The other day a member of a teachers Facebook group asked about a fun activity for her students that was a little bit different. I thought about it for a minute and suggested she try using logic puzzles in her Spanish class.
Logic puzzles are a fun way to mix up reading comprehension and make students think in a different way. Read on to learn how to use them in your language classroom and get access to a free puzzle.
What is a logic puzzle?
Logic puzzles are a large category of problems that can be solved through deductive reasoning. Generally, no prior knowledge about a specific topic is needed to solve them, other than basic logic. Logic puzzles can be number-based, like Sudoku puzzles, but the logic puzzles that I’ll talk about here are grid puzzles with words.
Logic puzzles have a series of statements that the user must read to deduce who or what is connected to a given set of data.
Here is a very basic example of deductive reasoning:
John and Mario are each wearing a different color shirt, one red and one blue. If John is wearing a blue shirt, what color shirt is Mario wearing?
Of course Mario is wearing a red shirt because if John is wearing the blue one the other one must be for Mario.
There’s no limit to how big logic puzzles can be. Usually they involve more than one category. You might be given three people and need to figure out what color shirt, pants and shoes each is wearing.
Why are logic puzzles good for language learners?
Logic puzzles are a great resource for language teachers of all levels for a few reasons.
First, doing logic puzzles helps our brain work in a different way. I’m no math expert, but logic puzzles were one of the few things in math class that I really enjoyed doing because they just clicked for me.
Second, logic puzzles are a great chance for cross-curricular collaboration. It’s not often that our language classes can work with our math classes.
Third, logic puzzles can provide simple comprehensible input for language learners. The language is usually fairly basic and concise, so the activity can easily be tailored to lower level students.
Logic puzzles are especially good for that novice high level, as students move beyond single words and into full sentences. Plus, students are actually doing a real task; they’re being asked to solve a logic puzzle but they’re using their language skills to be able to do so. Tasks like this can be hard to come up with at the novice level.
If you want to get a free logic puzzle to try it out with your class, I have one for you! Click here to get access to the Virtual Vault of teaching freebies with a logic puzzle in Spanish and in French.
Introducing logic puzzles to students
I found that my students often have never done a logic puzzle, even my high school students. So before assigning a puzzle, you often need to tell students a little bit about how they work.
I like to show my students the logic puzzle and do the first few clues on the board together as a class. This way, students are all on the same page and can ask questions if they don’t understand the procedures.
Going back to the clothes example, I have students draw an O or a check for the squares where they know the person is wearing that color and an X when they are not.
The trickiest part with logic puzzles is that not only you can cross out when you know that someone is not doing something or wearing something but that means no one else is either. If a clue tells me John is wearing a blue shirt then I know that he is not wearing any other color, so I can put an O for blue and an X for the other color options for John. I can also put an X for all the other people for wearing a blue shirt.
This is the part that you really need to explain clearly to students, as they often don’t get it if they haven’t done logic puzzles before.
Logic Puzzles with Intermediate and Advanced students
If you have higher level students you can do logic puzzles with more complicated language structures. Lower levels are great for puzzles that have clues like colors or numbers or simple vocabulary, where you can practice some of the most commonly used verbs like to have, school supplies or clothing. For higher levels you can focus on the imperfect or preterite tenses.
And you can still tailor a logic puzzle to whatever topic you are teaching and get in those vocabulary repetitions.
Another great activity is to have your students make their own logic puzzles for each other. This is a good activity because it’s tailored to each student’s level and could be especially useful in a mixed level class with heritage speakers or immersion students. A student with a lower level could make a simple puzzle about something that interested them. Higher level students could have more specific requirements.
Either way they’d be writing for a very clear purpose. It would certainly be motivating because their peers would later be solving their logic puzzle.
If you’re going to do this, I would recommend giving students a template so they can first understand how it works. Make sure they all understand how to do the logic puzzles and then give them a template that they can arrange and change. Remind them that they’ll need to solve their own logic puzzle first to make sure that the clues match up.
One question on these puzzles is whether to have a triple grid. Essentially a grid with seven or nine sets of squares where students have to make more assumptions with clues like “the person that does X also does Y”. The larger grid lets students connect X and Y without knowing the person.
To be honest, I’ve found that the larger grids can be a bit confusing and overwhelming to students. So I like to do it with just a simple grid. Students might have to make a note to themselves or come back to the one or two clues they can’t technically write down on the grid.
Here’s a good example and a template of a larger version.
Once your students have done some of these puzzles with the simple grid, they can graduate to doing harder puzzles with the more complicated triple grid.
Another variation would be to make logic puzzles with a cultural or historical focus. Give clues about important people, capital cities, food, handicrafts and more!
If you like using games in your world language class, you’ll love this post about the best language games for online classes.