Lateral puzzles, literal fun :)

I believe learning a language just for an educational purpose is quite difficult, so it’s always useful to show our students that their endeavours are actually useful. While it’s easier for the adults (they either go abroad or stay in touch with a foreigner – and communicate on their own), it may be more difficult with younger learners simply because they have stuff to learn at school anyway, don’t really know WHY they may need English and lose motivation easily.

Hence the idea of introducing games in the classroom – it’s easier to convince kids that English is just a casual language to speak when you bring games in English and they learn they can actually have fun in a foreign language.

However, you can combine English, games and yet another way of development by introducing games forcing students to change their ways of thinking by introducing lateral puzzles.

In lateral thinking puzzles you describe rather uncommon situations in which you are given a little information and then have to find the explanation. They don’t have enough information to solve, so the only way to get the important details is a dialogue between the person who knows the story and the players. The questions can bring only one of three possible answers – yes, no or irrelevant.

That’s the classic version, however I prefer a bit different option: giving some key words. It helps students focus and follow a particular pattern – it also makes the game easier and shorter, and that’s quite important if you use lateral puzzles as a warm-up.

How to introduce the puzzles in the classroom?

It’s best when you start with simple puzzles (like the ones here) as a warm-up, slowly making your students familiar with the way of thinking in a way they probably haven’t tried before.

I also recommend very entertaining resources at onestopenglish.com, especially the one by Jelena Spasojevic. It’s brilliant and students really enjoy this activity!

Once the students get the grasp of the rules, the possibilities, as usual, are endless. You can find a lot of classic or modified puzzles on the internet and introduce them in the classroom (here are some nice versions).

You may use the puzzles as warm-ups, or simply make a whole lesson dedicated to them. When I used them for the first time my students immediately loved the idea, so as a homework I asked them to come up with their own mystery stories we’d have to solve, which was also a great success and a lot of fun.

If you like the idea but don’t feel like browsing the internet, you may get yourself a copy of Black Stories, a card game perfect for exercising lateral thinking either in the classroom, with your students – or at the party, because who said only students can have fun? 🙂

Enjoy 🙂

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