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Teaching with puzzles and word games in the English class

A guide for teachers.

Everyone likes doing word games... from time to time. Some people even get addicted to them; it follows therefore that word games can serve a useful purpose in the context of language teaching and instruction. However like many good ideas, word games need to be approached with method and caution if they are to play a constructive role in teaching a language, whether it be a student's own language, or a foreign language.

   The development of the Internet has led to an explosion of the number of language games available to teachers today. Unfortunately, a large number of the word games available online are useless, pointless and even counter-productive in terms of language teaching. They lack method, coherence and any pedagogical basis, often - under the pretext of beng "fun" - presenting learners with the kind of random new words that are of no use whatsoever in the context of general English conversation or communication.

  To be pedagogically useful, word games for English learners need to be carefully thought out, to concentrate on either the essential vocabulary of everyday English, or to be thematically centered on a field of interest.  The best word games are those that challenge students to think and to explore the vocabulary that they have already acquired or need to develop.


crossword gridLinguapress thematic crosswords are not designed to be easy. They are designed to challenge students to stretch their vocabulary. Few students will be able to do any of the crosswords entirely unaided – but that is not the aim of the exercise. If a student can do a whole crossword unaided, then the crossword will not have helped the student to learn... just to revise.
   Challenging crosswords are designed to make students think, alone or in groups or even collectively as a class. The clues should be understandable, but students will not necessarily know how to express the answer in English; so by using their dictionaries or other resources, they can then look for an appropriate word in English, and, when it fits, put it in. As any crossword-player knows, there is a sense of success and achievement that comes with finding each answer, not to mention a satisfaction. Crosswords therefore can constitute for learners a challenging but enjoyable way of developing and expanding their English vocabulary. As students think creatively about finding the right words to complete a crossword, they will also find other words too; their vocabulary will thus be extended not just by any new words they learn in order to complete the crossword, but also by other words encountered in the course of their research.

Other word games

The same goes for other word games, in general.
There is a variety of different types of word games on Linguapress.com, and they are all designed to make students think. Few, if any, of our word games are simplistic, because simplistic word games (and there are so many of these available on the Internet, alas!) are rather a waste of time when it comes to developing our students' foreign language skills.
  Some Linguapress games are deliberately difficult, but they are never impossible. We want teachers to challenge their students, because it is by challenging them that you will really help them learn English.
   Take, for instance, an exercise on rhyming words on this  page (page opens in a new window). It is improbable that intermediate students know how to pronounce all the words correctly; this may even be a challenge for some teachers who are not native speakers of English. The idea of the exercise is to get students to think about the words, and try to find the one and only correct solution involving twelve rhyming pairs of words. Most students should find at least some satisfaction in achieving a full solution; but if this is too hard, help them along.The second aim of the game is to bring it home to students that for any given phonetic sound, there may well be quite different spellings... mail and pale, for example.

  As far as vocabulary exercises are concerned, teachers should actively encourage their students to use any tools that they can access, in order to find the answers. Tools can be dictionaries, the Internet, or even friends and classmates. The idea isn't to see which students are the best survivors when left on their own in front of difficulties; the idea is to get as many of your students to acquire as much more useful vocabulary in English as is possible, and to do so in a fun way. Encourage your students, help them where necessary, never discourage them!
   Linguapress word games aren't designed as tests, but as different and enjoyable ways to help all your students make progress in English. And that, presumably, is why you, as a teacher, are being paid (or in a few cases may have volunteered) to teach them English in the first place.


LInguapress provides answers to thematic crossword puzzles, on separate pages.
Answers are not provided for other mixed word game pages; hopefully teachers will be able to solve all the anagrams, find the pairs, do the simple crosswords and other puzzles and games.
If one person alone can't find an answer, a whole group or class working together will usually manage.

Return to index of word games

Intermediate  level English for EFL - ESOL

A selection of other resources in graded English
from Linguapress
A small selection of Intermediate resources :
The Beatles
Are you a brand slave ?
Talking about School uniforms
Talking about Fast Food
English ghost stories
Sport: Sports, American style
Life in the country; the good life?
USA: Winter sports, USA
USA: Close encounters with a Twister
And more:  More intermediate reading texts
Selected grammar pages
Clear English grammar
Irregular verbs  in English
Nouns in English
Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Advanced level reading :
 Advanced level reading index
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