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Puzzles To Teach Vocabulary - ESL lesson
By:Sally Jennings

A Puzzle to Teach Vocabulary

Class teams will compete by each making a “cross out puzzle.”

This puzzle is a grid about six columns wide, by 10 lines long, solved by crossing out words described group by group in 11 clues.

For a shorter class time, or a beginner class, or a homework task, you may shrink the grid to fewer columns or fewer lines, or fewer clues.

The words in each group (each clue) are sprinkled all over the grid.

Note: These instructions do not include having a saying or proverb left over. That is harder to do, so I am leaving it out here.

When they are solved, the puzzles your class creates will have all the squares crossed out, and the 11 clues will have the appropriate group of words listed beside each clue.

Make a list of words you wish to emphasize, numbering about 15 more than the spaces in the grid size you chose (grid suggested below is 6 columns by 10 lines, so 60 spaces plus 15 equals word list of 75 words).

If you wish to encourage dictionary use, and the class has time, some words can be new to the class, the rest may be recently taught or familiar.

Choose words which may be logically divided into 11 groups. These divisions may be grammatical (as in “nouns beginning with ‘a’”, or “past tense verbs”), semantic (as in “synonyms for hat” or “colors of autumn”), phonetic (“single syllable words with a long vowel”) or any other logical divisions you choose.

Test your list by making a cross-out puzzle of your own following the instructions below, to be sure your word list works reasonably well. Time yourself, and shrink your grid size and shorten your word list if necessary to fit class length.

Decide how to split your class into teams. I suggest five students maximum on a team. For a class smaller than ten people, teams may be smaller. [Although the instructions are for class teams, if you wish, a smaller class may work with you on the board to make the puzzle. This puzzle can even be done by one student who is being tutored, or as individual homework.]

Make enough copies of your word list so each team has at least one copy.

Each team needs:
Your word list
a dictionary
four sheets of blank paper (one is for fatal mistakes)
one pencil and eraser

Each team does the following:

On the first sheet of paper, carefully split the word list into 11 groups of related words (so they will make 11 clues). They use the dictionary to look up words they don’t know. They will have some discarded words, if your word list is longer than the total number of spaces in their grid. The discarded words are not used at all.

Strategy 1: it is best if words do not belong to more than one group. This is so words will not be crossed out prematurely during the first few clues.

Form a short statement (a clue) to describe each group of words.

On the second sheet of paper, draw a grid six columns across, labeling the columns A, B, C, D, E, F.

Divide the grid into 10 lines, numbering the lines 1 through 10.

Fill in the groups of words in the puzzle grid, one word to each square, one group at a time.

On the third sheet of paper, list the clues, numbered 1 through 11.

Strategy 2: list the clues in the correct order so words may be reassembled in the original group when the puzzle is solved. It is not necessary to number the first clue number 1, it could be number 5, for example.

Strategy 3: you may use column letters and/or line numbers to restrict the range for a clue, so words which fall in two groups are not crossed out prematurely, before the clue they belong with is reached.

Strategy 4: the most general categories go last, since too many words would be crossed out too soon if they went first.

When each team has completed a grid with the clues and checked it, they pass the puzzle to another team. That team does the puzzle by writing down the words next to the clues, as the words are crossed out. You may wish to award prizes for flawless work.

For an example of this type of puzzle, see my Foods and Cooking - Cross Out Puzzle Two http://games.speak-read-write.com/crossouttwo.html

For more examples of my cross out puzzles:

Nouns, Verbs, and Canadian Geography - Cross Out Puzzle One

Taking A Trip - Cross Out Puzzle Three

It's Christmas Time - Cross Out Puzzle Four

How Big? How Heavy? - Cross Out Puzzle Five

Hope you have fun with this one.

I welcome your comments at email:

Sally Jennings

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