Build Your English Vocabulary with Crosswords
Why learn from a list of words when you could learn by playing games? Today is Crossword Puzzle Day, so let's see how these puzzles can help you improve your English.
Different countries have different styles of crossword grids (see this article on Wikipedia for more detail about this) and different clue systems. I can recommend doing British/South African grids, as these focus on full words and usually have clues based on the definition of the word.
Why Crosswords are Helpful
Crosswords challenge you to guess and spell words based on clues. This is great for building a vocabulary (learning new words) and even better for helping you to recall and use your existing vocabulary! After all, this is exactly how your brain needs to be able to use vocabulary: thinking of a concept or meaning, and retrieving the correct word. Retrieval practice is essential for fixing new words in your mind for the long-term and allowing you to remember them in new situations. Check out this blog by the Learning Scientists for more information about retrieval practice. Although most people use flashcards, crossword puzzles will push you a little harder and provide some variety in your study routine - while still doing the same thing for your learning!
Reading the clues and thinking of the answer is also excellent reading practice. Also, if you don't know a word but, from the clue, you are able to think of the word in your own language, get a dictionary out and see if you can figure out the English word. You might need to translate from your language to the basic English word that shares the same meaning, and then use a thesaurus to find the correct English word that shares this meaning. Use Oxford Learner's Dictionaries or Dictionary.com and its thesaurus. Congratulations - you just learnt a new word! Make a note of it and it's clue in your notebook, learning diary, and preferred flashcard application.
Where to Find Them
Here are some great crossword apps that are free to play:
1) Crossword Quiz
This one really shakes things up a bit by using a variety of clue types: pictures, word descriptions, and even emojis! I've had hours of fun playing this, and the use of pictures can help you to "think" in English.
2) Penny Dell Crosswords
This app has three different difficulty levels and you get three free crosswords a day. Enjoy!
3) Crossword Puzzle Free - Redstone
This app has a handy features that offer suggestions if you get stuck and helps you to complete every puzzle.
Make Your Own Crosswords
When you learn a set of new words, why not make your own crossword? Use a free online crossword maker, such as this one, print it off and try to solve it the next day without looking at your notes.
If you are feeling lazy, we include crossword puzzles (and a few other word-based puzzles) using new vocabulary in our self-study workbooks. All you have to do is complete them! Why not give them a try? Sign up and get four workbooks for free (that's a month's worth of studying).