Crypt-O-Words for grades four through seven and Crypt-O-Words Jr. for grades two through five teach both vocabulary and critical thinking in puzzle and problem-solving formats. The 30 lessons in each book are each designed around one primary vocabulary word, and students are introduced to additional vocabulary words as they work through the lessons.
Each lesson is divided into two to six sections. Students can complete one or more sections per day. Every lesson uses different types of activities, but rather than try to describe them all, I’ll describe those in the first lesson in Crypt-O-Words.
It begins with a quatrain poem that hints at the meaning of the Crypt-O-Word for that lesson. Students then solve a puzzle to reveal the word or clarify their guess. The puzzle requires them to enter letters in boxes on a grid by following compass directions, such as “O is south of C and east of E.” This puzzle has a second part where students follow additional compass directions to identify which letters in the grid belong in which positions in this eight-letter word. The following activity has students fill in sentence blanks to become more familiar with the meaning of the word and its usage. Next, students use the letters of the word to come up with as many four-letter words as they can. Then they try to find four 7-letter words. An Extra Challenge at the end of the lesson explains the requirements of a quatrain poem and prompts students to use at least four of the words they came up with in the last activity to write their own quatrain.
There are quite a few code puzzles, and few of them are alike. Some activities use synonyms, antonyms, or analogies. Many activities, especially in the book for grades four through seven, require students to apply critical thinking skills. The book for younger students includes simpler activities, including a few that require drawing, such as “Draw a scene that illustrates the word” (p 40).
After every ten lessons, Test Your Knowledge presents additional puzzles or activities that help students review the words they have learned. The books also have two different pages for playing a Vocabulary Charades game. This game requires more than two people, so it might not be feasible for use in homeschooling situations.
Near the front of the book are four pages under the heading “For the Teachers.” Here you will find brief instructions, some hints that teachers can provide to students if needed, and Suggestions for Extended Learning that expand into further discussion about the words students are learning, research or discussion of topics from other subject areas that relate to the vocabulary words, ideas for students to create their own puzzles, and more. Answer keys are at the back of each book.
The books are available in print or as ebooks. You are given permission to copy pages for one family or one classroom. You will want to hand out pages one at a time (removed from the book, copied, or printed) since the following pages might give away the Crypt-O-Words before students solve the puzzles.
The Crypt-O-Word books don’t cover enough vocabulary words to serve as your sole vocabulary program for a year, but they do double duty by working on vocabulary words and critical thinking at the same time. And children who enjoy solving word and letter puzzles should enjoy them.