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When It’s OK To Use Wordsearches In The Classroom

Recently, we had a staff meeting where the principal was “encouraging” the staff to use more higher-level, more engaging lessons with the students. She especially was concerned about the use of wordsearches in the classroom. Evidently she had found a wordsearch left in the copier.

I use wordsearches.

But wait! I don’t use them like you may think. I totally agree that a wordsearch is a poor tool to use when trying to teach a concept or reinforce a lesson. They are basically a sit-down-and-don’t-bother-me activity. Lazy teachers use them as part of their lesson. Yes, I said lazy teachers. They have no real instructional value past the first grade, when they can be used as a spelling tool, I guess.

So why do I use them?

I’m glad you asked.

I use wordsearches only on one occasion. That is when I’m giving a test.

Here’s how I put these hated puzzles into action:

First, I give the test. It could be a class test or a state test or whatever, just one of those tests where some students may finish earlier than others, and you want to maintain the silence.

When a student finishes his/her test, the student will bring the test to me, and pick up a worsdearch which I have copied and placed on a chair in the front.

The student will then take the wordsearch and work on it while the rest of the class is taking the test.

Why don’t you have the students read?

Again, thank you for asking.

The kids have the option of reading if they wish, but you’ll learn that the students who will want to talk during the test are the ones who don’t like to read. They’re also the ones who normally finish earliest, because they didn’t study.

I tell the students right up front that I don’t grade the wordsearches. They’re just to keep them quiet so they don’t get in trouble for talking during the test.

It was interesting that after the principal spoke to us about not using wordsearches, I gave a test. I had to make copies of a wordsearch. I was worried that one of my wordsearches would find its way to her, and since I always include my name as one of the words to find, I decided to give it a special title.

I titled it: The Keep-The-Kids-Quiet-During-The-Test Worsearch. Pretty clever, huh?

Check out to learn how to make your own hated wordsearches online.

Today’s Tip For New Teachers: Paperclip Power – Always have a supply of paper clips up in the front of the classroom. Most teachers have them in their desk or in a cute container on top of their desk, which is OK, but you need some near the front of the room where you teach. You will always be collecting some kind of class work or homework, and having to go to your desk to get a paperclip takes time, not a lot, but still, it only takes a second of free time to allow Johnny to do something that costs you more time getting things back on track. I’m not into the cute paperclip container thing. I just rip the top off the box and leave it on my whiteboard tray. It works just as well.

Talk to you soon,

Here’s to lots of success in the classroom!


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