May 01 2013

Digital Crossword Puzzles Foster Collaborative Learning

Kids Across Parents Down wants to digitize crosswords for the classroom with its latest venture.

Arthur Wynne, a British journalist for the New York World, created the first known published crossword puzzle in 1913. Wynne sketched out a diamond-shaped grid and then wrote “FUN,” the name of the newspaper’s comic section across three squares toward the top of the puzzle. He left readers with simple instructions: “Fill in the small squares with words which agree with the following definitions.”

What was once just a pastime for adults now helps teachers introduce students to new concepts and improve their vocabulary.

Jan Buckner Walker, self-professed “word nerd” and creator of the popular family crossword game Kids Across Parents Down (KAPD), wants to expand the use of crosswords in the classroom by running them on interactive whiteboards.

Buckner Walker says she developed her latest venture, Kids Across Teachers Down (KATD), after meeting teachers who adapted her KAPD crossword puzzles for classroom use.

KATD allows teachers and students to work together to solve curriculum-based, multilevel learning puzzles tied to the National Common Core State Standards.

“The idea is to have the teacher up at the board doing the down clues and the students doing the across clues. Many of the down clues are also accessible to the students, [so] they can reach it,” says Buckner Walker.

The themed crosswords are geared towards students in pre-k to sixth grade. The puzzles are optimized for interactive whiteboards, but teachers can also use a notebook or projector to display them.

KATD partnered with Kidsville News! earlier this year to pilot the collaborative learning program at J. Harold Van Zant Elementary School in Marlton, N.J. Lynne Berman, publisher of the Camden and Burlington editions of Kidsville News!, organized the pilot. Berman says students in the pilot were able to solve the puzzle on a Promethean ActivBoard in less than 30 minutes. The results of the pilot were featured in the January 2013 edition of the New Jersey Education Association’s NJEA Review.

“Initially people think of puzzles just as fun, time-filling or a downtime thing for students. I think that Kids Across Teachers Down really bridges that gap. Teachers are able to incorporate that into the curriculum and still make it fun for kids while they're learning,” says Berman.

The KATD collaborative learning program is expected to roll out in schools nationwide in fall 2013.


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