Teaching with Crossword Puzzles

The History of CrossWord Puzzles 

The first “word-cross” in the United States was published in the New York World in 1913, although similar puzzles have been around in different forms since Egyptian times. In 19 th century England, they were aimed mostly at a juvenile audience, and did not become a craze for adults until Simon and Schuster printed the first book of them in the US in the 1920’s, when they then took on the familiar name “crosswords.”  The puzzle’s popularity continued to build throughout the rest of the twentieth century. Today, most daily newspapers include a crossword puzzle as well as many magazines. In fact, magazine racks usually include a number of magazines and books containing only crossword puzzles.

Teachers Adopt Crossword Puzzles          

It didn’t take long for teachers to see the educational possibilities of these word puzzles.  And when photocopying became commonplace, so did opportunities for educators to create customizable puzzles based on the curriculum they were covering.  The advent of the internet age even gave educators access to any number of online programs that will create puzzles geared to their student’s particular subject.  There is no question that crossword puzzles have been used in education for many years, but are they really beneficial for learning?  What benefits do they provide other than creating “busy-work” for students? 

Educational Value of Crossword Puzzles

First of all, crossword solving involves several useful skills including vocabulary, reasoning, spelling, and word attack skills.  To solve any crossword puzzle, a person must be able to identify and understand the terms being used.  This often involves acquiring new vocabulary or terminology.  It can also involve making differentiations between similar words or phrases.  Correctly deciphering a crossword also requires exact spelling, which for students may mean practicing dictionary skills.  Other important skills required for completing these puzzles include making inferences, evaluating choices, and drawing conclusions.Another benefit of using crossword puzzles in the classroom is that they are associated with recreation, and can be less intimidating for students as review tools.  Students who might normally balk at practice tests, flashcards, or review sessions with the teacher find puzzle solving to be much less threatening and more like game play.  Puzzle solving is a much more active type of learning, and will engage students with the material more than passive types of review techniques do. Crossword puzzles also have the advantage of appealing to different learning styles.  Visual learners often have strong puzzle-solving skills, and feel great satisfaction when they complete one.  Auditory learners enjoy step-by-step reasoning, so they also benefit from the sequential steps of completing a crossword.  Even kinesthetic learners enjoy the multi-task strategies required to solve a crossword.Finally, crossword puzzles have the benefit of being customizable to study content.  Puzzle creation software and websites are abundant, and easy to use, so teachers can create curriculum-specific crosswords with little trouble.  Whether you are studying Abraham Lincoln, geometry terms, or the water cycle, a crossword puzzle with subject-specific vocabulary can be created with ease and in a short amount of time.Crossword puzzles have endured as a favorite national pastime because they are appealing to all ages, they can be completed in a rather brief period of time, and solving them provides a sense of accomplishment.  For all these reasons, crosswords make a terrific educational tool, and teachers and homeschoolers will probably continue to use them for many years to come.

By Kerry Jones, Home Educator & Writer on Educational Games

14 comments

  1. This is interesting. I think the most striking educational aspect of crossword puzzles is how you must think using several parts of the brain at once: definitions, spellling, synonyms.

  2. I like that I can have a number of different crossword puzzles created to printout on the same topic. Each one is unique. So when we are studying a topic in English, say cooking, I can print out five different crossword puzzles on the same topic. Then I split the class into groups of three and give them each a different crossword puzzle.

    I don’t know why they like it so much more when they all have different puzzles but they do….

  3. This is great! Could I obtain permission to use this information? I work with low-income, first-generation students and encourage them to enroll in post-secondary education. This information would be useful in one of our newsletters.

    Thank You,

    Connie Bradley

  4. Connie – You can publish the information so long as you include a copyright of http://www.vocabulary.co.il.

  5. I think your free printable crossword puzzle maker is amazing! Thanks.

  6. i like the games very fun.

  7. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Play Arcade Games Online…

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting…

  9. for learing english

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  12. THERE ARE SOME FREE CROSSWORD PUZZLES IN HERE WHICH IS SO GREAT. GREAT TOEFL VOCABULARY SKILLS

  13. i can’t say anything, except thanks for this information. it’s very important for my thesis.

  14. I would like to get a lot of interesting CROSSWORD PUZZLES starting from kids ages till adults. Thanks in advance

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