Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Group Collaboration- Crossword Puzzles

This is nothing new, but my students had so much fun on Tuesday, that I wanted to share a more dynamic way to use crossword puzzles in class (rather than making them and passing them out yourself). 

This can be used for almost any grammar point, but we were reviewing relative clauses on Tuesday, so those are the examples you'll see. We use Passages Student's Book 1, which teaches defining and non-defining clauses by discussing different cities and overall travel.

After my students and I worked our way through some grammar activities, it was time for them to produce some sentences, in a collaborative and (I hope) fun way!

My board work
Setting it up (5 minutes): I wrote some sentences/ phrases using relative clauses on the board.

1 Down Something that you use to eat

1 Across _________, which is the capital of Japan, is the birthplace of Joan Fontaine.

2 Across When in Japan, you speak _________

I asked students for the answer to 1 down. One student shouted, "Spoon,! At this point I drew crossword boxes to the side. We quickly solved the puzzle (Chopsticks, Tokyo, Japanese).

Dividing the class (3 minutes)
I have a small multicultural class right now. I have five Japanese students, three Taiwanese students, and one Brazilian student. I don't really love having nine students, but at l east in this case it made the decision to divide the students into groups of three easy. I "randomly" assigned each student a group (A, B, C) to be sure that each group had as many different nationalities as possible.

The Assignment (3 minutes): You can do this many different ways, but this is how it went Tuesday in class.
Teacher: "With your group you need to come up with a theme. What was the theme of my puzzle on the board?"
Students: "Japan."
Teacher: "Yes! You're all so smart! We have been discussing traveling, so what other themes could be select?"
Here is a student making her clues
Students: "Asia" "China" "Barcelona"
Teacher: "Good, you can also do other themes like: 'Things you pack in a suitcase,' or 'Different ways to travel.' The FIRST thing you need to do as a group is  agree on a theme. The SECOND thing you will need to do is come up with some clues. How many clues will you need?"
Students: "Ten" "Five teacher" "Twenty"
Teacher: "There are three of you so 15 clues, but only 10 of them need to have relative clauses" (Note: I thought this would take 30 minutes, but students took about 50 to complete their puzzles. Looking back I would change it to 10 clues.)

Students: "How many clues?"
Teacher: *Writes on the board* "15 clues 10 relative clauses"
Students: "Does it matter how many across and how many up?"Teacher: "Nope. You may do this however you like. When you finish, you must give me TWO blank cross word puzzles. Each group will receive a crossword puzzle from every other group" (With larger classes you could have them photocopy for homework, or just make it so they trade with another group).
Students: "Can we use our phones?"
Teacher: "You can use the textbook, or your cell phones to get information. Please TALK to your partners, but don't talk too loudly, or the other teams will hear your answers."

The Work:
As students worked in groups I heard a lot of English! Some of it was the grammar point (What about, "The woman who is the queen of England?") and some of it was the task based English, "No it doesn't fit there." "That question is too different. Not our theme." etc. I originally was going to give 15  minutes to create the questions and then 5 minutes to make sure everything fit on a crossword puzzle. Maybe with an extra five minutes to actually write out the two final copies for the other groups.... the groups ended up needing about 30 minutes to make the clues and another 15 to assemble the puzzle. However, they were speaking English THE WHOLE TIME! Because they were on task, I told them they could take as much of the class as they needed.

In the end they needed all of my class-time, but I feel it was well worth it!

Complete the Puzzles
Give groups a crossword puzzle(s) from another team. Allow them five minutes to work on it as a team WITHOUT CELL PHONES. Just see how many they know. 
Then, because this isn't the main aim of the class, give them the option of using cell phones or textbooks to find answers. 
The first group to finish both crossword puzzles wins! Since my students are just visiting America for the Summer I give them American paraphernalia (there was an after Fourth of July sale where I got tons of bracelets, pencils, necklaces etc. for less than $1.00 each!), but anything works! If nothing else they win bragging rights!
  • Provide each student with a different text from which to find their answers and clues (a short article about safaris in Africa for examples)
  • Use this as a literature assignment. Have students each create a crossword for a different character, or chapter.
  • Make it about the school, or the teacher!
  • I know there are many crossword puzzle generators on computers, but part of the reasons I like doing it by pen and paper is because students get to talk about where to put the boxes. While you could have them use an online tool, I would avoid it.
  • The options are pretty close to limitless :)
There it is! A simple, and dynamic way to get students to work together, practice the target language, and create a little fun for all the students. How do you use crossword puzzles in the class?   


  1. It is an exciting variation on crosword puzzles and grammar activities in general. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for commenting. certainly like it better than the alternative of passing out a crossword puzzle and having students work in silence.


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