Logic Puzzles and Word Games

Learn English with Logic Puzzles and Word Games

Can you teach English in an EFL class with logic puzzles and word games?

Sure. Every English class needs a little variety to keep things interesting and people motivated. Besides, puzzles and words games are great learning tools. Used in pairs or with the class as a whole, they focus attention on short reading passages with the goal of comprehension, encourage students to speak up, stimulate recall of long-forgotten words, and foster learning by helping students see patterns.

Here are five logic puzzles and word games which I have used with success in high-beginner to intermediate ESL conversation classes as sponge activities or 10-minute diversions.

1 Monkey in the Well

This is a popular puzzle, so don’t be surprised if your students know the answer. That is not the point. The objective is to explain the answer with a degree of precision.monkey_3

There is a monkey at the bottom of a well. The well is 30 meters deep. Each morning, the monkey climbs up three meters. Every evening, the monkey slides down two meters. There is no water in the well and there are no tools. How long will it take the monkey to get out of the well? (more…)

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Three EFL Pair Work Activities

Three EFL Conversation Activities

Sometimes an EFL class needs activities which get away from the textbook in order to keep everyone motivated, including the teacher. Here are three activities that work well with pairs or small groups.

These EFL conversation activities help students learn English by involving a number different language skills including task-based problem solving, fluency, intensive listening and precise vocabulary.

1. What Happened? – Be Precise

This fun exercise that will challenge your intermediate+ level EFL students. Watch a short video which contains 13 segments (the video is about one minute long). Each segment shows dots and lines moving in way that visually illustrates an abstract concept.

Now describe each segment with precision. Sounds easy? Ha. (more…)

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Two Activities to Improve English Writing Proficiency

Improve English writing proficiency

How can EFL teachers help students learn English writing by improving proficiency?

Balance, imagination and specificity 

  • Balance means a good mix of activities and techniques that touch upon essential writing skills and maintain class interest.
  • Imagination means new and interesting ways to teach essential stuff.
  • Specificity means a clear purpose. Every activity needs a measurable objective that focuses on improving the accuracy of one writing element.

Here are two activities which I have used to help my EFL students learn English writing and improve accuracy.

1. Definite and Indefinite Articles

Using articles correctly in a long passage just might be one of the most difficult aspects of proficiency for English students. Internalizing the rules takes years of practice. So, every writing class needs a lesson or two focusing on this essential writing skill. (more…)

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Teach EFL Students Critical Thinking

Teach Reasoning in the EFL Writing Class?

Teachers sometimes lament the fact that EFL students can’t seem to write well-reasoned, logical arguments in English.

The underlying socio-linguistic factors thought to influence higher order cognition of that kind are plentiful. For example, some people suggest the way we talk affects our thinking, or the way we write script gives people from some cultures an analytical advantage. Or, it might simply be that people from different cultures see the world differently, as suggested by the Michigan Fish test, and therefore cannot write about experience in the same way.

Here’s another idea.

Perhaps EFL instructors have not found an effective teaching technique to help non-native speakers organize ideas in a logically coherent fashion or even the language they need to represent complex ideas on paper.

Put Away the Five-Paragraph Essay

Some English teachers believe well-reasoned arguments can be constructed inside a five-paragraph essay template. A thesis sentence (i.e. the main idea) backed up by supporting evidence in three paragraphs, each carefully crafted with cookie cutter precision and topped off with a topic sentence, constitutes persuasion. In other words, the way we organize ideas is the way to we create reasoning. Seemingly, what happens inside or between paragraphs is not so important.

I understand the appeal of the five-paragraph essay. It’s easy to teach. It’s mental Lego with a manual that tells everyone how the pieces should be assembled. It’s also easy to grade, especially for high-risk test readers who spend a minute or so skimming a student’s written work.


While it’s hard to argue against organisation, one of the problems with the way the five-paragraph is taught is oversimplification. The five-paragraph essay, some say, is a building block, but that misses the point. What’s really important is the mortar, the hard stuff in the middle that cements ideas together. 

An Inquiry-based Approach to Reasoning


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