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RUNNING HEAD: Word Search as an Educational Intervention

Word Search as an Educational Intervention


Samantha Collar
Loma Linda University
Professor Melissa Suzuki
December 10, 2015

RUNNING HEAD: Word Search as an Educational Intervention

Word Search
Word searches are a simple and exciting way to exercise the mind. People of all ages can
indulge in word searches, as it is easy to modify level of difficulty based on size and complexity
of the puzzle. Word searches can be selected based on interest, and the motive behind them can
be recreational or educational. Children can race against their peers, seeing who can solve the
puzzle the fastest. For our intervention, Madeline and I observed unit 4800 in the
hematology/oncology playroom. We made two word searches using an online program, with
medical terminology that ranged in age appropriateness. Also, we made flashcards with each
term, using colored index cards for a more pleasant presentation.
Goals and Objectives of the Intervention
The objective of our intervention was to enhance patients cognitive functioning by
building knowledge of medical terminology and procedures, and empowering higher levels of
thinking. By nature of the activity, children were able to further develop problem solving skills in
order to complete the puzzle. We had two hospital patients take part in our intervention: a 10year-old girl, A, and a 16-year-old boy, E. The youth word search was made for children ranging
from 7-years-old to 10-years-old. The adolescent word search would be appropriate for a 13year-old to a 17-year-old. Children guided the progression of knowledge, choosing the order in
which they found the words within the puzzle, and consequently, the order in which the
meanings of the terms were presented to them.
Importance of the Modality
Our intervention centers on an educational modality. Through our activity, we promote
awareness and knowledge of common medical terminology a child or adolescent may encounter,
so that they are prepared for understanding and contributing to the conversation. The overuse of

RUNNING HEAD: Word Search as an Educational Intervention

medical jargon is detrimental to patient and family comprehension. Misconception and


overestimation of patients health literacy is frequent among doctors (Koch-Weser, DeJong, &
Rudd, 2009). It is not uncommon for patients to say nothing when they do not understand the
meaning behind medical jargon. This lack of awareness, on the doctors part, gives false
reassurance that the patient understands, which could cause issues with compliance to treatment,
elicit false hope, or even ignite fear in the unknown.
Advocating the importance of relatable medical terminology, Kari Sand-Jecklin (2007)
discusses the fatal outcomes strong medical jargon can account for. To combat medical mistakes
due to miscommunication, she suggests that printed health education materials be written at a
fifth to sixth grade reading level, well below the eighth grade average reading ability of the
American public, (Sand-Jecklin, 2007). She proposes that this will counteract low patient
literacy levels (Sand-Jecklin, 2007).
Javier Melero and Davinia Hernndez-Leo (2014) researched puzzle-based games and the
effect they have on learning. They discussed the benefits of using educational games, and how
the teacher can modify each puzzle to reflect current material (Melero & Hernndez-Leo, 2014).
When Madeline and I came up with the word search activity, we started off by developing a list
of words appropriate for each age group: youth and adolescent. We then came up with definitions
that used language congruent with what a child in each group would use. Similar to the methods
discussed by Melero and Hernndez-Leo, Madeline and I made our own rules for the activity. We
encouraged problem-solving and employed memory as participants recalled their knowledge for
each medical term. Puzzles are the most effective learning based games (Liu & Lin, 2009).
Appropriately designed educational games can improve the efficacy of student learning (Liu &
Lin, 2009).

RUNNING HEAD: Word Search as an Educational Intervention

Word search puzzles assist with intellectual growth. Researchers Michael P. Mueller and
Michael L. Bentley (2009) examined education in developing nations. According to their
findings, instruction that adapted the use of word searches engaged more elaborate investigations
from students (Mueller & Bentley, 2009). From these investigations, the problem-solving skills
and overall cognitive abilities gained by students enabled them to participate in governance and
policymaking concerning the environmental sciences they were learning about (Mueller &
Bentley, 2009).
Flashcards were essential for the educational segment of our intervention activity. Each
flashcard had a medical term on one side, and an age appropriate definition or explanation of the
term on the other side. To cater to the different age groups, some terms needed an explanation
rather than a textbook definition. Flashcards are considered one of the most common and
effective methods for studying materials (Kornell, 2009). Not only did we regard the use of
flashcards as practical, but we considered incorporating them into the activity as fun, for it made
the puzzle similar to playing jeopardy or another trivia game.
Support for Child Development
Our intervention aided cognition and problem solving. Each childs cognitive ability was
put to the test as they read and thought about each term. Pulling from their own hospital
experiences and from experiences they witnessed from others, they were, for the most part, able
to infer what the terms meant. Problem solving skills were challenged as they had to find each
word within the puzzle. In the beginning, the blank puzzle was like an open field, with all of the
terms ready to be found. Some terms seemed to jump off the page as the persons eyes were
drawn to them. This was usually the case for words along the edges of the puzzle, words that
read from the top to the bottom, and words that read from left to right. The kids had a little more

RUNNING HEAD: Word Search as an Educational Intervention

difficulty finding words that read from the bottom towards the top, and words that were diagonal.
As the kids found more words, their search had to narrow, and they had to comb through each
row of letters to find the remaining hidden words. The more highlights there were on the page,
the more visual difficulty there was to determine where words laid and if parts were connected to
words that were already found (i.e. the letters from one word being used to form another word).
Physical development was supported with use of motor skills. While sitting at the table,
the kids had to hold the paper still with one hand while they marked the words they found with
the other hand. Fine motor skills were engaged as each child held a marker in their dominant
hand. Additionally, picking up the flash cards off of the table utilized fine motor skills. Sorting
through the cards that were laid out by using the majority of ones hand, and holding on to the
card while reading it supported gross motor skills.
Child Response to Intervention
Both A and E enjoyed the challenge of the activity. When we brought out the word
search, both of them smiled in anticipation. The familiarity of the activity seemed to induce a
calming effect physically, and an energizing effect mentally and emotionally. When we
introduced the cards and how we altered the typical way of doing a word search by including
definitions for the terminology, both patients welcomed the challenge. A knew all of the
terminology on the youth word search, and even asked to see some of the terms on the adolescent
puzzle. When we asked her what she thought the definition for each of the words was, she
answered in greater depth than was written on the cards. For example, when discussing what a
surgery was, she said, When a doctor opens you up to fix something in your body. Sometimes
they have to put pins inside your body. Usually they have extra blood so that they can use it for
the surgery if they need to. Typically, a 10-year-old wouldnt think to mention inserting pins.

RUNNING HEAD: Word Search as an Educational Intervention

We were able to expand on her knowledge by informing her that the doctor has a whole team of
other medical officials, such as nurses, an anesthesiologist, and more there to assist them during
the surgery. She smiled when she learned this, and it seemed to bring her more at ease for future
procedures. E, although older, seemed to have less knowledge of most of the medical
terminology. He demonstrated eagerness to learn more, and was not afraid to ask questions to
facilitate his learning. It was evident that As exposure to procedures over the course of her own
treatment greatly influenced her remarkable knowledge.
Intervention Strengths and Possible Improvements
Overall, the intervention was successful. Both participants enjoyed the activity and said
that they learned something new. E acted as though choosing a color for which marker to use was
silly, but it was apparent that he liked the autonomy to choose freely. A was delighted when she
got to use her favorite colored marker pink. The word searches were age appropriate. In order
to improve the activity, we could include pictures on the cards as an additional visual aid. Also,
we could switch up the methods used, such as having the child pick a card before finding the
word and then having them find the word after they learn the definition. Participants could be
timed for increased competitiveness. Both of our participants challenged themselves to work
quickly when looking for words, even though they were told they could take their time.
Discussion
Knowledge of medical terminology is important so that a patient can have a better
understanding of what to expect during treatment and over the course of their medical condition.
Comprehension also assists with ones ability to more effectively communicate the symptoms
and pain they are experiencing. Evidence suggests that puzzles are an effective way to promote
medical literacy among individuals of all ages.

RUNNING HEAD: Word Search as an Educational Intervention


References
Koch-Weser, S., et al. (2009). "Medical word use in clinical encounters." Health Expectations:
An International Journal of Public Participation in Health Care & Health Policy 12(4):
371-382.
Kornell, N. (2009). "Optimising learning using flashcards: Spacing is more effective than
cramming." Applied Cognitive Psychology 23(9): 1297-1317.
Liu, E. Z. F. and C. H. Lin (2009). "Developing evaluative indicators for educational computer
games." British Journal of Educational Technology 40(1): 174-178.
Melero, J. and D. Hernndez-Leo (2014). "A model for the design of puzzle-based games
including virtual and physical objects." Journal of Educational Technology & Society
17(3): 192-207.
Mueller, M. P. and M. L. Bentley (2009). "Environmental and science education in developing
nations: A Ghanaian approach to renewing and revitalizing the local community and
ecosystems." The Journal of Environmental Education 40(4): 53-63.
Sand-Jecklin, K. (2007). "The impact of medical terminology readability of patient education
materials." Journal of Community Health Nursing 24(2): 119-129.