Monday, January 9, 2023

7 Benefits of Using Crossword and Word Search Puzzles in School

Do you know when crossword puzzles and word search puzzles were invented?  It’s much later than you probably think!  Read on to find out when they were first created, why crossword puzzles and word search puzzles are useful for students, and how they can help teachers.

Image of puzzle pieces as background with title overlaid on top half and bottom left showing crossword puzzle, bottom right showing word search puzzle
Source: The ESL Nexus

Origins of Crossword Puzzles and Word Search Puzzles

Word games have been popular since at least Roman times, when something called the Sator Square was created.  Discovered in the ruins of Pompeii, it’s a palindrome of 5 letters in 5 lines.  It can be read left to right, right to left, top to bottom, and bottom to top.  So it’s also known as a Rotas Square.  (Get it?!)  Its exact purpose isn’t known but it’s been found throughout the Roman Empire on all kinds of buildings.

Image of a Sator Square
Source: DepositPhotos

Crossword puzzles, on the other hand, weren’t invented until 1913.  That’s when Arthur Wynne created and published what’s considered the first one in a New York newspaper.  There were clues to words and squares in which to write the letters of the answers.  It had a diamond shape but unlike modern crossword puzzles, it didn’t have blank black squares interspersed throughout the puzzle.
Word search puzzles are even more recent.  Two men are generally given credit for inventing them.  The first man, Norman E. Gibit, was an American in Oklahoma; he published a newspaper consisting of advertisements and wanted to include something different to keep his readers interested.  He developed a word search using the names of Oklahoma streets as the words to find and published it in 1986.  The other man was Pedro Ocón de Oro of Spain; during the 1960s, he created numerous Sopa de Letras puzzles, which means Soup of Letters in English and has the same concept.

Why Use Crossword Puzzles and Word Search Puzzles

What are the benefits of these 2 types of puzzles?  There are several!

* Students enjoy them because they are fun.  When students do something fun, they are more engaged in learning and the learning lasts longer.

* Students can do them on their own or with a partner, and you can even display them on an interactive whiteboard to do them as a whole class activity.

* You can use them for many purposes: As a reward, as a filler if you finish a lesson early, as homework, and in centers as independent or small group work.

* They often have different levels of difficulty, which helps you meet the needs of all your students.  One crossword puzzle or word search puzzle may use the same core groups of words but have an easy version, an intermediate version, and a hard version so students with a range of abilities can do them and feel successful in solving them.

* Word search printable and digital formats are available; likewise, crossword puzzles in printable and online versions are available.

* You can use them to teach, develop, and review vocabulary about Social Studies, Science, and Math topics as well as Language Arts subjects.  For example, you can use a word search puzzle or a crossword puzzle to help students learn about famous people, holidays around the world, scientific discoveries, math concepts, and types of literary genres.

* Students can create their own crossword puzzles to demonstrate what they’ve learned about a topic.  You can use their puzzles as formative assessments to evaluate their learning.

Where to Find Crossword Puzzles and Word Search Puzzles

You can find free puzzles online but they typically can’t be printed out and they won’t be tailored to your students or lessons.  You can also find free puzzle generators to make your own but that’s time-consuming because you have to first learn how to use the program and then take the time to create them.
3 word search puzzles and a crossword puzzle with word bank for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day are shown on a green background
For info about this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day resource, please click HERE

A more convenient option may be the resources in my TPT store:

* There are word search and crossword puzzles for all U.S. Federal holidays, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Presidents Day.  In addition, there are puzzles for other popular holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year.  Every word search puzzle and crossword puzzle includes both printable and digital versions.  The word searches have 3 levels of difficulty and the crosswords include word banks for students who need more support.  You can find a listing of them all HERE

* Many of my Social Studies resources include word search puzzles and crossword puzzles along with other content; for example, my resources about Early Humans in the Neolithic through the Iron Ages, The Vikings, Chinese Dynasties, Emperors & Philosophers, Ancient Indian Empires & Emperors, Early American Colonies, and Presidential Elections.

* For Science, there is a printable word search puzzle in my Scientific Method Activities product.  There are also 2 more resources in this product. 

* For Language Arts, one of my novel units has a stand-alone resource of word search and crossword puzzles with vocabulary words from every chapter.  You can find it HERE.  Only a printable version is available, however.

Of course, answer keys for the crossword puzzles and the word search puzzles are included in all resources.  Plus, directions on how to circle or cross out the words in the word search puzzles and how to type crossword puzzle answers in the digital versions are provided too.

Quotation by Erno Rubik about doing puzzles
Source: The ESL Nexus
There are so many reasons and ways to use crossword puzzles and word search puzzles in your teaching – if you haven’t used these kinds of puzzles before, try one today!


Monday, December 19, 2022

3 Professional Development Opportunities plus Holiday Wishes

To wrap up 2022, I’d like to share a few professional development opportunities with upcoming deadlines that may be of interest.  Two are for English Language educators and one is for geography teachers. They’re listed in order of application deadline.  

Also, I hope you all enjoy a relaxing and rejuvenating school vacation!

Image showing woman in field holding a globe on top of a brown suitcase, with title text at top
Source: The ESL Nexus

English Language Fellows Program

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Georgetown University, English Language Fellows work to advance the teaching of English and the language skills of non-native teachers of English.  Candidates can indicate on their application a geographic preference but that’s not guaranteed because successful applicants are matched with positions that best fits their skills and experience.  Fellows may teach students directly or do teacher training.  Application deadline for priority consideration is December 31, 2022. Click HERE for more info and to apply.

Grosvenor Teaching Fellows

Sponsored by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions, this program gives PreK-12 geography teachers the opportunity to participate in 1 of 13 sailing expeditions.  Fellows share a cabin on board the ship and also participate in pre- and post-expedition activities.  Expedition locations range from the Arctic to the Antarctic and from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to Canada.  Application deadline is January 7, 2023.  Click HERE for more info and to apply.

TESOL 2023 Convention

Sponsored by TESOL International Association, this is one of the largest conventions for English Language educators in the world.  It will be held in Portland, Oregon, in the U.S. on March 21 – 24, 2023.  There will also be a virtual convention on April 3 – 4, 2023.  In addition to workshops, panel discussions, poster sessions, presentations of papers, and keynotes by noted ELL practitioners, publishers and vendors will also be present at the in-person convention.  Early bird registration deadline for TESOL members and non-members is March 1, 2023 but you can still register after that, albeit at a higher price.  Click HERE for more info and to register for either the in-person or virtual convention.

4 images wishing Happy Hanukkah, Happy Winter Solstice, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Source: The ESL Nexus
To all my readers, thank you very much for taking the time to read my blog this year.  I hope you found some useful and interesting ideas in my blog posts. 

I wish you all a very happy holiday season and I’ll see you back here in 2023!


Monday, November 14, 2022

What are Land Acknowledgments and Why They Matter

The first time I encountered a land acknowledgment was in the closing credits of Mystery Road, an Australian TV show.  It said the show was filmed on the lands of three Indigenous Australian communities and the producers thanked the traditional owners.  The next time I heard of this practice was when my cousin mentioned it was part of her California college’s orientation for first-year students. 
So what is a land acknowledgment and why is it important?  Since November is Native American Heritage Month, I decided to write a blog post about it.  I’ll also add a note about terminology at the end of this post.

Photo of Navajo rug with blog post title overlaid on it
Source: The ESL Nexus

Definition of a Land Acknowledgment

In its simplest form, a land acknowledgment is a sentence recognizing that an area was originally settled or used by a particular Indigenous community.  It’s a statement that expresses respect for the people who were there before the current users of the land.
A land acknowledgment can also go beyond a factual statement of who used to live on the land.  It is one way of showing that Indigenous people are still present and active in society.  It can honor Indigenous people who work in the same field as the person making the land acknowledgment.  It can also provide a starting point for addressing the wrongs that were committed against Indigenous people.

When is a Land Acknowledgment Made?

Historically, many Indigenous community activities began with a prayer that acknowledged the land they lived on.  This practice was adopted and adapted by New Zealanders, Australians and Canadians and is now becoming more common in the U.S.
A land acknowledgment is made when someone wants to express gratitude to the Indigenous people who took care of the land before it was colonized by Europeans.  Frequently used at the start of an event or activity, it’s intended to show appreciation of the Indigenous people whose land is currently being used by other people.  A land acknowledgment can be made at the beginning of a meeting or class, when a government building or school or museum is constructed on Indigenous land, and at the start of a religious service or sports event.

How to Find Out which Indigenous Community to Acknowledge

If you don’t know on whose traditional land you reside, work, or participate in activities, the easiest way to find out is to search online for the information.  Native Land is a website displaying a land acknowledgement map you can use to get started.  You can also contact your local library and ask the reference section, which is what I did when the online info wasn’t clear to me.  Another source may be a local college – you can call and ask if there is an Indigenous Studies program or office that can help you.

Appropriate Ways to Do a Land Acknowledgment

Stating that your home or activity or building is on Indigenous land is a beginning.  You might want to consider who is an appropriate person to make the land acknowledgment: Inviting a local person from the Indigenous community would make the acknowledgment more meaningful.
But a land acknowledgment can go a lot further than mere words.  It can and perhaps should suggest concrete ways that the current users of the land will support the Indigenous people who came before you and who still live in the area.  A good land acknowledgment demonstrates realization that the present occupiers of the land were not the first users of it, that an Indigenous community stewarded the land before it was taken from them, and that Indigenous people have not disappeared from the land and have much to offer the current users of it.

Quotation by Plenty Coups, Crow Nation leader, about the land
Source: The ESL Nexus
Where to Find Land Acknowledgment Examples

* The Native Governance Center provides a list of tips and questions for crafting a land acknowledgment.
* The National Environmental Education Foundation has a 3-step guide on its website for how to create a respectful land acknowledgment.
* The American Indians In Children’s Literature website has helpful suggestions.
* The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (which is not a Federal Government agency) offers free virtual backgrounds that include land acknowledgments.

A Note about Terminology

A couple of my TpT resources are about the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.  One of them is a set of task cards about a traditional Thanksgiving meal with word problems whose answers are fractions. 
The other is a set of word search and crossword puzzles about Thanksgiving with 20 vocabulary words about the holiday.  It also includes a reading passage about the Wampanoag people and English settlers; the text discusses the origins of the holiday and why some people no longer celebrate it. 
One of the vocab words is Indian.  Although I know that that word is no longer considered the best way to identify Indigenous people, I included it for a couple reasons.  First, the National Museum of the American Indian, part of the Smithsonian Institution, says it is acceptable although of course the best thing to do is ask someone what they prefer to be called.  The other reason I included it is because English Learners will most likely hear or read the word in school so consequently I think they should be aware of it, especially if they are reading primary source documents where it is often used.
But another of my TpT resources is about words in English that are derived from Indigenous North American words.  There are 18 words from Algonquian languages and 12 words from Nahuatl.  The words are presented as task cards and 8.5” x 11” posters and come in color and black-and-white.  This resource also includes maps showing where the languages were/are spoken.  If you prefer not to teach explicitly about the Thanksgiving holiday during Native American Heritage Month, you might prefer this resource instead.

Cover of TpT resource about English Words with Algonquian and Nahuatl Roots
For more info about this resource, please click HERE

More Information

If you are looking for additional activities and resources for Native American Heritage Month, you might find these blog posts helpful:
* 8 Thanksgiving Books That Even ELLs Can Read!
* Compare and Contrast the Pilgrim and Wampanoag Cultures with these Photos
* How to Teach about Thanksgiving in a Culturally Appropriate Way

This blog post was written in my home office, which is located on the ancestral lands of the Tohono O’Odham people in what is now Arizona.


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Download a Free Halloween Trivia Activity for You and Your Students!

I was at a Halloween party this afternoon and we did a trivia game about the holiday.  I decided to adapt it into a fun Halloween activity you can do with your students.

This free resource includes 15 questions about Halloween in 2 versions.  The first version includes all the questions on 1 page.  You can use this version if you're displaying it on an interactive whiteboard or giving copies to small groups of students.  The second version has the questions on 3 pages, with space to write the answers.  You can use this version if you want your students to answer the questions on their own.  A 2-page student answer sheet is included.  The answer key not only provides answers to the questions but also, in some cases, a little more information about the topic in the question.  All the info in the answers was found in various websites and was double-checked to ensure it was correct.

Picture of candy corn with a pumpkin on a black background, with the words Halloween Trivia at the top and the words 15 Questions and Answers at the bottom

To get your free copy of this resource, please click HERE.  You'll be taken to a page where you can download a copy for yourself.

How To Do This Halloween Activity

* As a bell ringer: In the days leading up to Halloween, ask a few questions at the beginning of your class as students enter and get settled.
* As a filler: If you have extra time at the end of a period, you can ask these questions.
* As a whole class activity: Display the questions on an interactive whiteboard or read them out loud and tell students to write down their answers.  You can give them the student answer sheet to record their responses or they can write or type their answers on paper or a device.
* In small groups: Each member of the group can take turns reading a question and everyone in the group can answer it on their individual student answer sheets.  Then they can discuss their answers and try to reach a consensus on the correct response.  Alternatively, after a question is read out loud, they can start discussing the answer right away and then record their answer on the student answer sheet.  When all the small groups have answered all the questions, you can ask each group to share their answers with the whole class to find out which responses are correct.  Another way to do this in small groups is to have the groups write their answers on large flipchart paper or butcher paper, then post the sheets around the room and tell students to walk around and read what all the other groups wrote.  Then come back as a whole class to discuss the answers.
* In pairs: Students can alternate reading the questions and giving answers (or guesses).  Then they can use the answer key to check their work or you can have everyone regroup as a whole class and go over the answers together.
* Individually: Give each student a copy of the student answer sheet.  Either also make copies of the questions and distribute the questions to everyone, or display them so everyone can see them.  Give everyone time to finish answering the questions, then go over them together as a whole class.
* As a contest: Divide your class into 3 teams.  Rotate and ask each team a question.  Give them a minute or so to discuss the answer and then ask a team member for their final answer.  After each team gets 5 questions and all the questions have been asked and answered, see which team has answered the most correctly.  You can give a prize if you wish but perhaps candy isn’t the best thing!

Other Fun Halloween Activities

These TpT resources also teach your students Halloween vocabulary words and customs and traditions about the holiday.  Just click on the text links for more info about each resource:

Image of 4 covers of TpT Halloween resources by The ESL Nexus

* Halloween Word Search and Crossword Puzzles (3 differentiated word searches and 1 crossword puzzle with word bank, all using 20 Halloween-related words, in print and digital versions)

* Halloween Bundle with Task Cards and Puzzles (print and digital task cards, differentiated for English Learners at different proficiency levels, plus the puzzles resource)

* Halloween Vocabulary: Match Definitions with Words -- Boom Cards (using the same 20 vocab words as the puzzles resource, students match words with definitions; audio component included)

* Halloween Vocabulary Answer the Questions -- Boom Cards (similar to the task cards resources, students answer questions about Halloween vocabulary words; 3 levels of difficulty and audio component included)
These activities will surely get your students into the Halloween spirit!  

Happy Halloween!