When I watch my ESL students doing word searches, I really see them get into it, and they’re not paying attention to anything else. Of course they all still cheat and copy one another, getting up out of their desks to compare answers, and then inevitably one student finishes about 10 to 15 minutes ahead of the rest of the class, and it’s always the worst-behaved student, and oh boy! Sometimes word searches aren’t worth it after all!
Well, they are, if you do them right. I still love the occasional word search at the end of class, especially for lower level learners, but I’ve come to realize that word search games work a lot better. These are much more fun and interactive, and the students are often up out of their desks and having a good time. That’s what parents like to hear about back home over dinner.
- Missing Words: If you’ve got a lot of word searches printed up, cut off all the words that the students need to find. Tape up a list around the room, I like to cut it up into sections so students don’t all get crammed together, and let them see who can get all of the words the fastest. Of course, those that write down the words on their paper and head back to their desk do quite well, but you’d be surprised how often this doesn’t happen. You can even make it into a small group or team game, if you wish, and it will be more fun.
- The Board: If you’ve got an interactive white board (IWB) in your school or training center, then pulling up your saved word search and annotating it onto the screen is easy. You can now have two teams racing to find the words, perhaps standing in line so that it doesn’t get too crazy. Only the first student in each line can circle a word, and then they go to the back. All the other team members can be helping out by looking for words too.
- Spice It Up: There are lots of great word search tools out there on plenty of different ESL websites and otherwise. If you overuse word searches and word search games, then try to make new printouts, like word searches that are in the shape of a circle, maze, or airplane. This will make it more interesting for the kids, and also will give you some free time to sit around and catch your breath at the end of your ESL class.
For some great word search sites, check out esladventure’s ESL Links page.