Activity 18: Communicative Crossword

▶ Duration:  10–20 min
▶ Aim:  Oral fluency practice; vocabulary review
▶ Summary:  Each student has a crossword with only half the words filled in, and must invent clues for their partner.

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To turn a usually solitary crossword puzzle into a speaking activity for pairs, the clues are removed altogether and then each student is given a copy of the crossword with half the words filled in. Combining their words with their partner's words will complete the crossword, but they are not allowed to say the words directly, they have to give explanations or hints so that their partner can guess the word.

The first step is to obtain a suitable crossword puzzle. There are two ways to do this. Either you can devise the crossword yourself, or you can take one from somewhere else such as a magazine (but that would probably exceed the vocabulary of the students) or a textbook (such as a book of vocabulary exercises).

Making your own crossword is not very difficult, especially if you use special software to help you. Most of the programs cost money, but I found an excellent free online crossword maker. In the Resources section, I give a step-by-step example of how I used this puzzle maker to create the Renting an Apartment crossword.

The crossword can be chosen to suit the topic of the lesson. For example, it can be made up of vocabulary items that are relevant to the topic.

Once you have a crossword, make two copies and label them "Student A" and "Student B". Distribute the answers evenly between the two crosswords. Then make enough copies so that each student will receive either the A or B version.

Also plan a very simple example crossword to use for demonstration purposes. Two words is enough. Keeping with the theme of "renting an apartment", I used "lease" and "apartment" (overlapping on the third letter of each).

See the Resources section for examples. If you create your own crossword based on this idea, please share it with us!

Explain the concept of a crossword if necessary. My experience was that my Chinese students were familiar with the concept, but I had to teach them what to call the position, eg. "1 down" or "2 across".

Draw a two-word example crossword on the blackboard (two copies, one on each side of the board, with half the words filled in on each), and use this to explain the activity: two people work together; each has a different sheet; the can't show the sheet to their partner or say the word, instead they must use English to explain it.

Invite one of the students to help you demonstrate the activity using the example on the blackboard. Obviously this is no challenge because both versions are visible on the board, but pretend to think hard before you give your answer!



Activity 13: Group Vocabulary Review is also based on the concept of explaining a word without saying the word itself.

Instead of dividing the crossword between two people, it could be split into three or even more sheets. This might be appropriate if the words are very hard to guess.

I think I first heard about this idea from my CELTA instructor, Linda.

Renting an Apartment

Here is a 16 word communicative crossword using words related to the topic of renting an apartment.

This is how I created it:

  1. I chose 16 words and saved them in a file, with one new word on each line but the word written twice with a forward slash between the copies. This is the format that the crossword generator requires, and the word is written twice because we just want the word itself to be listed in the clues. This is how it looks:

    carpet / carpet
    deposit / deposit
    furniture / furniture
    refrigerator / refrigerator
  2. I went to
  3. I copied and pasted the list of words into the entry box (making sure there is no blank line after the last word), and clicked "Create Puzzle".
  4. I examined the results to see if I was satisfied. In particular, I wanted a crossword that was wide rather than tall, because I wanted to place two crosswords on a sheet of B5 paper and then chop it in half after photocopying.
  5. Since I didn't like the shape of the first crossword generated, I clicked the "back" button of my browser and clicked the "Create Puzzle" button again. The crossword generator creates a differently shaped puzzle each time, so you can keep trying until you get the shape you want. Also, you could try playing around with the "Columns" and "Rows" settings (these influence the way the generator works, but they are only a guide).
  6. In the end, I settled for a crossword with 19 columns and 13 rows.
  7. I clicked on the "puzzle" link to display the crossword, and saved the page to my hard disk (make sure you choose to save it as "Web page, complete" so that the images will be saved as well).
  8. To turn the result into a communicative crossword, I printed two copies, used a pen to fill in half the clues on each one, and labelled them "Student A" and "Student B".

NOTE: Later on, in order to present my communicative crossword on this website, I edited the HTML directly. But this is a lot of trouble, so if you are just preparing a communicative crossword for classroom use then I recommend a good old fashioned pen!
Rating: 4 stars

A motivating speaking activity based on the principles of communicative language teaching. Vocabulary review is an added benefit.

when the in is at a slant:Slope
Shaun Lo ng
03.12.2004 , 11:26

When a line is at a slope: slope
Shaun Lo ng
03.12.2004 , 11:28

very good indeed, i wonder why i didn't find this site earlier
mirocus []
21.03.2006 , 12:57