Vocabulary Puzzles with Crossword Labs

Published on 9 June 2023 at 09:00

by Yuyang Zhao (Iris), English Language Centre, School of Languages, Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University

Vocabulary is the foundation of English language learning. However, students often find it boring and tedious to remember the meanings and the spellings of new vocabulary. This easy-to-use technological tool will greatly help students learn new words by giving them full agency.


Aims of this activity:

  1. To facilitate students’ understanding and memorisation of new vocabulary.
  2. To help students remember the spellings of the new words.

Activity length

10-15 minutes

Technology  used

Crossword Labs

Course area




Target skill(s)

Vocabulary acquisition


  1. List the target new vocabulary on the PPT slide, together with their corresponding word forms.
  2. Go to Crossword Labs.Give your quiz a title.

3. Enter the word, a space and then the clue. For example, ‘script The written version of a movie.’ Make sure that each line only contains one word and the corresponding clue (meaning).

4. Create a passcode for your puzzle because this will protect your answer key and allow you to edit the puzzle.

5. Bookmark this page, and then copy and paste the URL into the Notes section of your PPT, because when in class, you will need to send it to the students.


Step 1: 

Students are presented with the target vocabulary, together with their word forms on the PPT slide.

Step 2: 

Put students in pairs and invite them to discuss the meanings of these words with their group mates. Meanwhile, they can look up any unfamiliar vocabulary and note it down.

Step 3: 

Pick a few challenging new words and nominate some students to pronounce them. They could also be encouraged to explain their meaning.

Step 4: 

Students can either write all the vocabulary down, or they can take a photo of all the target words – this is for them to have the vocabulary available when they need to complete the puzzle.

Step 5: 

As this game can be played either in your online classroom or in the physical classroom, teachers can choose whichever playing mode better suits their class.

Online class

The/An individual playing mode is probably more realistic/practical in the online classroom. The teacher can send the puzzle URL to students and give them a time limit to complete it. If the online teaching platform supports screen-sharing in breakout rooms, students can also be encouraged to complete the puzzle in groups, instead of working individually. To check students’ answers, the teacher can ask students to share their screens or nominate some/others to read out their answers.


Onsite class

The teacher can choose to either have students work on the printed puzzle (see screenshot for how to print it) or have them work on their devices. Before inviting students to solve the puzzle in groups, teachers can set up a mini-competition – the first group to solve the puzzle gets some chocolates!

Step 6:

To show the puzzle answer key, the teacher can select the Answer Key beside the red print bar, and have students check their answers against it. To double-check students’ pronunciation of certain words, teachers can invite some students to read them out and do some pronunciation drills if needed.


(An example Answer Key page is on the right. Click to enlarge.)


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