Word Puzzles for Teaching Beginner’s English

So I told you a while ago that I created some word puzzles to help my students repeat and learn vocabulary in a fun way. I added the solutions and decided to put them up here under a Creative Commons licence to make them available to other English teachers for free.

So, if you teach Beginner’s English, here are my word puzzles featuring some phrases they’ll learn early on, and featuring countries and nationalities. I’m making them available under a CC-BY-NC-ND licence, which means you may use them for teaching as is, without changing anything, without deleting my byline, and without making a profit with them (e.g. by selling them). Print them out and copy them for your students as often as you like ­čÖé

And a heartfelt thank you to all the other teaching material creators out there who make their materials available for free use by teachers! I love you, and you make teaching a lot easier!

Word Puzzle A1.1 Countries and Nationalities (with solutions)

Word Puzzle A1.1 First Phrases (with solutions)


Intellectual Property and the Internet

Recently, I came across someone who had made an ebook available for free download from his dropbox in a Facebook group. An ebook that is normally sold for something like $20 (non-fiction). The Facebook group has almost 58,000 members. When asked whether he had permission to make the ebook available, he simply responded that it was offered on various Facebook sites and that he was only sharing what he had found. Which I take to mean no. Not long afterwards, someone asked me in a passive-aggressive way what my problem was and told me that everyone uses info from the Internet.

Wham! I bet that argument was meant to shut me down and show me what a fool I was making of myself for not knowing that apparently, since “everyone” was doing it, it was okay. Well, I have no clue who “everyone” is, but I do know that if “everyone” distributes copyrighted materials without permission, “everyone” is doing something illegal.

While I hope that “everyone” is only some clueless guy who might have never heard of intellectual property or copyright, I’m afraid “everyone” is a far larger group of people who either don’t know or don’t care about those rights.

I don’t get it. It’s rather simple, actually.

Did you create the content (text, photograph, image, comic, …)?

-> Yes: Great, go ahead and share it with the world if you want!

-> No: Did you find it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, …?

–> Yes: Click Share.

–> No: Did you find it on a website?

—> Yes: Then share the link to the website.

—> No: Is it content you paid for (by buying an ebook, paying for access to a password-protected website or forum, …)?

—-> Yes: Then don’t share it!

—-> In all other cases (or if you’re not sure): Go ask the creator if it’s okay to share.


Creating Teaching Materials: Word Puzzles

So when I came home from one of my exams on Thursday, I had an evening full of revision ahead of me: something like 45 PowerPoint presentations for the oral exam the next day. My brain was tired, though, so it refused to take in much more. Instead, I started to try out this idea I’d had some days ago, of how to create my own word puzzles for my new English beginners class. Wow, it was easy!

So here’s how I did it:

I opened up a new Word document and created a table, 20 x 20, with square cells. Then I set my keyboard to capslock and typed in the words and phrases I wanted them to revise (in our case phrases like “What’s your name?” and “Good morning!”), from left to right and from top down. Once I had enough phrases (read: all the phrases they knew that I could fit in there), I filled up the rest of the squares with random letters, wrote the number of hidden phrases in the header, and printed it out. Then, because it had been fun to create, and because I still needed to fill more time with procrastination, I did a second one with countries and nationalities.

I had no clue whether my class would like them at all, or whether they would think word puzzles are silly, or boring (we’re talking about adult learners of a foreign language), so I was a bit nervous the next day when I handed out the first puzzle. Great relief, they went along with it and even liked it! But boy, I forgot something important when creating the puzzles…

Here’s the big mistake I made:

I forgot to a) write down the hidden phrases, and b) to create a copy with the solutions. So, in class, I actually had to do the puzzle myself, and could only find 19 out of the 20 phrases I had hidden… Thankfully, one of my students was able to find the missing one, and we all shared a good laugh about my silly mistake (yeah, it was a bit embarrassing, but I can admit mistakes and laugh about them if no one starts being mean about it, so kudos to my great class!).

Afterwards, I asked them whether they liked this method to revise vocabulary, and since they did, I gave them the other word puzzle as homework. And now excuse me while I try to find the 40 hidden country names and nationalities…

Offener Brief an meinen K├Ârper

Lieber K├Ârper,

vielen Dank f├╝r deine tolle Idee, mich kurz vor und w├Ąhrend meiner Semesterpr├╝fungen mit einer dicken Erk├Ąltung aus dem Verkehr zu ziehen. Ich hatte schon bef├╝rchtet, die Pr├╝fungsphase w├╝rde zu langweilig werden, aber dein Plan bringt genau die richtige Menge zus├Ątzlichen Stresses mit sich.

Ich muss ja sagen, so viel Stoff mit Wattekopf zu wiederholen hat was. Man liest und liest doch nicht, die Gedanken schweifen ab (zu wichtigeren Themen, zum Beispiel zu der leeren Teetasse neben dem Laptop) und man kann sich nie sicher sein, dass das Gehirn den gerade wiederholten Stoff auch wirklich aufgenommen und abgespeichert hat, oder ob der Stoff doch nur auf der Durchreise war.

Der zus├Ątzliche Zeitaufwand w├Ąhrend der Klausuren, um l├Ąngere Fragen (also Fragen mit mehr als drei W├Ârtern) dreimal zu lesen, bis mein Gehirn den Sinn verstanden hat, sorgt netterweise gleich daf├╝r, dass ich nicht unn├Âtig lange ohne etwas zu tun rumsitzen muss, wenn ich fertig bin. Oder wahlweise f├╝r den sehns├╝chtig erwarteten Adrenalinsto├č, wenn die Uhr nur noch f├╝nf Minuten anzeigt, ich aber noch zwei Seiten mit Aufgaben vor mir habe.

Meine Professorin ist bestimmt auch sehr dankbar f├╝r die vielen Facepalm-Momente, die die Durchsicht meiner Klausur ihr beschehren wird. Das waren dann die Daten, die mein Gehirn nicht abspeichern wollte. Bei den Fragen habe ich geraten und liege vermutlich meilenweit neben der tats├Ąchlichen Antwort. Aber immer nur korrekte Antworten zu lesen w├Ąre ja auch zu langweilig.

Morgen haben dann gleich zwei Professorinnen das Vergn├╝gen mitzuerleben, wie ich mich in meiner m├╝ndlichen Pr├╝fung um Kopf und Kragen reden werde, w├Ąhrend ich innerlich mein Gehirn anflehen werde, mir die ben├Âtigten Antworten auszuspucken.

Also, lieber K├Ârper, herzlichen Dank f├╝r diese tolle und aufregende Pr├╝fungsphase! N├Ąchstes Semester gerne wieder, w├Ąre ja ansonsten auch zu leicht …

Liebe Gr├╝├če,


Story of Vi’s Death (LoL fanfic)

It was a day like every other: drab, rainy, and boring. And it had started with an argument with Officer Caitlyn–again.
Vi was standing on top of a high building overlooking the city of Piltover, angry and with the intense need to punch something–or someone, when it happened. A scream somewhere in the streets that abruptly stopped. Vi focused on the streets, and when her eye caught a movement, she jumped. She knew the best route down, jumping from roof to roof until she hit the dirty street from where the scream had come. No sign of violence. No body. No blood. Confused, she looked around. Then, from the corner of her eyes, she spotted a figure moving away. The hunt was on.

Caitlyn looked out of the window. From her office, she had a nice view over part of Piltover. All she could see now was the heavy curtain of rain, though. She sighed and turned back to her paperwork. Vi…what am I supposed to do with you? She shook her head to clear the thoughts of today’s argument from it, got up, and fetched herself another cup of coffee. It was true that Vi brought in more criminals than any other member of the Piltover Police Force, but her measures were questionable more often than not.
While she was standing in the kitchen waiting for her coffee to brew, her boss peeked in. “Caitlyn, what are you doing here? I thought you were on patrol with Officer Vi?”
“We blew it again this morning and she just stormed off, so instead of wasting my time trying to find her, I decided to write those reports you’re still waiting for.”
Her boss watched her as she poured the coffee. She offered him a cup too, and when he accepted it, he said, “Cait, I know Vi isn’t always easy to deal with, but look, you two are partners. You should really put your differences behind and start acting like partners. Finish your coffee, and then go out and find her. The reports can wait, but I can’t have two of my best officers either collide or avoid each other.”
With that, he turned around and left Caitlyn to her thoughts again.

Vi was chasing someone through the streets of Piltover. She wasn’t even sure who it was or what he or she had done; all she knew was that that chase revived her. She was finally able to get rid of her frustration and anger that had been boiling inside her the whole day. Stupid Caitlyn…who’s getting her all those arrests? Who’s helping her career move forward? And all she’s doing is complaining about the way I do things…argh!
She rounded another corner and ended in a cul-de-sac. Empty. She frowned and looked around. Carefully, she moved forward, one step at a time. Her senses were on alert. Something felt wrong…

Caitlyn took her time sipping her coffee. She didn’t really want to leave the office on a day like this, especially since she knew it was futile trying to find Vi if she didn’t want to be found. Eventually, she pushed herself up, took her hat, and left the building. It had been an order, so there was no getting around it anyway. The sooner she found Vi, the sooner she would be able to return to the dry comfort of her office to finish that report.
As she walked through the streets, memories of her patrols with Vi flashed back to her. Vi complaining about the rain causing problems with her gauntlets, and how she had helped her fix them again. That was when she had seen Vi smile for the first time. Another memory of how Vi had saved a little girl from being smashed by a heavy flower pot, and how they had later rambled about how people found it sensible to keep something like that on the window sill. “They should define flower pots as weapons”, Vi had joked. The memory made Caitlyn chuckle even now.
With a sudden sense of urgency, she quickened her steps. She wanted to find Vi, to apologize for earlier.

When Vi had made her way about halfway into the drury cul-de-sac, she heard movement behind her. “Caitlyn?” No answer. Shit, I should have taken her with me…she always has my back. Slowly, Vi turned around, ready to charge whoever was behind her. But the street was empty. Someone is playing with me…
“Jinx? Come out, I know it’s you!”, she yelled while turning a full circle scanning the area.
No response. Vi waited for a while longer, but when nothing else happened, she turned her back to the cul-de-sac and started moving to its entrance. That’s when she heard the clicking sound of a pistol being readied–right behind her.

The shot echoed through the streets in downtown Piltover. Caitlyn froze, and then ran. She ran as if her own life were at stake, and maybe it was… Terrible images of her partner dead in some alley formed in her mind, only to be confirmed when she rounded yet another corner. There she was, slumped down against a wall, her gauntlets lying next to limp arms, eyes shut.
Caitlyn was on her knees, hugging her dead partner to her chest, before she realised. Tears streamed down her face, mixing with the rain, but she didn’t care. This was her fault. Had she not argued with Vi earlier, Vi wouldn’t have left the police station alone, and then she wouldn’t have been shot like this…
“I’m so sorry, Vi… I should have been here with you… This is all my fault…”, she sobbed.

Somewhere in the distance, a figure in the shadows cleaned a pistol and grinned.

An Open Letter to Laners (LoL)

Dear laners,

Yes, I hear your pings and yes, I see your chat messages. I also see you pushing up to enemy tower while you ask (really, demand) me for assistance. Do you know what else I see? A ganking opportunity on another lane that is not pushed. An opening to do drake while both enemy botlaners had to go base or were killed. So no, I won’t come to your lane right now.

Yes, I hear your pings and yes, I see your chat messages. I also saw you die to your enemy laner three times before you even hit level 4. I see your laner is 3 levels above me. No, I won’t gank your lane now. I don’t want to die, thus feeding your laner even more. I’d rather do something useful. Play safe. You lost your lane, now don’t blame me for it.

Yes, I hear your pings and yes, I see your chat messages. Yes, I see that the enemy jungler is camping your lane. I also know that, at the moment, I would probably die if I tried to countergank your lane. So I’ll tell you to play safe while I try to catch up or help our other lanes (there’s no fear of being counterganked on another lane, after all, if the enemy jungler stays busy on your lane).

Yes, I hear your pings, and yes, I see your chat messages. And no, I won’t offer you blue buff if you started flaming me after getting yourself killed at level 2 when I wasn’t even anywhere near your lane. Play safer, stop flaming, and we can talk about the next blue buff. I don’t need the enemy team with two blue buffs if I can also make use of it.

Yes, I hear your pings and yes, I see your chat messages. But did you see the enemy jungler ganking me in my own jungle and killing me while you stayed on lane farming? I pinged for help too. Now I’m behind and need to farm up again (or gank a strong lane to get kills and assists). I can’t gank your struggling lane right now.

Yes, I hear your pings and yes, I see your chat messages. But I can’t split myself in three to help out all lanes at the same time, so I need to make a choice. Which means two of you won’t get a gank right now. Flaming me for not coming won’t make it any likelier that you’ll be the next lane I’ll try to help.

Yours faithfully,

Your Jungler

P.S.: While I focused on the negative examples in this open letter, I also wanted to say GJ to all those great laners out there who really work together with their jungler to the team’s mutual benefit. You’re great!

Pro Life vs. Pro Choice? Pro Women’s Rights!

I usually try to stay out of heated debates like this, but maybe that’s the problem. Maybe not enough of us are actually voicing our opinion, demanding to be heard, demanding our rights.

Yes, you guessed right, I’m pro choice. And I’ll tell you why.

This whole discussion shouldn’t be about fetal rights, it should be about women’s rights. What most people are doing is discussing the aggressors, and whether or not they should be allowed to continue. Whether or not they are worthy of protection from their victims. The aggressors that seize control of their victims’ bodies, force their victims’ bodies to adjust and accomodate them even if that means causing harm to the bodies. They feed off their victims, heck, they may even threaten their victims’ lives.

And yet, if one of those victims tries to get rid of the aggressor, if they try to get control of their own bodies back, they are labelled murderers. They are shamed, they are threatened, they are told the actions of the aggressor were their own fault. You know what that reminds me of? Rape and the victim-blaming our society is so quick with.

“Well, what did you expect, going out dressed like that?”, sounds pretty much like this: “Well, what did you expect, having sex?”

It’s blaming the victims for what happened to them, and thus putting all the blame of their following actions on them as well. Those poor, poor aggressors. How dare you report him for raping you? You’ll ruin his life with this! How dare you get an abortion? You’ll kill the fetus with this!

Stop! Stop blaming the victims, stop shaming them into letting others use their bodies and be quiet about it. If a woman gets an abortion, it’s not murder. It’s self-defense. It’s the woman exerting her right to not let anyone use her body in any way without her consent. Sadly, you can’t just talk to a fetus to let go, to go away. You have to use some form of violence that will, as a result, kill the fetus.

Some pro-life activists cite the very same law that I will cite: The right to life and physical integrity. Just with one major difference: I acknowledge that the fetus violates the woman’s right to life and physical integrity before she even has a chance to violate his. Thus, a woman getting an abortion is acting in self-defense, trying to protect her life and physical integrity that is guaranteed to her by human rights. To deny this right of self-defense to her would open the door to every aggressor suing every victim that ever dared to fight back, that dared not to comply with having done to him or her whatever the aggressor wanted. Thus, it would completely hollow out the very right pro-life activists are trying to use to defend the aggressor’s life.

That being said, yes, I’m pro choice. Because that’s the only logical choice if you believe in human rights and in protecting victims while punishing the aggressors of crimes. Every woman should have the right to choose whether she wants to carry out a fetus or not, because denying her that right would mean denying her a basic human right. And no, this decision has NOTHING to do with whether the woman knowingly risked the aggression (in this case, had sex). Stop blaming the victims. Human rights don’t come with a caveat of “well, only if she behaved properly and morally in the beliefs of group X”. Human rights are universal, and the only way to partially and temporarilly┬álose them is to break them in the first place. That’s why self-defense laws exist. To give us the power to defend our human rights against aggressors.