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Hands-on Fun with Word Puzzlers

Posted by Dawn Burnette on

Do your students like to do puzzles? Do they like to play with manipulatives? Do you like your students to work with concepts such as synonyms, antonyms, consonants, suffixes, and vowels, just to name a few? Would you like your students to practice their critical and logical thinking, increase their vocabulary, and improve their spelling? If you can answer yes to these questions, then the following activity is made for you and your students!

A Word Puzzler is a brief activity that combines phonics, spelling, vocabulary, word study, active listening, and critical thinking. It takes ten to fifteen minutes to work through a Word Puzzler. To get started, you need some letters. To do the sample Puzzlers that follow these instructions, you can make letters from index cards (cut in half) or even use magnetic letters or board game letter tiles.

Then simply read the clues to the students and have them make the words by adding, dropping, substituting, or rearranging the letters. For the last word in each Puzzler, the students will use all of the letters. You can adjust the difficulty of the clues by changing the definitions or making them simpler. Or better yet, read the difficult clue first and then provide an alternate clue if needed so that students are exposed to new vocabulary. You can provide other hints as needed, but be sure students have a chance to figure out clues for themselves first.

The following Word Puzzlers, along with 97 more, come from a book called Word Puzzlers from DGP Publishing.

For this Puzzler, each student will need the following letters: s, o, l, o, h, and c.

Use these clues to work through the Puzzler. Read them to the students while they manipulate the letters.                                                                       

  1. Make a two-letter word that means very. (so)               
  2. Add letters to make a word that means by yourself. (solo)
  3. Substitute a consonant to make a word that means to scare or drive away. (shoo)
  4. Remove a vowel and a consonant to make an interjection showing surprise. (oh)
  5. Add two consonants to make a word that tells where a famous monster lives. (loch)
  6. Substitute a consonant for a vowel and make an antonym for warm. (cool)
  7. Add a consonant to make a word that means gets colder. (cools)          
  8. Use all the letters to make a word that means a place of learning. (school)

Here is a harder one. For this one, students will use the letters l, c, a, a, i, v, n, and r

Here are your clues!

  1. Make a two-letter word that is an antonym for out. (in)
  2. Add letters to fill in the blank. You hit the ____on the head. (nail)
  3. Substitute a consonant to make a word that means what trains travel on. (rail)
  4. Add a letter and rearrange to mean one who wants the same as someone else. (rival)
  5. Remove a letter and rearrange to name a teller of falsehoods. (liar)
  6. Remove a letter and rearrange to name what we breathe. (air)
  7. Substitute a letter and rearrange to name a vehicle. (car)
  8. Substitute a letter to name something made of metal. (can)
  9. Substitute the first letter to name another vehicle. (van)
  10. Add a vowel, substitute a consonant, and rearrange to name melted rock. (lava)
  11. Add a consonant to name a stage of an insect. (larva)
  12. Use all the letters to name a place of amusement. (carnival)

And here is one more! For this one, students will need the letters t, l, e, t, l, and i.


  1. Make a three-letter word meaning to allow. (let)
  2. Reverse and add a letter to mean to speak. (tell)
  3. Drop the last letter, add a vowel, and rearrange to mean a floor covering. (tile)
  4. Drop a consonant to make a word meaning to make a knot. (tie)
  5. Substitute a consonant to make the opposite of the truth. (lie)
  6. Substitute a letter to mean turned on the light. (lit)
  7. Use all the letters to make an antonym for big. (little)

Need more? In addition to 100 different Puzzlers, the Word Puzzlers book also includes a reproducible page of letters, complete instructions, and a help page that defines terms like adjective, synonym, and vowel for students. The Puzzlers get harder as you move through the book. This is a great hands-on activity if you have a few minutes to fill, have a substitute, or just need a break from more concentrated endeavors.

To order Word Puzzlers click here. and get ready to play and learn. But be careful, some of them are kind of tricky!

Post written by Judith Holbrook



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