Create a Crossword is a great game you can play with Intermediate to Advanced classes. It’s a variation on usual crossword puzzles and gets your students thinking about the way in which words are constructed and spelt simply by using crosswords.
Draw then photocopy a 5 x 5 grid of squares on a page. You’ll need one per student.
The next requirement is a way of choosing random letters from the alphabet. The ideal way is to use the letter tiles from a Scrabble set; put them all in a bag and make sure they’re thoroughly mixed.
If you don’t have Scrabble tiles, you can use alternate ways for your students to pick random letters:
- a page with all the letters of the alphabet randomly placed on it (the student will shut their eyes and point at one randomly)
- a page of writing from a newspaper (as before, the student with closed eyes points to a letter at random)
And so on.
Explain to the students how the game will work. One at a time a letter of the alphabet will be read out loud. The student can put this letter in any empty space on their grid. Then another letter will be read out and again, this goes anywhere on the grid. This happens 25 times till the grid is full.
The first time you play this game you can read the letters out yourself. Later you can have students choose a letter randomly.
The students then have to count up the number of 5 letter words they have produced (vertically or horizontally).
Once the students have played the game once or twice you can work with them on developing a strategy. For example, certain letters are less used in English so if an X is pulled out, this needs to go somewhere less important, say a corner. Explain that:
- letters like Q, Z, X and J are less common and shouldn’t go in prime spots
- few words end in C
- a Q must be followed by a U
and so on. Some general rules of English spelling can be explained and examined here.
When students are familiar with the game, allow each one to call out the next letter of their choice (rather than choose a random one). This allows students to choose letters which will help them fill their own grid.
With lower level classes, once the grid is filled you can allow them to find words of any length in their grid.
Students don’t have to work alone; get them in pairs to work together.
Allow students to use a dictionary to find words that they didn’t necessarily know (make sure they understand the meaning of the word as well!)
The first modern “word-cross” was created by Arthur Wynne, a gentleman from Liverpool (UK), and got published in the New York World (a US newspaper) in 1913, although similar puzzles had been around in different forms since Egyptian times.
Crossword solving in fact involves several useful skills including vocabulary, reasoning, and spelling. For this reason it has been adopted by EFL / ESL teachers and used in the English class as a more active review technique and an engaging type of learning.