Monday, January 11, 2010

Game: Erase The Face - CrossWord Edition

All Ages
10-20 Minutes
Best in Small Groups

A month ago I told you about "Erase The Face," a variation of Hangman that my students love. It's a great game, but I found that my more-advanced students guessed the words too quickly, negating much of the benefit for them and for the younger students.

So, I invented a new version. I got the idea while doing last Tuesday's NYT crossword and I am calling it "Erase The Face - CrossWord Edition" until I think of a better name.

All you need is a writing utensil and a surface. Since I'm working with small groups of students, I use my whiteboard. This could easily be done with paper and pencil, of course.

First, you need to make your grid. I have found that grids containing six or seven words can be constructed
in five minutes or so. I try to use high-frequency words, or "sight words." I use a list in the back of "Word Matters" by Pinnell and Fountas, but you can find all kinds of lists online. Pick a long word to start, and then build off of that.

On the board, draw your grid, a box for wrong answers, a "Word Bank," the alphabet, and any kind of face you like. I started writing the alphabet on the board because it greatly reduced the amount of time it took my
students to guess a letter.

One by one, students guess letters. If they guess a letter that is in your grid, fill in the boxes. If not, write the letter in the Wrong Answers box and erase part of the face. If you want to really get them going, make them erase their own facial features at the same time. For example, erase the nose and say, "Everybody erase your nose!" Guaranteed giggles all around.

When a student completes a word, make sure everyone can see it and then write it into the Word Bank. I do this to make sure everyone gets a good impression of the word. Also, some students might have trouble seeing through all of the boxes or reading vertically, so this will help them get something out of it.

The game ends when the grid is filled in or when the face is erased, whichever comes first. I have played this game a hundred times and I have never let the students lose. What would be the point of that?

I think this game has a lot going for it. It is a great way to reinforce vocabulary. I use it in conjunction with my "Word Wall," which has the 100 most frequently-used words Velcroed to it. My students have spent hours studying this board as a result. You could do this for new vocabulary from a textbook or a story just as easily.

Furthermore, I think that this game teaches some
essential word-solving skills. The students really want to know what that word is, and as they try to figure it out they are compelled to imagine what sounds and letter would fit with the ones already guessed. It's kind of like sounding out words in reverse.

The CrossWord Edition of this game is an attempt at differentiation. I can incorporate words of varying difficulties, and I have found that I can get students of many different reading levels (including adults) engaged simultaneously.

I would welcome suggested variations. Also, if you can think of a catchier name, feel free to suggest it in the comments.

Update 1/19/10: After trying it a few more times, I've decided to use 4-5 words in a puzzle instead for 6-8. If you have older students or especially engaged ones, you can use more, but I've found that I lose them towards the end.

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