This post originally appeared on the blog ELA Buffet by Darlene Anne.
The shrieking zombies on the other side of the door got louder. Sweat trickled down my neck, as we struggled to find a cure before it was too late. Then, with minutes to spare, my husband dug deep and discovered his inner Indiana Jones, enabling us to find the final piece of the puzzle!
We escaped the escape room!
As we left, we were already planning our next escape. And I became determined to find a way to create an escape room experience for my students.
The Appeal of Escape Rooms
Escape Rooms in Education
I searched around for some escapes to do with my students, and I came up with a list of requirements for what I began to call The Perfect Classroom Escape.
Escape Room Requirements
1. It has to be based on our curriculum. I really can’t justify one that is purely fun, as our time together is so limited.
2. It can’t require expensive props. Many escapes and breakouts necessitate the purchase of locks and boxes with codes. I’m sure these can be a heck of a lot of fun, but I don’t want to spend money on locks. And I’ve heard stories about kids who change lock combinations, ruining the experience for others. So I need escapes that include everything I need, except basics, like paper or folders.
3. It needs a variety of final solutions. I teach 5 classes, which almost guarantees that by the time 8th period comes around the solution would be blown. I need more than one possible ending.
4. It has to be fairly quick and easy to put together. I don’t mind an initial set-up of 10-15 minutes, but I only have four minutes between classes to get ready for the next class’s escape. The set-up has to be lightning fast.
5. It has to require critical thinking AND teamwork; not just kids working side by side pretending to be a team.
6. It needs a compelling backstory and plot. The setting has to orient the players and the characters have to be engaging.
7. It needs the wow factor. What is the wow factor? It’s the immersion part. The Disneyesque part. It’s what engages the kids so they’re excited to be in this strange situation while feeling an urgency to beat the clock and reap the rewards.
What I Found
What I Did About It
I complained about it. A lot. To a friend.
I suspect that Pam immediately began to regret her decision when I gave her my daunting list of requirements (I could swear I once heard her mutter “someone” was high maintenance…). But we soldiered through and came up with a plan.
Designing an Escape Challenge
Step 1: Come up with a plan.
Step 2: Figure out how the kids can achieve the escape.
Step 3: Create that Disneyesque immersion experience to set the scene, lend atmosphere, and add urgency.
Step 4: Incorporate real learning tasks.
Step 5: Watch and enjoy!
By the way, did I mention where that last clue was for the zombie escape?
It may or may not have been on the seat of the chair I was sitting on.
I’ll never tell.
You can get some cool ready-made Escape Rooms below. Enjoy!
Darlene Anne has taught almost every grade level from 3rd through 12th, but her heart belongs in middle school, where she has taught ELA for more than a dozen years. She also adores animals (which some people say also explains why she loves middle school students). Darlene offers a glimpse into her classroom, teaching resources, and life at her blog, ELA Buffet. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, and her TpT store, Darlene Anne.