Has anyone else noticed that escape rooms are everywhere? They have become extremely popular. As for me, I’m not a big fan of being trapped in a tiny room with a group of people, trying to figure out clues in order to escape. However, this can be a great tool to use with students. Since escape rooms are so popular now, this would be a great way to engage and motivate students in your classroom in a very fun way.

Determine Your Purpose

First of all, you (and the students) must understand what the purpose of the challenge is. A class escape room is not meant to introduce brand new material, but to give students some hands-on, engaging experience with something they have already learned. As you are planning, make sure every clue, task, and challenge ties back to the purpose of the escape room lesson.

For example, if students are learning about how a bill becomes a law, every clue needs to be related in some way to that topic. Of course, you can come up with your own questions for your escape room challenge. But consider this: any worksheet can be used for an escape room challenge. We all know that worksheets are not the best, most engaging classroom activity; but take the questions or problems from a worksheet and turn that into your escape room questions/clues. Just do a bit of tweaking. No need to reinvent the wheel!

Get Your Boxes and Locks Ready

There are two ways to approach a class escape room lesson: physical locks/boxes or digital locks/boxes.

Physical locks/boxes – If you decide to go with physical boxes and locks, there are several options to choose from. You can choose ABC locks, 3-digit locks, 4-digit locks, or directional locks, just to name a few. Boxes for the locks can be purchased, of course. However, if you are crafty or know someone who is, there are some simple plans for building your own boxes online. Just search for “plans for building class escape room boxes”. There are lots of options. If you are able to do some light woodworking, you could save some money. Remember: Before presenting this challenge to your class, it is very important that you make sure you know how the locks work, how to clear them out and set up new codes, and how they work with your boxes.

Digital Escape Room – All escape rooms do not have to be physical. There are a lot of good options for doing it digitally. If you are at all techie, you can go online and find a variety of tutorials for creating your own digital escape rooms by using Google Forms, for example. You can create questions and codes for the locks. You can use words or numbers, so there is a lot of flexibility.

If you would like to explore the option of digital escape room lessons that are made for you, check out BreakoutEDU. This does require a subscription, but it may be something your school would consider purchasing, especially when considering the high level of engagement and the current popularity of these challenges. Again, just like with physical boxes and locks, go through it yourself before giving it to your class to make sure there are no missing pieces to your escape room puzzle.

Craft a Story with Riddles and Puzzles to Help Students Understand the Goal

Use stories and riddles within your puzzles to help the students understand what they need to locate. Get creative with your clue writing. This could also be a great way to review what students have already learned. Write stories and riddles that are challenging, but not too challenging, so students can understand what they need to look for and have some success to raise confidence at the same time. For extra fun, use invisible ink and black light flashlights to uncover some of the clues.

Organize Your Clues and Activities

Remember, for these class escape room challenges to be fun, they don’t have to be complicated. An escape room challenge can be fun and successful with as little as three boxes/locks. Or you can go all out and have 10 or more boxes/clues. Once you’ve determined the concepts students will be reviewing and the puzzles/riddles you’ll be using, you will now organize the whole activity.

Make sure you are setting up your clues in a logical order. Put slightly easier clues first so students have some success early on. If the clues get too difficult too fast, students can become discouraged and lack motivation to complete the task. Gradually increase the difficulty levels of the clues. That way, students get a new boost of confidence to propel them forward for the next, more challenging clue. Once again, walk through your clues to make sure everything is working properly and to ensure that you haven’t made any errors in your clues/codes/answers. After a huge buildup to this exciting activity, nothing could be worse than it falling flat because of errors that were made in organizing your activity. Make sure it works!

Take Time to Reflect

When you are beginning to use escape room lessons in your classroom, it will be a work in progress. Once the activity is done, both the teacher and students should reflect on what was learned. Ask students to give feedback on what worked and what could be improved. Be vulnerable and open with students so they will be open with you. Ask them what they needed more guidance or instruction on or how easy/difficult the clues seemed.

The benefits of class escape room lessons are vast. First of all, students learn teamwork and cooperation. It also provides an opportunity for students to apply their learning in a problem-solving environment that activates higher-order thinking skills. These benefits combined with the fact that escape rooms are engaging and all the rage right now tells me it’s worth giving it a try in your classroom. Your students will love it, and you will love seeing the look on their faces when that magical learning breakthrough takes place. It’s priceless!