In my school, crossword puzzles have come to represent everything that is wrong with education. With a constant emphasis on the Five Dimensions of Teaching, our principal is very clear in saying that crossword puzzles do not fit into any of those five dimensions. Word searches and crossword puzzles do not teach our students anything–they are a waste of valuable class time that could be filled with engaging instruction.

I mostly agree with my principal. She is a very smart lady, and I am very thankful to be under the leadership of someone that works tirelessly to better the academic and social situation of her students. However, I think that there are good ways and bad ways to use any activity. I can get in many more reps of target structures with my students in a 50 minute class period if I engage them in a personalized discussion or class story than if I pop a crossword puzzle in front of them with hints or translations as clues. However, our brains crave novelty and variety, and there are ways that we can use crossword puzzles to variet-ize our lessons.

I created this crossword puzzle template (fully editable and free!) for students to create their own crossword puzzles–they choose the words and create the clues. I am always looking for new ways to review stories and administer assessments, and I think that this is a novel way to do it. You could require the students to write the clues in question or statement form, or leave it open (ex: Which character is smelly? or The name of the smelly character). The words could be target structures or facts from the story (ex: The wolf is sad and ____ (cries) or The ____ (wolf) is sad and cries). You could also use this to review cultural topics that you’ve studied, or pieces of information from class discussions about anything (ex: which student went to Fairbanks last weekend?). After students create their puzzles, they can trade them with their classmates to “quiz” each other. I can collect them and combine several to create an assessment or review activity for the class, or students could use it as a “Find Someone Who” activity and have multiple classmates work together to complete their puzzle.  It would also be a great activity to include in sub plans.

What do you think? Is this wishful thinking–am I deceiving myself into believing that I can turn crossword puzzles into a worthy instructional tool?

9 replies on “Crossword Puzzle

  1. Hi Martina,

    I’m not sure what is the Five Dimensions of Teaching you referred to, but I agreed with you that crossword puzzles is a novel way to review materials and contents in FL class. I don’t do crossword puzzles all the time, but I teach Mandarin, and I use crossword puzzles to “trick” students into practice their writing. Writing Chinese characters is a hard work, so I try to make it into a “game”, usually students like to play “game”.

    Also, isn’t that when we ask students to create something, they have to use the highest level of thinking in Bloom’s taxonomy? (even though it’s review, they still have to be able to evaluate and analyze the information that will go into the puzzles, right?)

    I’m one hundred percents with you that brains crave novelty and variety that include both students and I. 🙂

  2. I would say that Word SEARCHES are an incredible waste of time and I don’t see any educational value in that, but crossword puzzles aren’t in that same boat.
    For Spanish class, as long as the “clue” is a description in Spanish and not just an English translation or a clue in English, then there is definitely some practice of the vocabulary going on there.

  3. Another thought: use pictures as clues for key vocabulary words and then they fill in the puzzle with the TL answer. I also believe that there is something to be said for the puzzles’ requirement of accuracy. Though it’s not something that I grade much, it is helpful as a self check to see that “quieren” won’t fit… which tells me to reconsider my answer.

    Like most things: they are good in moderation 🙂

  4. I love to use crossword puzzles … I give the clue in English, they have to write the word in Spanish .. and, as to the word searches, I do think it is useful to help with spelling, making connections between the two languages, etc .. I am not a stickler for the word searches, some students have trouble with that task …

  5. I actually like crossword puzzles, and use them with the students regularly to review vocabulary and structures. I like to put the clues in Spanish, for it is comprehensible input. I also like the students to work in pairs or small groups, to problem-solve the puzzle together. I’ve also had students create their own puzzles, which they seem to like to do.

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