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…

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