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Puzzles are perfect to practice spelling!

Gina Ruffcorn, a 5th grade teacher and Kahoot! Ambassador, has been Kahoot!’ing since we launched way back in 2013. Here’s how she uses the puzzle question type to help students improve spelling skills at home and in class.

March 18, 2020

We launched our new puzzle question type in 2019, and it became an instant hit with teachers in a whole host of subjects! With puzzles, students place blocks of information into the correct order – making them perfect for math equations, sorting events into chronological order, and correctly assembling spelling words.

Here’s how Gina Ruffcorn, a 5th-grade teacher, uses puzzles to engage her students with spelling practice in live games and student-paced challenges. This activity can also be useful in a distance learning setting:

Perking up practice with puzzles

I love to use puzzles for spelling. In the upper elementary grades, spelling practice is one of the most banal, horrible, boring things students ever have to do! But, if you’re using a puzzle from Kahoot!, it turns spelling practice into a fun, interactive game!

Making a puzzle

First off, it’s so easy and quick to create. If you’re using a puzzle for spelling, you put the word in correctly, and Kahoot! mixes up the spelling or grouping for you. I usually ask “what’s this word?” or write “unpuzzle the puzzle” and the kids have to put the chunks of the spelling word together correctly.

I always chose an image that references the ‘mixed up’ word. You can select a slow image reveal with the final picture being a clue for the word they have to spell. The image really helps students practice making inferences. If reassembling the word chunks is proving to be a task, oftentimes the inferred image hint gives the learners a clue. As soon as they make the connection from the picture to the puzzle choices it becomes easier to pull down the letter chunks and spell the word.

Painless practice

My class gets a new spelling list every two weeks. Generally, we play the kahoot at the beginning of the week. They’re allowed to use their spelling notebooks, but most don’t. After the kahoot, we go back and take a look at the words they had problems with. We do some etymology and pull the words apart. After a lesson, replaying a kahoot against previous scores is a great way to check for new learning.

The next week we use the spelling puzzle as a competitive activity. The kids enjoy trying to beat each other to the top of the podium. Later in the week I post a student-paced Kahoot! challenge! Now that kahoots can be assigned as a challenge, we have yet another way to work with our words. For spelling challenges, I prefer to turn off the timer so my students have plenty of time to work at their own pace. During a self-paced spelling challenge all of my learners can succeed at their own speed. Students can easily play the challenge from home, which is helpful for distance learning!

Throughout each kahoot I look at the detailed reports to see what questions were the easiest or the hardest and see what needs more support or extra review. I sometimes even grade our puzzles as a way to boost spelling grades for students who don’t test well. The flexibility of being able to practice or assess is fantastic! No muss, no fuss, no illegible handwriting, no eraser holes in papers. Kahoots are the most perfect way to practice spelling! Plus, spelling grades have been improving dramatically.

A fresh perspective

My students love puzzles! It’s a different strategy for their brains to use as they look at four pieces of something before rearranging it mentally into order. Then the tactile sensation of having to take their finger and slide the blocks into place adds a physicality to the activity. It wakes up a different part of their brain than a normal kahoot. It’s a different feeling. A different concentration mode.

Getting creative with puzzles

The ways you can use puzzles are truly limitless. You can apply it to so many different topics and content areas. In Math, puzzles are perfect for making equations. Food chains for Science can be linked together with a puzzle. In reading sequencing of plot events, or the steps in summarizing a story are ‘puzzle-frific’ concepts to practice. There are far too many lesson concepts that normally do not have a lot of pizzazz, but if you can work them into a puzzle, you can get engagement and enjoyment from your kids as they learn!

Is your school transitioning to distance learning? Get a free Premium subscription until the end of the school year and access puzzle and other advanced question types.

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