Escape rooms are popping up all over the country. If you’re not familiar with an escape room, it works like this: A group enters a locked room and must work together to decipher clues and unlock the door before time runs out. With themed rooms ranging from mythology to CSI, escape rooms foster an environment of fun while promoting collaboration, reasoning and math skills, teamwork, and more.
Have you ever considered adding an escape room activity in your lesson plans? You don’t necessarily need to lock your students in the room. Instead, have them work through a series of challenges to reveal answers and solve puzzles. It’s a great way to get your students working together. If the idea of setting up a project like this seems intimidating, don’t worry. It doesn’t take a lot of work to make a fun, interactive children’s escape room.
Think Big Picture
Before you get into the details of the puzzles you’ll include, think of the overall concept of your escape room. What’s your end goal? Do you want your students to review what they’ve recently learned in a specific unit? Is it a way to introduce new material? From specific themes like “Causes of World War I” to ways to practice geometry, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the focus of your children’s escape room. Once you have your goal in mind, begin planning the specifics.
Create Your Teams
A class of 25 students can’t easily tackle an escape room together. Divide your students into small groups—no more than six students—that will allow everyone to have a voice in solving the puzzles. Encourage students to take turns taking the lead at each station so everyone gets a hands-on experience.
Set Up Your Stations
You’ll want your escape room to contain puzzles, riddles, items to unlock, hidden messages, and so on. Use your imagination to come up with challenges that cover a variety of skills.
Meghan Mathis, a high school English teacher writing for We Are Teachers, suggests math problems whose numbers reveal a lock combination, riddles about current events for a social studies lesson, or close reading with questions that contain highlighted letters.
If you have access to a black light, write clues that can only be revealed when under the light.
Help students brush up on their map-reading skills by including clues that require finding locations on a map to solve.
For a fun ELA escape room idea that incorporates everything from figurative language to symbolism in the clues, try this.
The possibilities of stations are endless. Need more inspiration? Check out these fun ideas.
The trick for a successful escape room is to include a mix of easy, moderate, and difficult tasks. Starting off with easier puzzles will help build students’ confidence, while more challenging problems will keep them from getting bored—or finishing too quickly.
Do a Dry Run
Practice your own escape room ideas before you unleash them on your students. Make sure everything is clear and easy to follow (but not necessarily easy to solve!). Does the way you’ve set up the room allow for a smooth transition from station to station? Have you thought of ways to include all students in your escape room, with puzzles and riddles of various difficulties? Can you expect your students to complete the tasks in the time you’ve allotted?
Decide how students will move through the activities. Mathis suggests setting up a task card and all the materials needed for the task at each station. She sets up four stations and gives each group a piece of paper with four squares on it. Once the group thinks they’ve solved the puzzle at a station, she checks their work, giving them a stamp on their paper in one of the boxes if they are correct.
Reflect and Review
After your students have solved the puzzles and completed the escape room, take some time to talk about what they learned. What surprised them? What was frustrating? What did they like? What did they dislike? Use the feedback not only to review the concepts you focused on in the tasks but also to fine-tune your escape room ideas for next year!
Have you created a children’s escape room in your classroom? Tell us about it!