Halloween Logic Puzzle: Light as a Feather

Halloween Logic Puzzle: Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board


Light as a Feather Stiff as a Board is the my first logic puzzle. While thinking of some fun Halloween-themed activities, the party game Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board came to me naturally. What’s more creepy or mysterious than a game where you sit in the dark, tell the story of someone’s death, and then lift them with only your finger? However, rather than a normal clue by clue mystery game, this one evolved into a Halloween Logic Puzzle. It seemed only natural as I imagined the scenario. Everyone is in costume. It’s pitch-black. The police need to figure out who is who before they can say who the mystery is.

What’s a Logic Puzzle?

A logic puzzle, or logic grid puzzle, is a kind of critical thinking activity where students must use clues to match people with facts about them. In this Halloween logic puzzle, students must figure out which costume each person was wearing and where they are sitting. Often it helps to draw a grid to solve this kind of logic puzzle, and I’ve included one with this fun classroom activity.

Why do a Logic Puzzle?

Although this isn’t a typical clue by clue mystery, the benefits still hold. As with all clue by clue mysteries, students are given the situation to analyze. They are then given the clue cards, one at a time. In pairs or small groups, students analyze each clue to try to decide if it’s relevant or irrelevant. They also analyze it to figure out how it helps solve the mystery. It’s a great way for students to practice critical thinking skills. Solving a mystery means evaluating evidence, synthesizing information from different clues, and telling truth from lie and fact from opinion. (Check out my post on Why short mysteries make awesome critical thinking activities for more and a list of all my clue by clue activities). Continue reading “Halloween Logic Puzzle: Light as a Feather”

Presidential Election Lesson Resources

PresElectionVThese are some resources I put together about the presidential election, way back in 2008. The focus of the class was less on the individual candidates and more on the process of the presidential election itself. It’s the process that often confuses international students. Finding information on the candidates is often the easiest part. A lot of newspapers publish articles such as, “Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump’s Economic Plans: A Comparison” with lots of tables and clear summaries. Those are great for ESL students!

Feel free to share your go-to election day resources in the comments

With any conversation class, you want to make sure you have lots of background information. When dealing with something as complicated as the US election for president, the class is going to have a lot of questions. So you either need to read up and bring materials to look up anything you didn’t memorize. Or you need resources that the students can read and research themselves.

Resources and Materials on the American Presidential Election

Read Article II of the Constitution which defines how a President is elected and the powers of the President. Links to relevant amendments are provided in the text.

Wikipedia also has the text of Article II with explanations in plain English. I wouldn’t recommend giving beginner or pre-intermediate students the original text of the Constitution because it is difficult. Better to summarize for them.

Presidential and VP Debate transcripts from 2008 to 1960. Provided by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a non-profit that sponsors the debates. An interesting conversation topic there: Should independent organizations sponsor debates?

Simplified readings on the candidates and the election process including a good explanation of the electoral college system.

If you have computers with the Internet in the classroom, All About Electing a President is a pretty good slideshow summary of the process from primary to election. And One Vote 2008:Election Playbook has more in-depth guides to topics such as delegates and primaries.

Lesson Plans on the American Presidential Election

The New York Times provides lesson plans based on relevant issues and linked to articles. Good materials and interesting ideas. I particularly like the ones on political humor and caricatures. However, students may not be used to that in their country. 

These lesson plans involves in-depth research on the political process in the US. The lesson plans here are best for intermediate-advanced students. Students also need access to the Internet or a good library. However, the worksheets are great for thinking of guiding questions or evaluating how much you know about the presidential elections.

Here are some conversation questions from Heads Up English on the Election 2008. And some are still quite relevant.

Fun Quizzes

The US Election Facts Quiz is a pretty interesting. This quiz will help students find out if they are a Democrat or a Republican. International students in particular enjoy that because they can understand the meaning of the American political parties.


I've been interviewed

I had a lot of fun answering Jennifer Lebedev’s questions for this interview on her blog: Making Discoveries: An ESL Story. I particularly enjoyed recalling that vocational school I worked at for a semester in Astana, Kazakhstan. As if teaching total beginners wasn’t a challenge enough, and the -30 Astana winters weren’t a hostile enough environment, there were the joys of the outhouse and the barebones classroom.

I do wonder what happened to those future hairdressers, cooks, and fashion designers of Kazakhstan. I wonder if any of them use English now at all. I wonder what they think of me and my class. Maybe, some day when we visit Kazakhstan again, we’ll run into someone a former student. Or I can drop by. Funnily enough even though we got lost for 2 hours trying to find the school the first time we went out there, I remember the road so well now. I’m sure I drive there without getting lost once.

I won’t spoil the interview anymore than I have, but if you want to find out how I became a teacher, my advice for designing lesson plans, or my favorite icebreaker, go check out the interview. And be sure to browse around Jennifer’s site for other great articles and interviews!

Fiction in Action: Spellbound

This is just a quick note to share this great reading comprehension textbook  Fiction in Action: Spellbound . I love the idea of using genre fiction to get students interested in learning. I have ABAX Publishing’s brillant textbook by Adam Gray and Marcos Benevides that uses mystery writing (I’m a bit of a fan of mysteries, if you hadn’t noticed from this blog!)

The mystery stories really suck the students in. And mysteries are a great way to teach reading for detail, evaluating information, synthesizing information from different sources, and other critical reading skills. Longer mystery stories are also great examples of universal literary devices such as foreshadowing, twists, misdirection, conflict, building tension, and catharsis.

This one goes on the list of books I wish I had written!

Grammarians Are Just Making it Up Aren't They?

I was using the wonderful children’s dictionary, Kids.Wordsmyth.net for a project recently. While looking up “throughout”, I found a curious entry which highlighted something that’s bothered me for a while. What’s the difference between a preposition and an adverb?

OK, I know the difference, but it does seem as if some words are classified as both, when the difference in their usage or meaning is pretty minor.

Here’s what the dictionary says about throughout as a preposition:

definition: in, to, or during every part of.

The lights were on throughout the town.

The party lasted throughout the night.

And as an adverb:

in, during, or including every part.

The old house is still solid throughout.

from the start to the finish; during the whole time.

They remained friends throughout.
The only difference appears to be functional. Prepositions take objects so they’ve classified examples with objects as prepositions. If I added, “the war” to the end of the sentence They remained friends throughout would that make it a preposition instead of an adverb?
Perhaps readers who are greater fans of linguistics than I will step in and explain.

Source: throughout | Free On-Line English Dictionary | Thesaurus | Children’s, Intermediate Dictionary | Wordsmyth

Exciting News!

I’ve seen the PDF proofs and the eBook proofs of my new book. It’s beautiful. I think the first printed copies will be in my hands one week from today! All of this joyous feeling nicely balanced with the fear that no one will ever buy it!

Instant Personalized Writing Prompt

  1. Students go to what3words and type in their address. Yes, it’s international, so all of your students can do it, although in some cases, they may need to search for their town and then find their homes.
  2. Students find the three words that represent their house. Because each 3 meter square region has its own three words, they will likely have some choice.
  3. Students write a story or essay or letter or Facebook update or whatever you want to make them do using those three words.
  4. Or give the students the same three words and see who can write the best story.

You’re welcome!