These were some of my favorite warm-ups any time of year to reinforce critical thinking along with grammar and language concepts because students generally enjoy solving puzzles. They are fun but require that students apply the terms of grammar and language they have learned or are learning--or even will learn as they play these games! I also used a few as extra credit questions on quizzes or tests or worksheets once we had learned our parts of speech. Even more fun is to ask the students to design some of their own and share them as warm-ups with the class. Using ideas from different cultures also encourages participation from those who may not always get the American popular titles. Draw attention to the ones that perhaps only Latino students may know, for example, and they will be more engaged in the activity.
Since grammar is a subject that some students pick up much easier than others, there is a rather elaborate collaborative game included, and a few other ideas for group games as well. These are designed so that students who understand the concepts will be helping kids who don’t yet understand all of them.
Once students have completed a few of these, the teacher can ask them to think more deeply about language by asking what strategies help in solving these puzzles (particularly the fill in the blank puzzles). One thing they may start to notice, for example, is that the nouns are usually placed in certain places in the phrase or sentence – such as the end – and finding those first will help you get the other words around it. There are also certain clues that are give-aways once you know the terms, such as a definite article. Used over and over, students will internalize these concepts to solve the fun puzzles—a natural motivator!
You can use these same puzzle formats to introduce new units by providing your own lines and clues, or lists, or group games. Applying the terms repeatedly will help students internalize the concepts. Hope this will generate ideas for you as it did for me!