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I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

That's a really long title, but it sounds catchy for some reason; is it that way for you too? Okay that last bit was over-the-top corny, but I will never apologize for a pun.

Okay, back to the matter at hand: Word Searches in the Classroom.

In seventh grade it seemed like every other day my social studies teacher would give us a Word Search for the section of the book that we had just gone over (naturally, days that did not include a Word Search featured a Crossword Puzzle, which was slightly better). I hated Word Searches then and my disdain for these "learning activities" has not faded the least as the years have passed.

I'm not saying that Word Searches have no place; my grandma quite likes hers on the end table next to her quilting needles. I would, however, assert they have no place in educationcertainly not in middle or high school settings. Using these activities as assessments, especially if they're graded, is a mild form of educational malpractice.

This is certainly an area where I feel I'm in the minority, Word Searches are common place in nearly all subjects in the K-12 setting. Out of curiosity, I have asked numerous teachers (many of whom I have great respect and admiration for) why they give these activities out and what they hope to learn about their students from these activities. The question is usually met with a look of befuddlement followed by a shoulder shrug. Occasionally, I will receive an answer about word recognition, which I will concede is something that a Word Search can show but would also point out that it doesn't show any depth of knowledge or skill.

Which takes me back to my seventh-grade self, I could have told you all about Hammurabi's Code. I could've compared it to other codified law systems in ancient civilizations. If you'd have asked, I probably could've created a modern-version of a code built on entrenched class structures and retribution. But I would fail those assignments because I couldn't find the blasted term in the cloud of other letters. How much sense does that make? 

I'm not saying that teachers who use these activities are terrible at their jobs; they're just doing the same things they did as a student because the end result clearly worked for them (they all graduated college). But in order to move forward, we need to question some of these practices. I suggest we start by leaving word searches where they belong, at grandma's house.

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