Escape room activities are a fun and interactive way to work on the skills kids need. My favorite part about escape room activities is that they really encourage cooperation and critical thinking skills. Kids work together and use their collective brain power to solve a variety of puzzles and challenges. When an escape room is set up well, the educator can really just sit back and let the students do all the work!
If you want to skip these steps and get started with escape room challenges already created for you, consider this Escape Room Bundle for Social Emotional Learning filled with escape room challenges for critical social emotional skills. It includes over five separate escape room activities that cover skills such as conflict resolution, executive functioning, managing emotions, coping skills, and more. Note that anyone can use it! It would be perfect for resource rooms and advisory groups, too.
Here are seven easy steps for how to use escape room challenges with your learners:
1. Plan what skills you want kids to learn or practice. Kids can practice any skill when solving an escape room activity. Kids can work on math, reading, science, history, or any other topic. My favorites are learning to manage emotions and developing executive functioning skills. Really, the topic and skills are entirely up to you and the needs of your learners.
2. Plan and set up the challenges. Create puzzles and interactive challenges that align with the skills you want to teach. If you want kids to practice their reading skills, include a reading passage with questions to answer. If you want your learners building on their skills with fractions, add puzzles that ask students to match equivalent fractions or solve calculations. The options are endless! Once students solve each challenge, it should give them a special key, code, or lead them to a special destination in the room. Of course, the easiest option is to use escape room challenges that have already been created for you. Just print, sort the challenges into envelopes, hide around the room, and you are ready to go.
3. Hide the challenges in designated locations. This step is optional but adds a huge element of excitement to your escape rooms. Creating a scavenger hunt style escape room is especially fun for small groups. Kids absolutely love feeling like detectives and forget they are in a classroom! Just give a clue that asks students to look in the history book or encourages kids to check underneath a chair. This can be a bit harder for larger groups or whole classes, but can be done!
4. Set the stage. Give kids a fun (and maybe silly) reason for the challenge. Whether aliens are taking over or a zoo got loose, kids need a reason to work together and escape the room. Giving a great introduction can help kids really get into the escape room to start.
5. Add supports and accommodations. Incorporate “Clue Cards” to help groups who may need extra support or guidance along the way. Students can use these cards as a simple way to get extra help when they are stuck. Best of all, you can choose how many to give to each group or just pass one out when you see kids are in a bind. I also like to give students a worksheet that helps them keep track of their clues and key words as they solve the challenges.
6. Start the timer. The best escape room challenges are timed to help kids feel like they need to solve before the timer is up. This really motivates kids and young adults to work together since they have a deadline for their challenge. You can choose the time, depending on your learners and the activities given. For your first time, it’s best to give longer than you think the kids will need since you ultimately want them to succeed and escape the room in time.
7. Encourage teamwork. Take a step back and let students know they are in charge. Let them read each challenge and use the resources around them to figure out how to solve. Try to avoid giving too much help, unless your students are really stuck. The magic of escape rooms happen when kids work together and finally figure things out on their own!
If you aren’t sure how your students will do with escape room challenges, try this Free Executive Functioning Escape Room Activity. It is one activity that allows students to work on their working memory and attention skills to decode a special message. This can help you gauge how your students will do with other escape room activities.
If you’re curious, give it a try and see how your students do! You will be amazed at how well your students work together to escape the room and beat the challenge! Be sure to read up on 10 reasons why you should be using escape room activities with kids and young adults!