When English EFL, ESL, or foreign language learning students ask you, “Teacher, what can I do to learn more words faster?” Here’s an answer that will serve you and them handsomely. Create your own TEFL vocabulary-building games, activities, and puzzles to boost your vocabulary in record time. Not sure how to go about it? Here are some suggestions:
Complete the Chart
First fill in a chart of foods under categories like:
• Meats and Proteins
• Fish and Seafood
• Dairy Products
• Cereals and starches
You can use a dictionary, talk with classmates or friends, look at pictures, etc. whatever you can to get yourself the biggest list you can as fast as you can. Once you have a good “stash” of vocabulary, reinforce it by using it in other activities like the ones that follow.
Create a Word-Find puzzle
Make a 15 space by 15 space grid on a letter-size sheet. You can use a computer or manually draw one. Leave space at the top of the page for a title and other data. There should be an even larger space at the bottom of the sheet. This is going to be the space for your word list. Now, using any of the words from your chart, make a list of about 25 to 30 words at the bottom of your puzzle page. Then, fill in the grid spaces using those words. Horizontally, vertically, diagonally, even backward will do to use up as many spaces as you can.
If you’re using this exercise in a class, students swap papers to solve each other’s puzzles. They can also check for errors, omissions, and missing words or letters. You’ll be using peer correction to its fullest.
Categories to Be Used
Word lists are created using relevant themes from the class. Examples of “evergreen” themes that can be used repeatedly include:
• Clothes and colors
• Occupations – Jobs
• Food and food categories
• Parts of the body
• Furniture and Rooms of the House
• Animals and Pets
• Cities in your state or country
• Cities and Countries of the World
• Famous – Historic People and Places
• Verbs (Regular or Irregular)
• Music (artists, types of, instruments, etc.)
The list of possibilities is virtually endless. You’ll also be able to use these same categories and word lists in other exercise types coming up in Part 2 of this series.
Three of my favorite puzzle creation programs are available online:
Puzzle Maker website http://www.puzzlemaker.com is the simplest and easiest the trio of puzzle creation programs. It will also allow you to create word finds and other puzzle types. 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
is fairly simple to manage, although more complex than Puzzle Maker. A demo version is available for free online, with the full version requiring only free registration if you’re in the USA.
If you love flashy colors, are an artist who paints, draws, cartoons creates or crafts, then your brain is high – developed in the visual-spatial area. Do jigsaw puzzles increment and stimulate your brain? Then visit this website for more info and to try your hand at some visual-spatial activities. You can create or associate word lists to accompany each of the puzzles offered for free download at:
• Jigsaw puzzle free downloads
We’ll continue in Part 2 of this series with more suggestions for developing English language vocabulary at the fastest possible rate for learning English as a foreign or second language. The same techniques exactly apply to developing foreign language vocabulary. In the next section, we will focus on creating specialized puzzles like crossword puzzles, using the same vocabulary lists you’ve already developed. See you in Part