Using Puzzles with Young Language Learners

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Who doesn’t love a puzzle? Done right, they are a great way to learn vocabulary and grammar. My older students are always willing to solve a good crossword or word search. “Crucigramas” and “sopas de letras” are easy to prep, fun to complete and provide another way for students to review vocabulary.

Younger students love puzzles too! I teach my own daughters Spanish at home. This summer, I wanted to teach them basic high frequency verbs and structures they could use to speak in Spanish right away. I also needed something age appropriate that uses clear but fun pictures they could easily understand. These elementary level language puzzles were the key.

Here are my favorite ways to use these puzzles for elementary or middle school Spanish students.

  1. Introduce the vocabulary first with some fun visuals. I make Google Slides or Powerpoint presentations of the words. Use interesting photographs that incorporate culture when you can. For example, if you are teaching the structure “me gusta comer” then you may want to add in a fun photo of a gigantic Paella in Spain!

  2. Tell a short story with a couple of select pictures. Use the structures in the puzzles over and over. You can also do a Movietalk with any short clip or music video you find online. I love to use Pixar shorts and other readily available material on Youtube. You may be interested in our blog post about how to do movietalks which you can find by clicking here.

  3. Once students are familiar with the words, use the puzzles as either a group or individual activity. Picture crosswords have the added benefit of making students decipher meaning from the clues. I also differentiate in class by making word strips to use as extra clues for kids that need a little more help.

  4. Use a different version of the puzzle as review for another day, homework, or as a substitute lesson plan. Mix it up with a different format. I like to use crosswords first and then word searches as a review.

Our elementary and middle school puzzles bundles have no prep worksheets that are print and play. With cut and paste activities, drawing, sorting and writing, they make learning fun for the youngest learners. I know my daughters love them!

In short, have fun with puzzles and remember that kids just want to have fun!