Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Crossword Train

I can personally testify to the power of reading when acquiring a second language. Because of that personal experience, I make every effort to find ways to "sneak" additional reading into my lessons.

Today I tested out one of my last-minute ideas with my students. (Seriously, why do my inspirations happen when there are precious few minutes before class starts? I think my procrastination has crept into my inspiration.) 

The name: I'm calling it "The Crossword Train", for lack of a better name. 

The purpose: It requires students to read clues, in the target language, in order to complete their crossword puzzle. about a story, a news article, a few chapters in a book, etc. which they have previously read. 

Prep work: 
1 - Create a crossword puzzle related to material the students have read in the Target Language. The material can be a news article, a class story or parallel story, a legend, a few chapters of a book, etc. One of my favorite free, online crossword puzzle makers is Armored Penguin

2 - Create a pdf of the crossword puzzle and an answer sheet. If the print is small, enlarge the clues and the crossword puzzle when you make copies so students are not straining to see small print. (This can be done on the copier, but I find it quicker to take a screen shot of the crossword puzzle only and a screen shot of the clues, and then print the screen shots.)

3 - For each crossword puzzle you copy, make two copies of the clues. Tape or staple the enlarged crossword puzzle to the clues, and leave the second copy of the clues as is.

How to play:
1. Students work in teams of 3. (Ideas on how to change this for groups of 4 or more are at the end of the post.) Students arrange their chairs so student A is the line leader; student B is seated behind student A, and student C is seated behind student B. (see diagram at beginning of post)

2. Student A has the crossword puzzle AND clues. Student B has the clues only. Student C has nothing.

3. The teacher is the timer, or if there is a student that wants this job, by all means, let them help you!

4. Choose an interval of time; I used 30 seconds but it can be longer, depending on the difficulty of the clues.

5. Start the time. Student #1 reads the clues and is permitted to write the answer to ONLY 1 of the crossword clues. While student A is doing this, student B is reading the paper with the clues only so when the time is up, he is prepared to write an answer on the crossword puzzle when it is passed to him. Student C is taking a 30-second break. (Hey - we all need a breather from time to time and 30 seconds goes by quickly.)

6. At the end of the designated time, student B passes the clues only back to student C so student C can begin reading the clues and preparing to fill in the crossword puzzle when it is handed to him. Student A passes the crossword and clues to student B. Student B now has 30 seconds to fill in the answer of ONE of the clues. 

7. Play continues until the teacher ends the activity or until one of the teams completes the entire crossword puzzle. I opted for the first choice.

So what did this activity accomplish?
- The students read in the target language.
- It was a review of the material we had previously read.
- Helps the teacher to quickly see if students understood the reading - both on the crossword clues and the original text.
- It required teamwork (building classroom communities) to complete the crossword puzzle.
- It was a novel way to do something that's been around for ages. In other words, mixing it up and providing the "novelty" that, as Carol Gaab says, "Brains crave novelty".

Optional ways to play:
- Instead of having one student taking a break, cut the crossword puzzle clues
apart - one paper with the horizontal clues, the other for the vertical clues. 
- Students play in groups of 4. Instead of one larger crossword puzzle, make 2 smaller crossword puzzles. Put the chairs in a circle but not facing inward. Two students have the clues only while 2 students have the two separate crossword puzzles.
- Give each student a different colored marker or pencil to easily see which students answered which clues.

La Virgen de Guadalupe
I used Bryce Hedstrom's document on La Virgen de Guadalupe for this activity. You can find the free document (thank you Bryce) HERE. Click on his name in the previous sentence to find his website and a pile of free materials as well as other interesting reads. 

For additional lesson ideas related to La Virgen de Guadalupe, check out this post from December 2015. 

Click HERE (crossword) and HERE (clues) for the documents I used in class. There are some clues that I want to change for the next time I do this activity (in the fall); a byproduct of typing the clues at the last minute.

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