ESL Games: Multiple Meaning Puzzlers

The Game: The object of Multiple Meaning Puzzlers is to introduce and review multiple meaning words.

Research Says: It is important to employ games that “…[make] the foreign language immediately useful to the children. It brings the target language to life” (Using Games in an EFL Class for Children, Y. Mei and J. Yu-jing, 2000); Multiple Meaning Puzzlers does just that.


  1. Typing paper or cardstock
  2. Triangle template (below)
  3. List of multiple meaning words
  4. Large envelopes/one per student

How to Play

  1. Students are given an envelope of puzzle pieces to put together.
  2. Each puzzle contains a multiple meaning word and two meanings that “fit” together.
  3. Students assemble their puzzles.
  4. Puzzles are checked for accuracy.
  5. Additional puzzles are added upon completion. (See variations below for extension activities.)

How to Make It

  1. The teacher uses the triangle template and makes up multiple meaning puzzlers, copies (enough for each student), and cuts out the pieces.
  2. The teacher selects words to use based on student interest and ability (see list below to get you started).
  3. The pieces are placed inside an envelope/one envelope per student.
  4. The outside of the envelope is labeled “Multiple Meaning Puzzlers” and a list of the multiple meaning words is placed inside.


  1. The game can be played with a partner or in small groups.
  2. The game can be timed to see who can complete the most puzzles.
  3. The number and word selections can vary depending on the ability of the students.
  4. Students who can complete the puzzles with accuracy and understand the meanings of the words can write stories or create crosswords of the multiple meaning words, or they can do research for additional words. They can add more puzzles to their collection, given a blank triangle template.
  5. Students are given a blank template to create their own puzzles. Assistance is given as needed.

To Get You Started: Examples of Multiple Meaning Words

act, angle, atmosphere, back, bank, bark, base, bass, bat, bend, bill, bitter, block, board, bomb, border, bowl, box, bright, brush, calf, can, cap, capital, chance, change, channel, character, change, charge, check, checker, clear, coast, constitution, content, count, country, court, cover, credit, crop, current, cycle, degree, depression, direction, draft, draw, division, drill, due, edge, even, face, fall, film, fire, fit, flood, fly, foot, force, formula, freeze, friction, front, fuse, gravity, gum, hand, head, hit, inch, interest, issue, judge, key, kid, king, lean, leaves, letter, lie, light, line, lounge, market, match, matter, mean, mind, model, motion, mouse, negative, odd, operation, order, organ, park, party, past, period, pet, pitch, pitcher, place, plane, place, play, plot, point, pole, power, present, process, produce, product, program, property, punch, raise, rate, reason, report, right, ring, rock, roll, rose, run, safe, saw, scale, school, sense, screen, seal, season, second, settle, shake, ship, shock, side, solid, solution, source, space, spell, spring, staff, stamp, stand, staple, state, star, state, stick, story, stuff , table, tense, tip, tissue, top, track, turn, value, view, volume, wage, waste, watch, wave, work

Untitled2 Triangle Template



How might you use this game in your classroom to further study and acquisition of multiple meaning words?


Read Marc’s other ESL Games posts. Marc’s previous blogs with TESOL as a guest blogger include the highly popular “Best Language Learning Games” series.

About Marc Anderson

Marc Anderson
Marc Anderson is the CEO of online English training company that teaches English online to students around the world. During his free time he likes to read, travel and enjoy life.
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2 Responses to ESL Games: Multiple Meaning Puzzlers

  1. Hello Shampa,

    Thanks for the tip regarding the passive and active learning methods in regards to vocabulary.

    On another note – I found out about your site from one of our visitors ( We’ll be writing an in depth review of your program for our students in the coming weeks so if you’d like to help us in writing the article please contact me through the website.

    Thank you,


  2. Linguistically there are two techniques for improving your lexical strength (vocabulary) :

    Active learning and Passive learning

    1. Passive learning: New words are acquired subconsciously, while doing some daily life stuff, like reading a newspaper.

    Vocabulary is an abstract skill due to reasons like reading habits, family background, schooling, culture etc. The conventional methods are very generic and are made of masses. They do not allow personalized learning to an individual’s current vocabulary.

    2. Active learning: Active learning methodology has become a preferred way to change the traditional teacher oriented classroom into the newer student oriented approach to learning. In active learning, acquisition of new words is done with conscious and great efforts.

    Usually active vocabulary building is quite rigorous and boring due to its monotonous nature.

    Now introducing myself, I am co-founder of Improve Your Vocabulary – VocabMonk

    Vocabmonk uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to track individual’s learning/quiz data and mashed up that data to recommend personalized quizzes to students, based on their current vocabulary size.

    The tool uses game mechanics to make learning real fun and also provides competitive learning through challenges in your social circle.
    There so special push towards, not just learning words but grasping it with application.

    Various levels to be achieved as you progress in learning and the distinctive feature is that you can invite your mentor to look up your activities on the website.

    Happy learning!

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