Whether in your daily paper or in a classroom handout, crossword puzzles are designed to engage the reader more intentionally for some time. But not only print media editors use this engaging media to increase the connection between the reader who becomes the problem solver. Some crossword puzzle solvers chose this format as their lifelong adult hobby to strengthen their vocabulary in a consistent way. Those who build crossword puzzles often arrange the clues around a particular theme. For instance People Magazine would have the titles of recent hit movies arranged through out their puzzle, while Shape Magazine would publish one with the common names of exercises woven into the puzzle. The New York Times puzzles are the height of contemporary culture displayed in crossword puzzle format.
With so many adults already engaged in this form of puzzle solving it is only natural for teachers at every level to employ this in their classrooms. Activity directors in nursing homes also provide these puzzles to keep their guest’s minds sharp on a regular basis. Here current events are frequent topics, as magazines like AARP Bulletin provide regularly.
While many individuals of every age, are familiar at working crossword puzzles with sharp pencils, clean erasers, and a cup of coffee, the Internet has impacted this in many ways. Some sites provide puzzles that you solve right online, only locking the letter in the box when it is correct. Other sites provide blank forms, encouraging the user to insert their own words and clues to share with others. Many other sites allow users to insert a dozen or more words, and they return a puzzle including the group of terms in the solution.
Creative teachers make use of these latter sites to generate puzzles that are tied into the classroom curriculum and appropriate to the developmental stage of the learner. The weekly spelling words are learned in many different ways, but crossword puzzles help the elementary student to connect the word they are learning with its meaning. Other connections can be shown such as synonyms, antonyms and homonyms. Every class of students has learners with different styles. The auditory learners would be successful working with a partner on the puzzle page, while the kinesthetic must depend on the movement of the hand tracing the letter to make these connections. Visual learners could have puzzles where the clues are icons instead of words to connect.
As with any other classroom activity, it is essential that the activity relates to the educational goals. Moving to a high school subject a new class of well defined terms are introduced in each subject area. Sometimes the teacher’s manual will have crossword puzzles that fit the trigonometry goal for the day, or the pre-calculous lesson. Even choir and band at this level have composers and genres that must be well defined. When the teacher uses contemporary technology to construct well designed, challenging crossword puzzles, the student is given yet another way to use all the senses to integrate these specific terms with their definitions. Beyond this, the puzzle is self-correcting and provides immediate feedback to the student’s successful accomplishment. What a wonderful way to engage students in successful learning opportunities!