In November of last year I wrote about how to make your own crossword puzzles with the Discovery Puzzle Maker. As that piece has since become one of my most popular posts, today I’m going to show you how to make your own word search puzzles. Most of my students go nuts for these kinds of worksheets, and can find the words much faster than I. They’re also a good way for children to memorize vocabulary words without feeling like they are, you know, memorizing vocabulary.
Now, I should tell you that there are plenty of alternate puzzle generators available, including this excellent one from Super Teacher Worksheets, which I also make use of from time to time. But what I’m going to show you now probably gives you the most flexibility in how you choose to make it as well as for keeping it for future use. So without further ado..
1. Choose the words to appear in your puzzle. For this example, I am using the vocabulary words from the amazing I like Vegetables song from Genki English.
This catchy tune was composed and sung by Richard Graham, the creator of Genki English, and teaches children the sentence pattern, “I like…” as well as the vegetables: onions, peas, carrots, beans, mushrooms, potatoes, pumpkin, and tomatoes. Next, write the title that will appear at the top of the page.
2. Now choose the dimensions of your puzzle. For most puzzles I use 12 x 12, but for puzzles with words of more than twelve letters you may have to adjust the size across to fit. For example, if you want to use the word Tyrannosaurus Rex, you will have to change the value in the across box to at least 15, otherwise it won’t show up in the puzzle.
3. Choose how often the words in the puzzle share letters with other words. The default settings are usually just fine.
Of course you have probably noticed that the output isn’t all that nice. So to spruce it up, highlight the puzzle text and then copy and paste it into Word. Then, center it on the page and choose a font and text size of your liking. My example uses comic sans 12.
Underneath the puzzle you can then type in a word box. My no-nonsense method places the words in a 2 by 4 table, like this:
If your puzzle uses vocabulary from a course book, label the puzzle so that both you and your students know where it’s from. Don’t forget to make a place for students to write their name.
And with a little more tweaking, here’s what the finished product looks like:
Now just save the puzzle and use it again when you teach the same vocabulary to another class.