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Crossword Companion

reviewed by Kristi Coleman, 4th Grade Teacher
Carnas School District, Carnas, Washington

Wow! A user friendly crossword maker. Sound too good to be true? It's not! I was happily surprised by a new program that does what it says.

Crossword Companion (for Macintosh), by Visions Technology in Education, is an easy-to-use crossword program for teachers and students. The program makes a 20-word puzzle with definitions. You use a tab key or mouse to go from word to word, or word to definition. It is convenient to go back and change a definition or spelling by using an arrow key. Significantly the program will take words or numbers for the puzzle. Clues and headings can be made up to 600 characters long. Font, style, and size of print can be changed by editing. After typing in the words and definitions you click a button and the words are automatically placed into a puzzle format. To change the puzzle you simply click on the button again. Puzzles can be made either in secondary or an elementary format, so elementary students have larger boxes to fill in.

An important feature that really engages kids is the easy-to-use graphic browsing buttons right next to the puzzle area. You click on them to put a picture behind the puzzle. This creates a screen image and print out with the puzzle superimposed over the picture, a very unique and creative look. You can print the graphic in small, medium or large size, or to fit the puzzle exactly. Changing graphics is a feature I also appreciate. The program comes with 25 graphics, and it is as easy as clicking on the browsing buttons to change the graphic. To import pictures in from other programs to fit your needs, you just choose a new folder full of your favorite PICT files and click the browsing buttons.

The program is also easy to use. I used the program with a group of fifth grade students with varied academic abilities during alpha testing of the product. All students were able to make their own crosswords including graphic within a 30-minute block of time. This was the first time they had used the program.

My homeroom class of fourth graders participated in making several crosswords the last week of school. Each student made up their own clue about themselves, and we put it together into a classroom crossword. We also used it as a Social Studies review. They thought up words and clues to make study guides for each other. The students were able to make crosswords in 20-30 minutes (their typing skills were the only thing that held them back).

For more information, contact:

Visions Technology in Education
PO Box 70479
Eugene, OR 97401

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