Go on, admit it: you still create worksheets, right? If you do, and you use Microsoft Word or OpenOffice to do so, you’ll find Teacher’s Pet very handy. It’s basically a set of macros that can transform lists of words into several different types of puzzle or test item.
For example, as well as the usual crossword, there are options to create close exercises (in which words are replaced with blank spaces), exercises in which the pupil has to select the correct word from a choice, pair-matching puzzles (in which items on the left have to be matched to items on the right) and multiple choice questions. See http://www.teachers-pet.org/about_teachers_pet.php for the complete list.
All this is free, but there are also four premium tools, these being:
· Crossword puzzle maker
· Wordsearch puzzle maker
· Flashcards maker
· and Bingo cards maker, which will create up to 50 unique bingo cards, each randomly populated. I tried this, and it’s excellent. It would be great for an end-of-unit quiz, say. But instead of calling out the words on the cards, call out clues to them instead.
You may be wondering what the difference is between the free crossword puzzle maker and the premium version. The two main differences I found on trying them both were as follows.
First, the simple one seems to create puzzles with nonsense words rather than leave some squares blank.
Second, it doesn’t seem to place as many words in the grid as the premium version does.
To be honest, even the premium one isn’t the best crossword puzzle maker I’ve ever seen, and if crosswords are your main staple then you would probably be better off looking elsewhere. However, given the facts that you get a whole plethora of tools that make creating test or quiz items very fast, and that registration to obtain the premium tools is only $16 or $19 for a single user, you might as register just to get the other three tools, which I found to be very good indeed.
It’s true that you could easily create flash cards yourself. I’ve done that sort of thing, but it takes ages. Why not do it in seconds?
As for the Bingo cards, that really would take ages. I was impressed by how quickly Teacher’s Pet generated them. My only criticism is that it would be better if more detailed instructions were given at the start of the Bingo macro. It took me a few tries beofre I got it right: neither blank squares nor repeated words on the same card. It’s not difficult, if you bother to think it through in advance, but if you just race ahead like I did, you can end up wasting time.
Thanks to Nicholas Tims for drawing Teacher’s Pet to my attention during a talk at the Society of Authors.
Do puzzles have a place in Computing and ICT? I think they do, but that’s a subject for another article.
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