If you try this activity with your students, we’d love to see what you do. Share your journey via the #Inspired2Learn hashtag on your preferred social platform.
Discipline: A good escape room calls on multiple disciplines in order to escape so with creativity you can likely come up with a story and puzzles for any content area.
Age level: Upper elementary through high school.
Time: At least one full class period.
Several years ago Escape Rooms became a form of entertainment like bowling or karaoke. People paid to get locked in a room with a storyline and series of puzzles and clues that had to be solved in order to “escape”. Several malls now include escape rooms that feature different levels of complexity. While teachers don’t have the time to create hydraulic mummy tombs that shoot out smoke and fire when a clue is missed – simplified versions of these popular games can be made for the classroom to foster inquiry, teamwork, and a high level of engagement.
Here are some resources to get you started:
- Using Escape Rooms to Enhance Literacy in Elementary School (Edutopia)
- Using Digital Escape Rooms to Make Learning Fun (Edutopia)
- The Rise of Educational Escape Rooms (The Atlantic)
To create an escape room challenge in your classroom you’ll want to start with the following:
Create a story and a purpose.
This will be something you’ll tie to your curriculum. So, if you are studying ancient Egypt – the escape room could be themed around that content. The story could be about an archaeologist who is unearthing a tomb and gets stuck there. He must solve several puzzles in order to get out and the puzzles rely on his understanding of Ancient Egyptian culture. For another example, if you are studying stories about the hero’s journey in English you might be a hero stuck in that journey who wants to get back home but must go through a series of tests that mark each step of the journey in order to make a triumphant return.
Create the puzzles.
In order to advance through each step and ultimately escape/complete this adventure, students must complete a series of puzzles. You can make these puzzles anything from multiple choice quizzes to word scrambles to design challenges and more. Here are a few sources to consider when crafting your puzzles. Ideally, each puzzle sticks to the theme of your escape room and the story you are creating. So, for example, in the Egyptian tomb, puzzles might include hieroglyphics and activities and questions that pertain to the content you’ve been teaching in the unit. Similarly, for the heroes journey students may need to reference texts you’ve used in class to solve the puzzles and the puzzles themselves will make sense as challenges appropriate to steps in the journey like “entering the unknown” or “restoring the world”.
- Escape Room Puzzle Ideas for the Science Classroom (Kesler Science)
- 26 Outrageously Fun And Easy DIY Escape Room Puzzles (My Escape Room Party)
- Escape Room Puzzle Tips (Escape Room Ideas)
Establish Expectations and Play!
When you have set up a series of puzzles you’re ready for students to play. You can read in the links above about elaborate setups that include actual locks but simply requiring students to get each puzzle correct before moving to the next will likely work just as well. Escape rooms work best in smaller groups so consider creating copies of your puzzles for several small groups to work on at once. Ideally, you want to create groups where multiple learning approaches can shine. Groups in which one person solves all the puzzles don’t lead to engagement for all so talk with your students about what solutions they can come up with to avoid this.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language
Knowledge of Language:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing
Production and Distribution of Writing:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating an understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening
Comprehension and Collaboration:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading
Key Ideas and Details:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Craft and Structure:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards
Any of these dimensions *could* apply to your escape room depending on purpose and format.
|Dimension 1: Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries||Dimension 2: Applying Disciplinary Tools and Concepts||Dimension 3: Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence||Dimension 4: Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action|
|Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries||Civics||Gathering and Evaluating Sources||Communicating and Critiquing Conclusions|
|Geography||Developing Claims and Using Evidence||Taking Informed Action|
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Competencies
Responsible decision-making: The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations. This includes the capacities to consider ethical standards and safety concerns, and to evaluate the benefits and consequences of various actions for personal, social, and collective well-being.
Relationship skills: The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups. This includes the capacities to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to problem solve and negotiate conflict constructively, navigate settings with differing social and cultural demands and opportunities, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed.