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Puzzling Clue Vocabulary



  • Arts and Humanities
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

A FUNtastic strategy that can be used as a review for any subject.


Students will

  • review vocabulary (for a test) by using their knowledge to figure out the meaning of two "puzzle clues."
  • work cooperatively and think critically as they figure out connections between clues.


vocabulary, puzzle, clues, review

Materials Needed

  • puzzle-piece clues (see Before the Lesson)
  • textbooks or dictionaries

The Lesson

Before the Lesson
Prepare the "puzzles" required for this activity. Each puzzle will contain only two pieces. Create those matching puzzle pieces by cutting index cards or paper into two pieces that resemble the pieces of a large puzzle. Write a different "clue" on each puzzle piece that will lead to the same answer.

This activity can be used to review vocabulary or to challenge students to think about vocabulary in almost any subject across the curriculum. It's a good practice activity prior to testing too. For example, the activity might be used in

Social Studies/Geography

  • Puzzle piece clue # 1: This is a piece of land that has water almost all the way around it.
  • Puzzle piece clue # 2: This word could be used to describe the land formations of Florida and upper Michigan.
    Answer: peninsula

  • Puzzle piece clue # 1: This word is another name for a chain or cluster of islands.
  • Puzzle piece clue # 2: The Azores, a chain of Portuguese islands, is one example of this term.
    Answer: archipelago

Language Arts/Vocabulary and Dictionary Skills

  • Puzzle piece clue # 1: Someone who leads a group of people who work together.
  • Puzzle piece clue # 2: The lead man or woman on a jury.
    Answer: foreman

  • Puzzle piece clue # 1: Operated by hand, instead of automatically.
  • Puzzle piece clue # 2: A book of instructions that tells you how to do something.
    Answer: manual

History/U.S. History

  • Puzzle piece clue # 1: This president is known for his "New Deal."
  • Puzzle piece clue # 2: After his presidency, which was the longest on record, no other president would be allowed to serve more than two terms (eight years).
    Answer: President Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • Puzzle piece clue # 1: This war is said to have been the first battle of the Cold War.
  • Puzzle piece clue # 2: No peace treaty has ever been signed to settle this war.
    Answer: The Korean War

Be sure you have one clue for each student in the class. If an odd number of students are in attendance on the day of the activity, you (the teacher) could pair up with a student.

The Activity
Distribute the puzzle-piece clues so each student has a clue. Give students a moment so each can read and think about his/her clue. Then direct students to find the classmate who has the puzzle piece that connects to theirs to make a complete (two-piece) puzzle.

When all students have found their "puzzle partners," provide time for them to share their clues with each other. They must determine what their clues have in common. Ask them not to share -- give away -- the "answer" with others in the class. In some cases, students might need to refer to their textbooks to determine what the clues have in common.

When all students have found their answers, have each pair of partners read their clues to the class to see if a classmate knows or can figure out the answer. If the class can't figure out the answer, you might hold off telling them. Instead, at the end of the activity have students return to their desks and take out their textbooks (or, for the language activity, their dictionaries). Reread the clues to the class and give a reward to the first student who can find the correct answer.


You might prepare a quiz based on the vocabulary used in the activity. This is also a good strategy to use when you need to figure out what skills/vocabulary that need to be re-taught.

Submitted By

Elizabeth Eaton, Savanna Ridge Elementary School in Fort Pierce, Florida

Education World®
Copyright © 2009 Education World

Originally published 10/13/2005
Last updated 04/24/2009