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Related Word Hunt

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Related Word Hunt

This article explains how to create a Related Word Hunt, a puzzle which is a cross between a Word Search Puzzle and a Crossword Puzzle. Small versions of these puzzles can be played here: Cross Search.

As a child I remember doing Word Search puzzles during "free" times at school. Finish your work early, do a Word Search. Word Search websites are scattered all over the internet. The are places where you can download Word Search puzzles, or even custom design your own Word Searches with vocabulary or spelling words.

Educationally, there is some value in these puzzles; in searching for the words in a puzzle, you have to be aware of how they are spelled, or be able to recognize the spelling of the word when you see it. This may help students learn the spelling of the words they are to be studying.

On the other hand, there is another style of puzzle which provides some of the elements of a Word Search puzzle and some of the elements of a Crossword puzzle, and creates a much more interesting challenge for students. I call this puzzle a Related Word Hunt.

In a Related Word Hunt, the puzzle creator makes a list of words (typically I use about 20 words) which are all related in some way to a "clue" word. For example, if the clue word is "paste", the list of words might include things like "glue" (a synonym for paste), "tooth" (because we use toothpaste), or "punch" (because "paste" is also a verb, and means "to hit or strike"). If the puzzle is for older students, use longer words, and perhaps even phrases. For example, if the clue word is "car", phrases like "Front Wheel Drive", "Anti Lock Brakes" and "Miles Per Gallon" could be used.

Once the list of words has been made, take a sheet of graph paper and mark off a grid at least as wide and tall as the longest word in your list. (For example, if you have a word that is 10 letters long, your grid should be at least 10 spaces wide, 10 spaces tall). Typically I use a 20x20 grid.

Now randomly write the letters into the spaces, just as you would with a Word Search. The only difference is, you should place most of your words in a diagonal, vertical, or backwards direction, because words which are written horizontally from left to right are too easy to find. It's okay to put a few words like that (and if you are making the puzzle for younger children, you might not want to put as many words backwards).

Now that you have placed your words into the grid, draw a square around one letter of each word. It might be the first letter, the last letter, or some letter in between. The easiest words to find are the ones in which the first or last letter is marked. Thus, you make your puzzle more challenging by marking a letter in the middle of the word, instead of the end.

Next, go through the grid and write random letters in each of the remaining blank spaces. The result is something that looks just like a word search, except that several of the letters (one for each word) have a square drawn around them.

The final step: instead of making a list of all the words in your puzzle, write down your clue word. Now, just as in a crossword puzzle, the student does not know the word in advance. But just as in a word search puzzle, the student must be able to recognize the word. The result is a puzzle which contains the best of both worlds.

One last step you may wish to include: you might want to leave spaces for the students to write down the words as they find them, and include next to each space a number indicating how many letters the word has. 

Lesson by Mr. Twitchell

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