Here is a teaching aid for making vocabulary and word meanings a little more interesting than just word and definition hand-outs.
Making a crossword puzzle for your students doesn’t take much longer than just typing up the word definitions. Here is how to add a crossword puzzle the easy way. The software is absolutely free. One of the best crossword puzzle makers out there is found at EclipseCrossword.com. If you have never used it, let’s do a step by step. Once you have downloaded and installed the program, you will see it is so intuitive you probably won’t even need this little article.
Download the program and create a word list.
1. Click the Eclipse Crossword link above and on that web page go to the Download tab and download and install EclipseCrossword following the directions on the web site.
2. Create your word list as you normally do except don’t use any special formatting. I use Microsoft Word and always spell check and look for typos. Leave out all the fancy formatting and just type each word, followed by a colon, a space,the definition, and a carriage return (Shift-Enter). We can save this Word document, just in case we want to supply the student with it. It can be formatted nicely later. Once the word list typed up, do a CTRL-A to select all or highlight everything and a CTRL-C to copy everything.
3. With that list copied to the clipboard, we will open Windows Notepad or any plain text editor and paste (CTRL-V) the copied text into that fresh plain text file. Eclipse Crossword uses the colon and space to separate the word and definition. The contents of the file will look like text block below. If you want to do a quick test to follow these steps, just copy my word list below and paste into Notepad. Don’t use CTRL-A on this webpage though. Use your mouse to highlight the text. If you try CTRL-A, you’ll see why.
ADHERENT: sticking, clinging: attached or joined, though normally separate (N) follower, supporter ADROIT: skillful, expert in the use of the hands or mind BLATANT: brawling, clamorous, noisy, offensively obtrusive, coarse CHARISMA: special personal magnetism that makes an individual exceptionally appealing to other people, charm CLIQUE: a small, exclusive group of people DEMEANOR: the way a person behaves, overall impression made by comportment DENOUNCE: to condemn, criticize ELOQUENCE: expressiveness, persuasive speech ELUCIDATE: to clarify, explain FILIAL: of or relating to a son or daughter GREGARIOUS: living together in a herd or group, sociable, seeking the company of others, sociable IMPLICATION: that which is hinted at or suggested, hint, suggestion IMPUNITY: without punishment, freedom from punishment, harm or loss MATERIALISM: the tendency to give undue importance to material interests OBVIATE: to meet or anticipate and dispose of, make unnecessary PARSIMONIOUS: stingy, miserly PARODY: humorous imitation, travesty PATHETIC: affecting or exciting emotion especially pity or sorrow, pitiful RAZE: to lay level with the ground, demolish, to overthrow, destroy SANCTION: solemn ratification, that which induces observance of law or custom a coercive measure, support, to support
4. Save this text file by going File > Save As. When the Save As dialog box opens use the drop-down in the Save As File Type field and change the type to All Files. Name the file what ever you want, but use a file extension of .ewl. This is the proprietary file format for Eclipse Crossword and allows the software to read and manipulate your word list.
Now that we have our word list, let’s create a crossword puzzle! Each screen will have a Step number and they are very easy to follow. They are so easy I have not included any screen shots.
Let’s make a crossword puzzle.
1. Go to Start > Eclipse Crossword and fire it up. The opening screen will ask if you want to take the tutorial. You can always access this by going to Help at the bottom of the window. Click the radial button for, I would like to start a new crossword. Click Next.
2. Click the radial button, I already have a word list or saved crossword puzzle I will use. Click Next.
3. In the Open dialog box, navigate to your saved EWL word list file. Click the file once and click Open or double-click it. It will open in alphabetical order. We can add and remove words manually and add more files by clicking tools. I usually stay with 20 word crosswords but you can go big if you want to. Make your changes and click Next.
4. Now we can change to look, but start by giving the puzzle a name that will appear as its title. I usually leave off my name and the copyright date. Click Next when ready.
5. On the Step 5 screen you can change the number of letters, but I find the defaults work really well. Click Next and you can preview the crossword in a small window before clicking Next again.
6. On the final screen there are several options that you can investigate on your own. For my student, I click the Print Crossword tab and from the choices I click the boxes for Empty Puzzle Grid and Clues. I don’t show the actual word because I want my student to look it up in the textbook.
7. Click the link for Print everything checked above and the program will print to your default printer. If you have a PDF printer set as default it will open the Save As dialog box and you can save the file as a PDF for later printing.
If you have a full PDF program such as Adobe Acrobat or PDF Pro Office installed, you can add a place for the student name and date and any aesthetics you like.
Eclipse Crossword has several features I have not covered, but I am sure you can investigate them on your own. I have included one example feature of the program that allows you to save a crossword puzzle as an interactive web page. This page uses Java Script to give you clues. This one is similar to a puzzle I would normally give my student. Click the link below if you would like to try it.
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