Puzzles: a workout for the brain

Lesson plan overview

This ESL lesson plan is dedicated to the benefits of playing with puzzles. Students will learn vocabulary about puzzles and other mentally stimulating games, as well as idioms with “brain” and “puzzles”, will talk about ways to stay mentally active and get mental stimulation, and watch a video about the benefits of puzzles. You can combine this lesson with other health-related topics such as “What happens to your brain when you have a concussion”, “Meditation and the brain”, as well as the worksheet “Idioms: critical thinking and analysing”.
Speaking: The lesson starts with a general discussion about mental stimulation, brain training apps and staying mentally active. Then students are given 6 riddles and are tasked with finding the answers.
Vocabulary: students learn vocabulary about different types of mentally-stimulating activities (jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzle, chess, sudoku, maze, Rubik’s cube) and a few adjectives. They are asked to talk about these activities and to use the adjectives to describe how they feel about each activity.
Listening: Students watch a video “The benefits of playing with puzzles” and complete 2 tasks.
Vocabulary: Students learn different expressions with the word “puzzle” and “brain” (to be puzzled, find the missing piece of the puzzle, pick someone’s brains, rack one’s brains, etc.) by looking at 2 groups of sentences and matching the expressions to their definitions. Then, they complete 6 short dialogues with the correct expression. Finally, they discuss a few conversation questions given.
Vocabulary review: As a last activity, students are given a crossword puzzle to solve with vocabulary from this lesson.
You can use the conversation cards to further practise the expressions from this lesson.

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Teacher’s lesson plan

Student’s worksheet

Student’s interactive PDF

Conversation cards PDF

Pre-class activities

To send the pre-class activities to your students, copy the link below.


Vocabulary matching


The first time you watch the video, pay special attention to the correct pronunciation of the following words:

To preserve cognition, you need to keep working your brain, just like you work your muscles. Exercise is a good way to strengthen both.
You can also help protect brain cells with a healthy diet that includes foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, such as fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, and vegetable oils.

Comprehension questions

In-class activities

Teacher’s lesson plan
Student’s worksheet

Conversation cards PDF

Student’s interactive PDF

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