Spreadsheet Word Searches

While reading Barbara’s blog, I found this terrific tutorial for using Excel or OpenOffice to create a word search from scratch. By following Barbara’s directions (which were very simple and thorough) I managed to create my own word search quickly and easily. If you have a few minutes click on over to Plugged In HomeSchool and give her tutorial a try. Feel free to post your examples in the forum.

I usually use Puzzlemaker.com with my students for having them create their own review puzzles, but it was quite nice to take the time and carefully plan out how the words would be placed in the spreadsheet. The tutorial also includes editing the header and footer, something that students don’t always know how to do, but should get plenty of practice doing. That and I had to be extra careful with the spelling as one misspelled word could easily have ruined a couple of other words. The biggest benefit is probably getting students used to having an alternative way of creating words searches or other puzzles in case the Internet goes out, which can, does, and will happen if you’re using computers in the classroom.


  1. I can’t believe I never thought of that.

    It gave me an idea that I haven’t seen yet. You could use Excel to make self checking crossword puzzles. It’d be somewhat similar in concept but with the addition of formulas. It’ll be a little odd as you’ll have to reference the cells adjacent to the answer section for the correction portion. I’ll put a sample up if I get time tomorrow.

  2. In excel you can use conditional formatting to do this very nicely. I’d forgotten about that. Just set the cells to squares then put all your words in. Black out the other squares by filling with grey or black. Set the borders for the cells with letters in them. Then go back and select a cell with a letter go to Format>Conditional formatting and set the cell to do say turn green if the right letter is put in it. Repeat.

    I’ll put up real directions sooner or later but I think it’s a fun easy way to do it. Granted you can cheat but I wouldn’t be using it for tests.

  3. I had used Excel to make crossword puzzles before, but was unaware of the conditional formatting. By all means, please post an example either on your blog or in the forum (I used File Anchor and it worked perfectly to upload the files) as I’d love to see the idea in action. Nice spin-off idea you’ve created from Barbara’s original work.

  4. Self-checking crossword puzzles; self regenerating times tables; I’m impressed! This is exactly why educators need to share more of their ideas online, to a wider audience. If not to share actual resources, but at least ideas on how to work with the number of tools, toys, and projects that can be created with programs we already have or are free of charge. Too often many educators feel they need to buy the 30 dollar software package (times 25) to outfit an entire lab just to do the same thing that MS Office or Open Office can already do.

  5. I have been trying to figure out how to create a forumla that will calculate a word value (based on the math activity “The One Dollar Word”. A=1, B=2, etc. I would like to be able to type a word into a cell and have its value displayed in the adjacent cell. Any thoughts?

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