Mini puzzles to start a lesson with

Go direct to the starters collection.

Teachers are familiar with the idea of starting a lesson with a brief and highly focused activity so as to clear students’ minds for the main business. It has been suggested (actually, by Nick Mair) that starters based on UKLO-style puzzles would be helpful in teaching foreign languages, and it seems likely that the same would be true for English language and Classics.

For instance, we might imagine a five-minute starter based on any of the following:

  • subject-verb agreement in Latin (starting a Spanish lesson)
  • meanings of verbs of motion in German (showing the impossibility of accurate translation)
  • the geographical distribution of languages with a word like German gern (showing how languages can borrow abstract patterns from their neighbours)
  • the semantics and morphology of English once, twice, three times, … and first, second, third, … twenty-fifth, … (showing how irregularity increases with common-ness, and how structure can conflict with meaning)

All these possibilities are fleshed out in the collection so far.

In an ideal world, this website would give access to a neatly classified collection containing hundreds of starters, so that any teacher can find a suitable one for starting any lesson. This is where you could come in: see if you can create one or two, and send them to Dick Hudson.

But if you do create a problem, please provide the following information, in this order:

  • Name (e.g. Subject-verb agreement)
  • Aim (e.g. to show how different subjects require different verb forms; or how a language can do without subject pronouns)
  • Relevant target language (e.g. Spanish)
  • Source language (of data, e.g. Latin)
  • Data  (the data the puzzle is based on)
  • Questions (the task for the students)
  • Solutions (your solutions)

We’ll update this page to report progress.

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