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|Grades||K – 12|
Why Use This Tool
Nothing tests your knowledge like a crossword puzzle. But did you know the format of a crossword puzzle can be an effective teaching tool, too? Using this tool, children and teens can solve ready-made puzzles designed around grade-appropriate topics. Solving a crossword puzzle can teach new words, the meanings of those words, and how to spell them. They also can jump into the driver's seat and create their own puzzles. Choosing their own topics and mapping out their own puzzles develops big-picture thinking. To create a puzzle from scratch, children and teens must demonstrate deeper knowledge of the topic and the words that will serve as the puzzle’s answers. Coming up with clues sharpens communication skills. It’s an art to write a clue that gives just a hint, but enough for someone to say, “Aha! I know the answer to 1 down!”
Children and teens begin by entering their name and selecting a grade or age range. To solve a ready-made puzzle, they choose a topic from the dropdown menu and click Play. They then type the answers to the clues directly onto the puzzle squares. The Check Puzzle function highlights the correct answers in green and shades incorrect answers in red. For hints, children and teens can click Tips & Hints in the bottom left corner to find more information about the topic and oftentimes links to other websites.
To create a puzzle, children and teens select the Create Your Own tab. After titling the puzzle, they begin entering their puzzle words—as few as 3 and as many as 30. Next, they are asked to provide clues for each word. From there, the finished puzzle may be solved online or printed.
Using Crossword Puzzles With Children
- You’ll draw more interest—especially in reluctant children—if the puzzle topics have kid appeal. Let children know they don’t have to stick with serious topics. A favorite cartoon, movie, or sport can be rich subjects.
- Use the puzzle tool to help younger children learn phonics—the relationship between letters and sounds. Build simple puzzles together, such as ones that end in the same letters. For instance, a puzzle could include the words red, bed, fed, and led.
- For older children, use crossword puzzles to explore synonyms, antonyms, or other types of words. The tool also offers a creative way to study a list of spelling or vocabulary words.
- Want a child to get into that book he or she is reading? Together, create a crossword puzzle about the story. Puzzle answers can include character names, the book’s setting, and other tidbits known only to the reader who has read it well.
Using Crossword Puzzles With Teens
- Talk up the fact that crossword puzzles are a grown-up game. Take a look at the granddaddy of them all, The New York Times crossword puzzle. Talk about how crossword puzzles test more than knowledge of trivia; they can show how much world knowledge a person has. And how does one develop world knowledge? Reading, of course.
- Older children love the idea that they speak their own language. Encourage them to create puzzles that only someone their age could solve. They can fill them with references to teen lingo, their favorite music, and movies.
- Encourage teens to dive into their puzzle topics with a visit to the library. When possible, suggest teens add to their firsthand knowledge. For instance, a teen who just visited Gettysburg could combine his or her personal experience with additional research.
- Take a look (and a stab) at the variety of puzzles in newspapers, magazines, and books. And trade some crossword puzzle trivia. Did you know that one romantic puzzler convinced The Boston Globe to create a puzzle that proposed marriage to his girlfriend? She solved the puzzle and said Y-E-S.
We invite you to share your experiences with this resource and provide us with any feedback on how it can be improved.