Word searches and crosswords may not be on the forefront of the mind when it comes to language learning resources, but the ability to solve these puzzles require several skills that will be most useful when it comes to language learning.
Arthur Wynn a journalist from Liverpool is credited as being the inventor of the first crossword puzzle which was published in the ‘New York World‘ in 1913. Whilst Norman Gilbat published the first word search in the ‘Selenby Digest’, Oklahoma in the late 1960s. Although much earlier Pedro Ocon de Oro had created ‘Sopas de letras’ (Soup of Letters).
By the 1980s educational establishments worldwide had adopted word searches and crossword puzzles to boost vocabulary and spelling. Crossword puzzles are a form of active learning which engages more with materials than passive learning
- Vocabulary Building – This one is a no brainer really, but the amount of people who don’t really think about the usefulness of puzzle books and fast vocabulary building means it has made this list!
- Reasoning Skills – Puzzles not only get you thinking in that language but also get’s you using those reasoning skills too, this is an all important step for fluency.
- Spelling – Correctly deciphering a crossword also requires exact spelling, which for some students may mean practicing those dictionary skills! In relation to word searches it’s reviewing the word.
- Identify and understanding terms used – puzzles are great for all levels and can help build the pace from which you identify and understand key terms.
- Differentiations between similar words or phrases – Puzzles can really help with learning the differentiations between similar words. Which could make all the difference to saying ‘year’ or calling someone an ‘ass’ in Spanish! I’ve made this mistake…don’t go there!
- Reviewing Vocabulary – fun way to go over old material and test learning.
- Promoting ‘Active Learning‘ which engages the reader with the material more efficiently than passive learning.
- Great aid for visual learners who tend to have strong puzzle solving skills and feel greater satisfaction when completing them.
- Fab for auditory learners too that prefer step-by-step reasoning, therefore they also benefit from the sequential steps of completing a crossword.
- Kinesthetics learners enjoy the multi-task strategies require to solve crosswords so beneficial to all learning types.
Although puzzles have proven to be a valuable tool in language learning I wouldn’t recommend them alone. I use them as a fun way to consolidate my knowledge of language and help build vocabulary.