10 Great Study Resources For Primary School Students
There are lots of books, websites and other resources that are safe to let older children lose on, but it’s harder to find things that are accessible and appropriate for younger learners. We’ve scoured the web to find a range of resources from apps to videos to board games that will keep your children entertained, answer their questions, and enhance their education.
Language-learning resources such as Duolingo or Rosetta Stone are fantastic for teaching yourself a language in a fun and accessible way outside the classroom. Unfortunately, many resources like these aren’t appropriate for primary school-aged children. Duolingo, for instance, is restricted to people aged 13 or over; while this is presumably mostly because of data and privacy concerns, some of the phrases for translation would be inaccessible to a younger child.
Mindsnacks offers a kid-friendly alternative in the form of an app. It’s described as “great for all ages”, but the cartoonish style and colourful design suggest something that kids will recognise as made with them in mind. Languages covered include Spanish, French, Italian, German, Chinese, Portuguese and Japanese, and there’s an English vocab version as well. Audio clips are included to help with mastery of pronunciation. The app is free though there are in-app purchases, so do keep an eye on what your child is spending!
The model is one where you learn words and phrases by playing games and completing questions, which is motivating when your child is too young to want to learn a language for its own sake. This could be a standalone study tool, or complement the languages that your child is learning in school.
2. Extra Credits YouTube videos
YouTube can be difficult to navigate as a parent. On the one hand, there’s a lot of great educational content available if you know where to look (as well as plenty of content that’s simply good fun). But alongside the good content, there’s a lot of dross, a lot that’s inaccurate, and some things that are actively dangerous – and you can’t guarantee what might be autoplayed to your child.
Some of these problems are unavoidable, but carefully selecting channels can help a great deal. One excellent educational resource is Extra Credits, which started out as a video gaming channel but now does a sideline in videos about history as well. (That’s not to say that the gaming videos aren’t interesting as well, especially for budding game designers). The videos are delivered in a fast-talking irreverent style that’s highly engaging, plus animation to bring their words to life.
And it isn’t just Extra Credits that offers this kind of engaging video that’s educational but doesn’t feel like sitting through a lecture – a bit of searching through YouTube will throw up plenty more options that your children might enjoy. What’s particularly fun is that they’re often on topics that are typically not covered by school curricula, so they won’t just be repeating what your child is learning in school, but instead enhancing their education.
3. Simple English Wikipedia
Simple English Wikipedia was by no means designed for primary school children, and it carries much of the same content as the standard English Wikipedia – that is to say, there are definitely entries that will be too adult for your child to read. But used selectively, this is a great resource. Simple English Wikipedia is designed to be more straightforward to read than standard Wikipedia, with simpler vocabulary, less complex sentences, and typically shorter pages and more straightforward explanations of difficult subjects as well.
For instance, while the standard Wikipedia entry for Oxford opens like this:
“Oxford is a city in the South East region of England and the county town of Oxfordshire. With an estimated 2016 population of 170,350, it is the 52nd largest city in the United Kingdom, and one of the fastest growing and most ethnically diverse.”
The Simple English version goes like this:
“Oxford is a city in England. It is on the River Thames. It is a very old city. It is the 52nd largest city in the United Kingdom.”
This even holds for very complex subjects, such as the Simple English Wikipedia article on evolution.
4. Horrible Histories
Horrible Histories is a franchise that spans books, a TV series, and another set of very good YouTube videos. This is a franchise that knows its audience (roughly, children aged 8 to 12) very well, and speaks directly to their interests. The use of ‘horrible’ in the title is carefully chosen: this is a view of history that focuses on the more revolting sides of things like historical medine, hygiene practices and general life, making it appealingly disgusting while avoiding any true gore that might give children nightmares. The TV show and associated YouTube videos also make good use of songs that are so catchy, you’ll be singing about historical figures weeks after having first heard them.
The other great thing about Horrible Histories is that this is a version of history that manages both to tell the recognisable story of kings, queens, and the wars they fought, won and lost, while also not neglecting the lives of everyday people in a way that brings history thoroughly to life – often with an anarchic, tongue-in-cheek tone of voice. That same sense of anarchic joy in learning about history also keeps the franchise from ever feeling like it’s talking down to its young audience, but instead meeting them at their level.
5. Brainbox games
There’s something undoubtedly dispiriting about the phrase ‘educational game’, but Brainbox games have managed to create products that are both educational and genuinely fun. This is another cartoonish series, with tie-ins to lots of popular children’s franchises including Peppa Pig, the Mr Men series and Horrible Histories. Pretty much every subject is covered including history, geography, foreign languages and storytelling.
The style of the games is straightforward, based on timed trivia questions on the relevant topic. Answer the question on a card correctly, and you get to keep the card; whoever has the most cards after a set time (typically five or ten minutes) is declared the winner. This quickfire approach means that the games don’t need a long setup and it’s unlikely that anyone’s going to get bored before the game is up. And if you have competitive children, trying to get the most cards will definitely keep them engaged with the game! Given that the boxes are small and portable, this can also be a good way to make long car journeys that little bit more fun and educational.
6. Canal and River Trust resources
Many charities have fantastic resources available for primary aged children, and often concerning topics that they won’t encounter in school, such as wildlife conservation, archaeology, or even human rights. If your child has a particular interest and you’re not sure where to find the study resources to support them, the websites of charities in a related area can often be a good bet.
One great example of this is the Canal and River Trust’s resources for children, which can be found under Canal and River Explorers. Learning all about canals and rivers doesn’t necessarily sound exciting, but it’s a topic that combines geography, history, conservation, biology (in terms of the species that make rivers and canals their habitat) and even engineering, in terms of how Britain’s extensive network of canals came to be built. Their fact files are clearly educational, but some of their games manage to get the educational element in under the radar, while others are just fun – such as trying to canoe down a river without crashing into any ducks!
7. Project Gutenberg
One of the most amazing resources on the internet for people of any age, Project Gutenberg gathers ebooks that are made available for free, typically because their copyright has expired. It currently hosts over 57,000 ebooks, and more are constantly being added. They can be downloaded in all the major ebook formats, including for Kindle, or simply as raw HTML. It’s important to keep an eye on what your child is reading on Project Gutenberg, as it does contain some more adult books that might not be appropriate for younger readers, but among this massive free library there are bound to be books that your child would enjoy. For instance, they might want to take a look at this selection of classics of children’s literature. And if it turns out that there’s an author your child falls in love with, you can download all of their books in one go.
Perhaps the best thing about reading books out of copyright is that it’s a way to enjoy literature while being immersed in history, learning what people through the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries thought made for a great story, how they depicted their own time, the past, and what they thought the future might hold.
8. Google’s Museum Explorer
Visiting museums with your kids is a great way to enhance their education. But we’ve all faced the situation of spending time in a museum and feeling like all the beautiful art, carefully curated exhibitions or stunning antiques are merging into one, and we’re standing in front of a case containing priceless artefacts from over a thousand years ago, struggling to contain a yawn. Museum fatigue is real, and unless you live in a city like London where you can easily pop into great museums to enjoy them in bite-sized chunks, it can be hard to make the most of museums when you visit them. Add a child-length attention span in to the equation, and it’s even harder.
Enter Google’s Museum Explorer. This uses Streetview to explore some of the world’s greatest museums – for instance, here’s the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands. Of course, it’s not the same as visiting the museum in person, but it’s a fun tool to browse the exhibitions, and the video-game feeling of wandering around a virtual reality can be particularly appealing to children who are used to exploring virtual worlds.
9. World Data Atlas and CIA World Factbook
The modern-day equivalent of encyclopedias strewn across the floor of your living room, the World Data Atlas and CIA World Factbook offer answers to just about every trivia question your child might have about the countries of the world, and then some. Do they want to know the water productivity of Barbados? They can find it out now! For younger children, some of the sections – such as those covering crime rates – might lead to tricky questions, but for older children you should be fine to let them lose to find things out on their own.
What’s great about resources like these is not so much the facts that your child will pick up (which they may well not remember), but the skills they’ll learn in terms of carrying out research to answer questions for themselves.
10. Code Academy
Code Academy claims that “if you know how to read you can learn how to code”. They use easy step-by-step tutorials to teach basic coding skills, in a way that’s entirely accessible for older primary school children. Understanding coding is an important skill for the 21st century, and Code Academy is a low-pressure way to take the first steps. It’s designed for adults rather than children, but that’s most reflected in the sleek, professional design rather than any of the content; the language of the instructions should be accessible for your child, or easily explicable by you if they do find themselves getting stuck. The gamified approach of levelling up as you gain new skills is also good for motivation.
Code Academy uses a freemium model so your child can start experimenting with coding without you committing to downloading expensive software that they might shortly afterwards lose interest in. If they do take to it, you can look into further coding courses, and they might even have taken the first steps towards an enduring hobby or even their future career.
Image credits: girl drawing; flags; Extra Credits; Simple English Wikipedia; Aztec sacrifice; board games; canal; books; museum; globe; code.