Monday, November 14, 2005

Accelerate Your Language Learning: Create Your Own Vocabulary Building Activities Part 2

In Part 1 of this series we discussed some suggestions to develop English language vocabulary at the fastest possible rate for learning English as a foreign or second language. The same techniques exactly apply for developing foreign language vocabulary. In this section we will focus on creating specialized puzzles like cross word puzzles, using the same vocabulary lists you’ve already developed.

Make a Crossword Puzzle
Using the same vocabulary from the word find puzzle, now create a crossword puzzle. Add short clues for each of your words. You can do it manually using another 15 by 15 grid sheet, or one of a number of good computer software programs.

Three highly popular crossword puzzle creation programs available online are:

Puzzle Maker website www.puzzlemaker.com is the simplest and easiest of the trio of puzzle creation programs. It allows you to create a variety of crossword puzzles. As mentioned in part 1, it’s available free online, can be learned in a few minutes and doesn’t require downloads or prior knowledge.

Hot Potato website for creating puzzles, including a variety of crossword puzzles, again is online at: http://web.uvis.ca/hrd/halfbaked/ It is fairly simple to use, although again more complex than Puzzle Maker. You’ll need to study the “help” section for crossword puzzle creation instructions. A demo version is available for free online, with the full version requiring only free registration if you’re in the USA. Even the demo version can be a bit complex at first.

The Crossword Construction Kit home page http://www.crosswordkit.com/ is the grand daddy of the trio with lots of bells and whistles to create professional-quality crossword puzzles in a variety of formats and shapes. It takes a while to learn, and although not free, is reasonably priced.

For working with any of these, you should have an ample vocabulary list with clues. The grid size can be from eight by eight up to 15 by 15 to allow the completed puzzle to be printed out on a letter size sheet at a workable font size. A larger puzzle grid size tends to make the final printed puzzle letter squares uncomfortably small. No more than 25 to 30 words should be used so as not to make the puzzle too difficult or excessively challenging for learners. Remember, it’s a learning tool, not a punishment.

This compounded series of activities will provide abundant vocabulary practice. Puzzles can be created in any language using standard computer keyboard character sets. Learners need to mentally manipulate the words and vocabulary either in a category or using definitions and associations. Puzzles are easily created so learners enjoy the activities and their inherent challenges without being overwhelmed. Checking each other’s work promotes peer correction and learning in addition to aiding in the development of verbal – linguistic, visual – spatial and logical – mathematical multiple intelligence skills. Speaking among classmates using only English (or the target language) promotes inter-personal communications skills development as well.

So if you’re a student, now you’ll know what to do to practice your foreign language vocabulary. If you’re a teacher, you likewise now know how to respond when your English ESL, EFL or foreign language learning students ask you, “Teacher, what can I do to learn more words faster?”


Prof. Larry M. Lynch is a bi-lingual copywriter, expert author and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. He now lives in Colombia and teaches at a university in Cali. Want lots more free tips, help and information on language learning, public speaking, writing and mental skills development? E-mail Prof. Larry M. Lynch at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com for professional consulting, EFL Teacher Training or ELT multi-media presentations at your conference or facility.

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