As an educator, one of my biggest passions is creating memorable lessons that challenge students content knowledge, engage in critical thinking, and hone leadership skills. Currently, I teacher 9th and 11th grade World History and I get to learn from some really intelligent, kind, and sometimes silly kiddos. With teaching two different grade levels but covering the same content area, I strive to build engaging lessons that are transferrable between the two sections and modify the classes rather than developing two different unit plans. At the end of this semester, I asked students feedback on the type of lessons they enjoyed and would like to see again. Hands down the most common response was our Escape Room!
CLASSROOM SET UP
Typically the classroom is set up into rows, but for the Escape Room I placed them into 6 tables (using the desks) of 5 individuals. Each table was labeled with a name and had a sticky note on one desk. The front of the room had a long table which held each of the materials and clues. I used this as my “station” where I provided students with the next clues, tracked progress, and reviewed answers. Lastly, I had the front white board as a tracking sheet so as each group would complete a phase (after I approved it), I would post their score on the board. This heightened the competitive aspect and made it fun and interactive. For differentiation purposes, I intentionally placed specific students in groups based on assessment data thorough out the unit.
TIP: Ensure all backpacks/purses are lining the back wall or out of the ways!
With 5 people at each desk, and to ensure everyone was staying on task, there were two specific student roles. The first was the team captain. At each table, I had a sticky note sitting on one desk and whoever sat at that seat was the “team captain” for the Escape Room. I used a random selection sticky note in hopes to have different students in leadership roles within the groups. The second was the note-taker. After each round of clues, the students would rotate who was the note-taker for the team. This held each student accountable and helped me monitor who was staying on (or off task). The only person who did not serve as the note-taker was the team captain.
My role was to monitor each group, check for understanding, and track what clue number each individual group was working on on the front white broad. The visual tracking sheet heightened the competition and increased motivation.
SUPPLIES & DIRECTIONS
For the Escape Room itself, I used Google Forms. For each of the different clues in the Escape Room, there was a corresponding section in the Google Form that had an excerpt or article reading and questions. At the beginning students were only given one clue to which they had to read and answer the questions in the Google Form. Then, the team captain would raise his/her hand and I go to their table and review the answers to their questions. In addition to reading their responses, I would ask specific verbal questions as well. Once the section was completed, they would receive the second clue (ie another piece of paper with an excerpt, summary, or image) that they had to analyze and answer the subsequently clue/section 2 questions. Each clue/section had at least 3-5 questions question that were specific to the clue’s prompt and required critical thinking. The questions were not seeking to understand if they can simply find the answer in the article but rather APPLY this concept and use facts/data to back it up. The students and I would repeat the process until a team had completed all clues and had “escaped”. The victors got candy!
Student Supplies: Laptop/Phone, Access to Google Forms
Teacher Supplies: Google Form, Multiple Print Outs of Each Clue, Expo Marker, White Board, Laptop
All students begin with Clue #1 and answer prompting questions on Google Forms.
Once group has completed Clue #1, the team captain raises his/her hand and the teacher checks answers for understanding via Google Form review & verbal questions (pre-determined list).
Then, teacher gives the completed group Clue #2.
Next, teacher marks on the board which group has completed Clue #1 so the whole class is aware of each others progress.
Once group has completed Clue #2, the team captain raises his/her hand and the teacher checks answers for understanding via Google Form review & verbal questions (pre-determined list).
Then, teacher gives the group Clue #3 and marks their progress on the white board.
This process repeats until the group is done and has officially “escaped”.
As the teacher, you are repeating these steps (often times out of order) for each group and constantly moving around the room to engage with students in conversation. This is when the tracker on the board became beneficial for me because I was able to visit a group and look to see which number they were on, observe how long each group was working on a clue, and be proactive in ensuring they are receiving their clues in a timely manner. Also, I really enjoyed the discussions I had with students, and observing the interactions they had amongst themselves. This enabled me to serve as a facilitator of learning and encouraged them to engage with one another on background knowledge and collaborate to solve the problems.
Ensure the Escape Room aligns with the curriculum. I used this as a review strategy so the students already had prior background knowledge and the articles/excerpts were supplemental tools to spearhead the conversations and discussions. However. each clue/section at least one inquiry question based upon state standards.
Be prepared. If there are 5 clues, make sure you print enough copies so that each table can have a complete set of clues at the end of the activity.
Hold them accountable. High schoolers love to find short cuts. Be sure to have each question as “required” on the form so they can’t move on until they have completed ALL of the questions. Also, make sure only you have access to each of the subsequently clues that way they have to complete each prompt thoroughly in order to move on.
Set up clear rules. Be sure review classroom norms and any additional behavior expectations before you begin. When students get competitive (or on just random days of the week lol ) they forget classroom behavior - so its really important to review it with them for good measure.
This was such a fun activity for the students and as the teacher! It was great seeing them interact with new students in the class and engage in critical analysis discussions. This was the perfect review activity because it got them actively engaged with the content and excited to keep digging for more information! I would highly recommend this activity and I can’t wait to do it again with my students this semester!
I would love to hear your thoughts on doing an Escape Room in the High School classroom. Is this something you would implement? If yes, why and what modifications would you make? If no, what’s your hesitation? If you have any questions about how to integrate this in your class and content area - I’d love to chat! You can send me a message here! I can’t wait to hear from you!