Teaching ESL

Playing With Words
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Author:  barnett7ya [ Thu Sep 21, 2006 9:56 am ]
Post subject:  Playing With Words

Here is a great word game that is played in Russia ad Ukraine. There school kids have notebooks with graph paper and it is easy to make grids. There rules are a lot more strict than the ones I use, but the result is a fun why to remember words that are known, practice spelling and race against the other teams. I start with a 5x5 grid followed by 4x4 and 3x3 grid (the original starts with an 8x8 grid and works down to 3x3). I have made a simple worksheet in pdf format if anyone is interested. It is a lot easier to explain if you can see the grid (Sorry, but I can't paste an image into this post). Think of it as three squares side by side, each one gets smaller as you go to the right.

After breaking the class into group of three, I explain how to use the grid using the letter A. I put an A in the diagonals of each grid (from the upper left to the lower right). Now all you have to do is fill in the grids -- 5 letter words in the 5x5 grid, 4 letter words in 4x4 grid and 3 letter words in the 3x3 grid. But the words must have the chosen letter in the right position.

For example:

I use the following rules:
No regular plural forms.
No regular past tense.
No 3rd person sing. verb forms.
No names except country names.
No abbreviations.
No acronyms.
Each word can only be used once in the grid (AREA has two A's but can't be used in two locatons).

The orginal rules are stricter (only nouns, etc.), but I think these are fine.

If you really want to make it a race, award candy to the first team to finish (following the rules). Sometimes I ask which team was closest to finishing second (maybe they only had 2 words left) and award 2 candies per person for the winning team.

It is amazing how this gets the brain working. And it is always fun to see them try to remember a 3 letter word with the third letter S. It takes some time before they remember YES, BUS or GAS.

Try this one and if you are worried about the level of your students being too low, let them use their book (I make sure they know what the words mean if they put it in their grid).

I've had lots of fun with this (and the children did too).

Author:  mesmark [ Thu Sep 21, 2006 10:10 am ]
Post subject: 

That sounds like a fun activity and once students get used to it, it seems like it would be a great little warm up.

Does it have a name?

Thanks for that!

Author:  Gaby [ Thu Sep 21, 2006 10:14 am ]
Post subject: 

Hi...I would like to get a copy of your worksheet, do you think that would be possible? If so, how can I get it.It sounds like a cool game. Thanks. :)

Author:  mesmark [ Thu Sep 21, 2006 10:23 am ]
Post subject: 

I think this is what the grids are supposed to look like. The explanation seems fine to me but here's a picture anyway:


Author:  Gaby [ Thu Sep 21, 2006 10:27 am ]
Post subject: 

I see....alright Mark thanks a lot!!!!

Author:  barnett7ya [ Thu Sep 21, 2006 11:57 am ]
Post subject: 

Yes, Mark, your grids look good. The only change is that they are all connected together in a long row.

I don't know if there is an official name, but it is commonly called a diagonal crossword (roughly translated). I call it "kletki" which is the Russian word for cells (also what the squares on the graph paper are called). It just sounds more interesting.

It is a great warm-up activity. I sometimes have to give some of the harder words, but in general you can use it for almost any letter of the alphabet although I use A, E, S, T, R, N, P, M, B and F the most and in that order (but the last few for high school students). Younger students don't go through that many letters in a class. Now that they know the activity, I have them do one as a "get everyone focused" exercise. And nobody seems to mind getting a candy at the beginning of class.

I'm not sure if this forum has a place to upload files to or not. If not, you can send me an e-mail (my e-mail address is in my profile) and I will send you the pdf worksheet. It is nothing special. I made it in Excel. I have it set up with six per page, so even if you use it for a full class you should have enough. Double side the photocopies and cut the page in half.

Hope you have fun with it because it can even get the teacher thinking. Because you have to think of a few examples of good words and they have to be ones that the kids know.

Author:  barnett7ya [ Thu Sep 21, 2006 12:04 pm ]
Post subject: 

By the way, my best story with this activity was from a high school class of 20 hormone-driven boys. It was very competitive. One team lost because they couldn't get one word (a 5 letter word with the 3rd letter M). At the end when I suggested they could have used the word WOMAN, they just about died. Then one of them groaned "Why didn't I know? That's all I think about!"

It is really easy to have a brain cramp doing this activity.

Author:  mesmark [ Thu Sep 21, 2006 12:55 pm ]
Post subject: 

Here's the file barnett7ya emailed me with the game boards


It looks really nice with the shaded boxes for the letters.

Author:  barnett7ya [ Sun Oct 01, 2006 11:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Another Great Word Game

Here is another great game for developing word recognition skills. So many sight words are rather short words 3-5 letters. And there are lots of common English words that fall into this size category.

I play a game with classes that are already developing reading skills and learning spelling as a great way to review words. It is based on a game show called Lingo although it is virtually a game like Mastermind using letter instead of colours. I'll explain the 3-letter version first.

I think of a 3-letter word and write the three blanks on the board. The first team (it is best if the teams can be close enough to share ideas without the other teams being able to hear) says a 3-letter word and spells it. I write it under the blanks and then give clues. If a letter in their word is also in my word and in the same place I circle it with blue chalk. If there is a letter in their word that is also in my word but in a different place I circle it with pink chalk. I also make sure they know that the letters that are not circled are not in my word. The next team tries to use these clues to guess the word and this continues until one team gets the right word.

For 4-letter words I tell them one of the letters in my word and its location (but not the first letter of the word) before the first team guesses a word. For 5-letter words I give the first letter of the word before the first guess.

If you are worried about this being too hard for your students then you can do I do--have the students think of as many words as they can with three letters and write them on the board. They can actually make a very good list. You can suggest ones that they know but missed. Then when you choose a word pick one from the master list. It becomes more of a visual game then as they search the list for words with the right characteristics.

I've had several classes ask to play this one again. Which is pretty good for a word game.

Author:  barnett7ya [ Sun Oct 01, 2006 11:44 pm ]
Post subject: 

I forgot to mention that I've also used this as a warm up to introduce a topic. I pick a topic or category and several words from it that have 3-5 letters. As they solve the words they also try to guess the overall topic. After they get it, we can then continue brainstorming to add to the list.

Author:  mulanmulan28 [ Sat May 23, 2009 10:22 pm ]
Post subject: 

hii...this idea reminds me of my favorite game when i was in senior high school...but it is quiet different..and i had ever tried to addapt this game in my teaching, especialy in building vocabularies ( scaffolding is very important in this game to keep them creatively to speak, not simply focusing on the some certain words). What I do here is:

*prepare the grid (free grids number, as full as the book will be better)
*divide ss into pair
*ask st A to write a word freely at the place she likes/wants
*st B then write the next word at the place she also wants ( it is really recommended to put the word that i name it as challenge word exactly near the first, second or third word of st A,in order to hindrance st A's chance to continue her word, so st B's word can avoid st A to continue writing near her own word because when she successfully is able to continue the next word whether it is downly, crossly or diagonally, without an interruption word from st B (until 3 words without being interrupted), she'll get 1 point
*don't forget to encourage the scaffolding question while making the word, surely related to that made word
*teacher is recommended to give the model how to scaffold because ss often get confused what to ask
*encourage ss to express their idea freely in scaffolding

Author:  dominique188 [ Thu Jul 23, 2009 8:38 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hello all.

Just thought I would share with you that I have tried the letter grid game and it worked really well with my students. It got them thinking and using their vocabulary.

Thanks for the idea.


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