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Crossword Puzzle Partner

Updated: Jul 21, 2022

Crossword Puzzle Partner: Making an individual activity interactive

By Dr. Linh Phung

(Adapted from my own contribution to New Ways of Teaching Adults edited by Hayo Reinders and Marilyn Lewis)


Students review previously learned vocabulary items and practice vocabulary strategies by engaging in peer interaction and collaboration in a game-like activity.



Class time

30 minutes

Preparation time

15 minutes

Background and rationale

Learners need multiple opportunities to encounter, practice, and use new vocabulary items before learning occurs. In addition, in situations where learners have trouble thinking of the right word to use or where other people have trouble understanding their pronunciation of a certain word, compensation vocabulary strategies are useful for learners to get their meaning across. Also, peer interaction and collaboration to negotiate and co-construct language has been shown to facilitate language learning (Swain, 2002). Crossword Puzzle Partner aims at providing learners opportunities to review vocabulary, practice vocabulary strategies, and interact with peers in a game-like activity.


- Reinforce students’ understanding of previously taught vocabulary items

- Provide opportunities for students to practice vocabulary strategies

- Encourage peer interaction and collaboration


- Select 8 or 10 previously taught vocabulary items.

- Go to Choose “criss-cross” to create a crossword puzzle for those items. Type the words you chose into the application. No clues are needed, but I often type the exact word as the clue for that word. This is because I'd like the system to generate the answers for the puzzle. Below are examples of words I've used and how I typed them into the website:

grueling grueling

stereotype stereotype

conquest conquest

convention convention

rebellion rebellion

vanish vanish

odds odds

scheme scheme

- Create Version A of the puzzle with all the words across provided and Version B of the puzzle with all the words in vertical columns provided. You can do this by printing out two copies and simply writing down the words in both versions.

- Make enough copies for your students in class.

- Ask students to work in pairs (Student A and Student B).

- Give Version A to Student A and Version B to Student B in each pair.

- Tell students that they need to work together to complete the puzzle. Tell students that they can’t look at each other’s puzzle or tell their partner the words they have. They need to ask questions, provide clues, and use vocabulary strategies such as giving a definition, giving a detailed description, showing a comparison and contrast with another word, giving an opposite of the word, giving an example of the word, and using non-verbal communication. Give some examples of those vocabulary strategies if necessary.

- Go around and give each pairs assistance if needed.

- Elicit answers and explanations of the words from the whole class when most of the pairs complete the puzzle.

Caveats and Options

- Learners need to have full or partial understanding of the words in order to guess the words that their partner tries to explain as well as explain the words to their partner. However, since some letters are already provided, they already have useful hints.

- Before students are put in pairs, all students who have the same version of the puzzle can discuss among themselves to come up with different ways of explaining the words to their partner.

- Vocabulary strategies could be taught before the activity.

Notes on virtual teaching

- This activity is possible in the virtual classroom, but the difficult is that it is difficult for the students to write down their words on their puzzle. Ideally, they can print out their version and write the words down using their pen or pencil. If a student can type into a pdf, then it's possible for them to type into the puzzle, but it's rather clunky.


Swain, M., Brooks, L. & Tocalli-Beller, A. (2002). Peer-peer dialogue as a means of second language learning. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 22, 171-185.

Note: I love this activity so much that I recently developed a whole category of these crosswords on the Eduling Speak app so that learners can talk in pairs while solving crosswords together. Please download the app on the App Store and Google Play to try them.

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