Overview: Students solve crossword puzzles constructed by their professor, allowing the clues to be tailored so that they come directly from course content. This individual activity works well for students learning a new vocabulary – be it the vocabulary of a second language or the specialized vocabulary associated with a new discipline such as anatomy or pathophysiology. Online learning means that students rarely write new words or say them out loud and so they find it challenging to retrieve those words from memory when writing exams. Crossword puzzles encourage them to slow down and think about what they have been learning and to practice recalling course content as they link clues with words. Having to fit each word into the right number of boxes helps with spelling of new terminology, an ongoing challenge for students. Feedback is immediate and puzzle completion provides low stakes opportunities to fail and to learn from mistakes.
Tips and Tricks:
- EclipseCrossword (Windows only) is a free download that works with a variety of languages and allows you to create many different puzzles from the same set of clues.
- While completing puzzles online, students are alerted to errors and can try again; puzzles are automatically scored and students can submit a screenshot of their score via the assignment function of Brightspace.
- Puzzles can be an optional activity or completed for credit; if for credit, you can control how many times a student can check the puzzle and you can deactivate the “solve” function.
- I awarded 0.75% for each crossword; even this small incentive led to almost 100% participation.
Duration: 15-30 minutes depending on puzzle size.
Re-playability: Yes, students can redo puzzles to review content interactively when preparing for exams.
Continuity: A series of puzzles can address different aspects of course content as the course progresses.
Number of players: Students can do the puzzles individually or work together in groups.
Tutorials and resources: Many different tools can be used to create crossword puzzles.
- I am familiar with EclipseCrossword, a free software that is very user friendly, allows words of unlimited length, incorporates spaces if terminology is more than one word, allows crosswords to be complete online or on a printed sheet.
- Another option may be Crossword Labs. It is not a download but rather you create the puzzle online and make it available to be completed online or on paper.