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Puzzle Boxes for Any Subject

Teacher Lesson


  • Mathematics
    General Mathematics
  • Science
    General Science
  • Social Science
    General Social Studies


3-5, 6-8

Brief Description

This lesson can be done daily or used as a special weekly lesson. Students love the anticipation of a Puzzle Box: It's an opportunity to challenge students and reward them for using critical-thinking skills.


Students follow directions and exercise critical-thinking skills to guess the Puzzle Box word.


fun, puzzle, reward, vocabulary, word

Materials Needed

  • puzzles (teacher must plan puzzle clues in advance)
  • black or white board or chart paper and markers
  • small rewards, such as pencils or flea market finds
  • scrap paper cut into 2-inch by 2-inch squares
  • pencils

Lesson Plan

Prepare in advance five to ten clues that will help students guess a puzzle word. The puzzle word can relate to any topic or subject they are studying. See an example below:

Puzzle Box: Can you guess what this is?
  1. I am a common noun but I am very important.
  2. I begin with the letter f.
  3. If you do not have this, you may not be happy until you find out how to get it.
  4. People in prison have lost it but want it badly.
  5. It is something you can't touch.
  6. It is related to culture, religion, race, and speech.
  7. It makes tyrants and dictators angry when people demand it.
Answer: freedom

Following is my approach to this activity, which you might adapt to your needs:

  • Write the clues on the board or chart in the morning.
  • Go over the clues with the class first thing in the morning. Share in advance how the process will work.
  • Show the three prizes of the day.
  • Give the students all day to consider what the puzzle word might be.
  • At the end of the day, read the clues again.
  • Pass out paper.
  • Ask students to write the answer, or two or three guesses, on one side of the paper and their name on the other side.
  • Instruct students to fold the paper in half one way and in half the other way so it takes the shape of a square.
  • Collect the papers.
  • Open up the papers one at a time.
  • Identify by name any student who has the correct answer.
  • Put all correct answers in a bag.
  • Pull out three of the papers to determine the winners of the three prizes.
  • Congratulate the entire class for a job well done; tell them they are all winners for trying.

Extension Activity Ideas

  • Make a chart. Include the name of each child in the classroom. Put a checkmarks beside students' names for each right response given each week. After ten weeks, identify the students with the most correct responses. Award special prizes to those with the most correct responses.
  • Geography is a great subject for this Puzzle Box game. Give the children clues about a state, country, or special or famous places.
  • You might run a puzzle game for a week. You could provide three clues on Monday and add a clue each subsequent day that week. Students could submit guesses at any time during the week. Collect answers at the end of each day, and keep them in an envelope with the day marked on the outside. At the end of the week, see how many people guessed the word at the end of each day.
  • After you have done this activity with older students a few times, you might invite the students to create the puzzles.


Ask students whether they would like to play the game again next week. I play it in three classrooms, and the students cannot wait for the next game!

Submitted By

Pauline Finlay, Holy Trinity Elementary School, Torbay, Newfoundland

Teachers have permission to copy this page for use in their classrooms.


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