curriculum with the classroom–in this case, fifth grade. This site covers more than virtual surgery (it also includes great interactive info on weather and machines), so direct kids to the left sidebar for their specific topic. Once my students discovered it, they went back over and over. They are engaged, enthusiastic and curious. This is a real life example of students pulling rather than us pushing and a teacher’s dream.

It includes:

  • virtual knee surgery
  • virtual hip surgeryvirtual surgery
  • virtual brain surgery

Click the link above and bookmark it. You won’t be sorry.


Do you remember how addicting hangman was when you were a child? Now, kids do it online. The site is easy to figure out and has no advertising.

When I give my students five or ten minutes to select any website from our internet start page links, Hangman is the most popular. Kids play it with a neighbor or by themselves. I wander around the classroom with tips like “go through the vowels first”, “What letters often follow t or s”. I often join in–because I can’t stop myself.

Drive a Ship

Ships. It gives them an opportunity to stand at the helm of the ship of their choice and guide it through the world’s oceans. The third graders like barreling it over land, while the fifth graders work to see if they can avoid land, other ships, buoys–that stuff they’re supposed to avoid.

I think your kids will love it too.

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.