As a teacher who is forever exploring and experimenting with possibilities of using different kinds of exercises for both listening and speaking, I have always found the world of riddles fascinating and appealing. Websites such as http://www.funenglishgames.com/funstuff/funnyriddles.html and http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/riddles/not_so_hard_rd1.htm are only a few examples that we have of riddles on the Internet; they offer such delightful opportunities for the teacher/parent to help the child play with words and understand multiple meanings within a given context. Children love to rack their brains and disentangle the answer using both language skills and cognitive skills. Some riddles are simpler, and therefore children come up with the answers at the snap of a finger. Example: This is an animal that you count when you can’t sleep. (sheep) However, when the riddles get a little more elaborate, and make more demands on the child’s language skills, speculating, guessing and conjecturing sometimes make a lot of demands on the child’s patience. The child then doesn’t endeavour to probe into the riddle posed because as far as the child is concerned, the answer can be anything under the sun, and therefore he/she doesn’t feel interested enough to unravel the puzzle.
Giving children options spurs them on, motivating them to deliberate on the riddle and to view it from all angles. Example: What has a neck, but has no head, and yet wears a cap? (a bottle) Only children whose vocabulary has progressed adequately to understand that the lid of the bottle is also called a cap, and the long portion of the bottle is called a neck can crack the riddle. So, isn’t it great to have riddles in the class to test children’s language abilities? It is also a good way of testing their listening skills! As a teacher, if you request the children to call out the riddles, it also becomes an equally good way of assessing their speaking skills. The intonation and pronunciation of the child have to be clear for the other children to firstly understand the riddle, and then be able to solve it.
How about giving children a grid like the following? The adult/teacher calls out the riddle in random order, and then gives children the time to number the correct answer/picture. Once the exercise is completed, children then call out the right answer and also justify their answer. For those interested in using this grid, the clues have been given below. Other activities that can be integrated into the exercise have also been suggested.
The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.