My #1 classroom goal this year? To have more fun.
When I told my students my “fun goal” this past August, most looked at me skeptically and said, “Fun? Is this a trick?
In the past few years, I’ve gotten lost in the standards and designed a lot of heavy hitting assignments. While those have been valuable, I sometimes forget that I’m working with kids — and I’ve realized that I can embrace “fun” while still covering content and standards.
Enter the classroom escape room. I designed my first escape room this past August, and it was a huge hit with students. It broke the ice with students and their peers, and it set a positive tone on day one.
I’ve done some research and combined it with experience to answer some questions about what classroom escape rooms are and how to implement them in your classroom.
What is a classroom escape room?
A classroom escape room mimics the escape room experience you typically book at a local business. In a classroom escape room, students will complete challenges and unlock tasks, ultimately allowing them to “escape” the classroom.
What is an escape room?
Escape rooms are immersive, adventure-based activities requiring people work through tasks, solve puzzles, and complete challenges. The participants must complete these challenges to escape before the time expires.
How does an real escape room compare to a classroom escape room?
I sometimes struggle with calling a classroom escape room an escape room, because when compared with a real escape room, they are quite watered down.
However, with the challenges, codes, and unlocking goals of classroom escape rooms, I think they can keep the escape room designation! Here are some similarities and differences that I’ve noticed with real escape rooms and classroom escape rooms:
The DIFFERENCES between a real escape room and a classroom escape room
- Real escape room businesses provide a much more immersive experience than teachers can typically provide in their classrooms. Real escape rooms are designed to be escape rooms, and in schools, on the other hand, teachers must try to quickly mask their classroom design and transform it into an immersive experience.
- Real escape rooms typically have unique challenges that can be difficult to replicate in a classroom — for example, I’ve seen escape rooms with trap doors, jail cells, laser guns, scent matching vials, ball tosses, and more.
The SIMILARITIES between a real escape room and a classroom escape room
- Both are founded on a scenario. For example, you might be trapped in Gatsby’s mansion and need to escape. Or, you could be captured by the grammar police, and you can only be let out if you complete the challenges. Having a fun and engaging scenario can make your escape room more immersive and like the “real thing.”
- Both have challenges/puzzles. Real escape rooms and classroom escape rooms have challenges that reveal codes or combinations.
- Both have time limits. Real escape rooms and classroom escape rooms both impose a time limit, which creates a sense of urgency amongst the participants — and that little bit of added stress can add to the fun!
Do classroom escape rooms cover standards?
This is up to you and how you design your escape room. I have used some escape rooms that cover standards explicitly and some escape rooms that are building blocks that will help my students access particular standards in a later lesson.
For example, we did a classroom escape room after the first four chapters of The Great Gatsby. One task included a character matching challenge–on its surface, the character matching is not exactly aligned to a particular standard, and the depth of knowledge is quite low. However, to access the standard RL11.3 (Analyzing how the author chose to introduce and develop characters), students will need to have a basic understanding of who’s who in the story, and character matching can help with that.
How do I assess or grade an escape room?
This is up to you as well, but I assess on participation. If students are engaged and collaborating with their team, I give them full credit for the day (categorized under formative points in my gradebook). You could specifically assess speaking and listening as students will be “engag[ing] effectively in a range of collaborative discussions”!
What are the benefits of doing an escape room with students?
- Team Building — Escape rooms encourage collaboration skills, which can promote team bonding and leadership development.
- Ice breaking — Escape rooms provide an authentic way for students to get to know each other. It breaks the ice in a less threatening and awkward way.
- Active engagement — Even your most unengaged students will likely come alive during an escape room — escape rooms are a great way to get the class actively involved with learning.
Do I need extra equipment for a classroom escape room?
No! The best feature of classroom escape rooms is how FLEXIBLE they are — you can make them easy, hard, cheap, expensive…or somewhere in the middle.
Here are just a few ways you can customize your escape room:
- You can use GoogleForms in lieu of purchasing locks.
- You can use existing worksheets, tests, or quizzes instead of creating complex tasks from scratch.
- You can hand out free rewards instead of purchased prizes.
- You can make your escape room completely digital instead of printing paper-based tasks.
What rewards should I give my students?
I’ve noticed that when I do escape rooms, students don’t focus too much on the reward — they are usually smiling and chatting with their group mates, immersed in the fun and happy that they finished. The rewards are typically an afterthought for them!
For escape rooms, my go-to rewards are late assignment coupons and a piece of candy. If you are looking for some non-food based rewards, check out my article on 31 rewards for your classroom that aren’t food!
You can also have some “We broke out!” posters and props ready for students to take pictures when they finish!