Using an Escape Room in the classroom is a super fun way to engage your students in any topic. But you do not need to spend countless hours making one, nor do you need to buy locks and boxes.
It is easy to turn (almost) any worksheet into an Escape Room!
If you are not familiar with the idea of the Escape Room, let me explain. Picture yourself and your closest friends (voluntarily) locked in a room.. You have a to mystery solve – and only sixty minutes to solve it.
You search the room, finding clues and using them to unlock more clues – eventually completing the mystery and Escaping from the Room.
Escape Room companies are popping up all over the place – there is even one now in my own tiny town. And they are expensive! (at least for this teacher’s salary) But people are willing to pay for the experience because it is so much fun.
Now, innovative and clever teachers all over the country have adapted the idea to making an Escape Rooms in the classroom.
I made an Escape Room last year for my high school Biology students for the Ecology unit. It took me over a month to get it all ironed out. It was super complicated, and involved begging, borrowing, and pleading to get a set of locks and boxes to go with it.
But it was awesome! The kids loved it! So I was determined to make at least one more that year.
I didn’t. It was so difficult! I chickened out.
However, I have recently seen another teacher rock a super easy-to-make Escape Room in the classroom that only took her fifteen minutes to set up – and did not even require the locks and boxes.
The basic ingredients of an Escape Room in the classroom are
- a purpose – some type of mystery to solve or goal to reach
- clues – a series of puzzles or questions to solve, one puzzle at a time, eventually leading to the goal
- something to unlock – a combination lock or access code – The answers are provided by the clues that students solve along the way
- a time limit (optional, but helpful) – students must complete the puzzles, open the locks, and reach the goal in a set amount of time. The choice to use a timer depends on your group of students. A time limit can drive motivation and focus, or it can add too much stress.
I have made an Escape Room just for you to see as an example! You will need this five digit code to get past the first lock: 22331.
The link to your Escape Room is at the bottom of the post. Feel free to jump there now, or read on to learn how to make one first!
The purpose of the Escape Room in the classroom is like the background story for the mystery, or puzzles, your students are trying to solve. It can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be.
For my Ecology Escape Room, the goal was to find the location of a fuel additive which had been hidden for safe keeping by the scientist who made it.
It is great if the purpose falls in line with the topic your students are learning, but it does not have to. The questions and puzzles which they solve will be full of content.
Maybe your students are finding a lost treasure hidden away by a made up (or historical) character. Maybe they are searching for an endangered species baby animal, separated from its mother.
They might be finding the destruct sequence for Artificial Intelligence trying to take over the classroom, or the cure for a super virus. Maybe they are racing to beat the bad guys to find the power amulet that will rule the world!
Having a background story makes things more interesting, but is not necessary. The goal can be just to get to the end and complete all of the puzzles.
It is always fun to find and recover something tangible at the end of the Escape Room. A hidden ‘treasure’ can be a bit of candy, or a coupon for a few points of extra credit.
Students can find a photograph of that baby lost animal, or a plastic jewel. The end could simply be a card that says ‘congratulations – you got a 100% – great job!”.
The solution for each clue must be a short word (or series of random letters) or sequence of numbers. These words or numbers will open the ‘locks’ that you have set up (more on those in a bit!), which then leads students to the next lock.
The clues are your content – whatever you want your students to be learning, reviewing, or practicing. This is where we take that old, tired worksheet and turn it into something amazing!
Find a worksheet with multiple choice questions, true false questions, matching, diagrams, and/or fill in the blank. On the worksheet, group the questions into sets of four to five questions each.
Each question set becomes a clue which must be deciphered by your students to get a key code, which will open a ‘lock’.
Since you already have your worksheet and questions, you can whip up an Escape Room in less than fifteen minutes – easy!
Multiple Choice question sets are the easiest to use to make Escape Rooms for the classroom. For example, your first clue can consist of five multiple choice questions.
The correct answers may be – A, C, D, A, B. Vola! You have just made a key code that opens the first lock – ACDAB!
A series of True/False questions can be used in the same way. When answered correctly, the students have the key code to the lock – TFTFF
Likewise, matching questions lead to a sequence of letters than can become a lock solution.
More question types:
Fill in the blank or questions that have a very specific single word/phrase answer are also easy to use. Set up four or five questions, and have students fill in the answer to each question in boxes, one box for each letter, similar to a crossword puzzle.
Underline or highlight a particular letter space. When students fill in the answer, the letter in that underlined space is part of the key code. Students will get the clue right only if they have filled in each set of answer boxes correctly.
I use this type of clue to spell out a particular word. If you want your kids moving around the room (or school campus), the word they spell out may be a location for them to head to for the next clue (Mrs Setzer’s room! the Front Office! the Computer Lab!) A set o numbers can take students to a locker or classroom (room number 224!).
Math questions are super simple to use for an Escape Room in the classroom. The answer to a single difficult question may be the key code.
Or, for more practice, have students enter answers into boxes, one number per box (like the crossword puzzle again) and underline a particular box for each answer. The sequence of numbers becomes the key code.
Diagrams can be made into key codes too. Give your students a diagram and ask them to label it. The key code can be the first letter of each label, in the order the labels are numbered.
The only question type that can not be used to make a key code is an open-ended question. These can still be part of an Escape Room in the classroom, but in a different way. (Keep reading to find out how!)
Something to Unlock
Okay, now that we have a bunch of clues and lock keys, we need some locks!
Of course, you could use actual combination locks that open actual boxes, bags, or bins. And they are so fun! But sometimes the funds are not available to buy them.
And sometimes they are just too complicated to fool with and to re-set between class periods! They are also sometimes unreliable. Last year, one of my groups got stuck on their final combination lock which just refused to open! Very sad.
So my best classroom friend, Google Forms, comes to the rescue. Google Forms is what makes the Escape Room in the classroom happen! You are going to make a form with a series of locks which will only unlock when the exact correct answer is typed in.
At the bottom of this post is an example Escape Room for you to play around with! Don’t worry, its easy to do.
Here is how to set it up.
First, create a question and choose ‘short paragraph’ as the question type. In the example here, my question says “Five Digit Lock”
Next, click on the three dots at the bottom right of the question, select ‘Response Validation’. This will bring up a handful of options for you to fill in.
The first option allows you to select what type of answer you are looking for. Since my question is “Five Digit Lock” the “number” choice is what I need.
If you want your combination code to be a word, however, you will want to choose ‘text’.
In the second section, choose “equal to” from the drop down menu. This will require the student has to type exactly the right series of numbers to ‘unlock’ it.
In the third field, type in your sequence of numbers (or letters). Then in the last field, type a message to your students that will pop up if they get it wrong. “Try again!”
Be sure that you check the “required” button at the bottom of the question. This ensures that students must answer correctly before being able to move to the next section!
For the next lock, add a new section by clicking the option to the right that looks like two parallel lines. Putting each Lock in its own section of the Google Form gives students access to only one lock at a time.
Students will have to solve each lock before gaining access to the next one. So much fun!
Well, that gives you all you really need to make an Escape Room in the classroom. However, that is not all you can do with the Google Form!
Add sections between locks that extend or enhance the Escape Room experience.
- Throw in extra content questions. These can be your short answer questions that can not be used for key codes. Students do not need to get them right to move on, but it will give you some data about how well they are learning, or remembering.
- Reflection questions or opinion questions work well for this too.
- Maybe add something completely different! A challenge! Solve a riddle. Decode a cipher (Here is a great list of easy ciphers!).
- Ask another student a question (What is your favorite ice cream flavor?) and record the answer in the Google Form.
- Instruct them to do something silly (or content-related) and take a picture of it!
For them to upload a picture to the Google Form, add a question and choose ‘file upload’ as the question format.
Again, none of these extras are necessary, but they can make the Escape Room a lot more fun and interactive!
**Teaching Tip!** Always use the “view” button to try out your Google Form BEFORE you give it to your kids. I have caught SO many mistakes before hand by doing this! This is especially true when making complicated Forms like an Escape Room!
When you go to an Escape Room, a time limit is not absolutely necessary, but it makes things more fun! The pressure of solving all the clues in a set amount of time is part of the challenge.
A time limit can be great for your students if you feel like it will increase the fun, and/or help them stay focused. It can help the whole class stay at the same pace, and prevent ending up with everyone waiting around for one group to finish.
If you do have a time limit, you will need to think about the penalty for not finishing. Maybe they get points based on the percentage of the challenges they did complete. Or will you want them to finish outside of class?
But you have to know your students. For some, the time limit would just add stress and anxiety.
Want to see an example of how this will look for your students? Here is a Teach Every Day Escape Room I made just for you! This is how it would look for your students.
If you want to see how it looks on the teacher end (and play around with it) click Here. It will prompt you to make a copy, which you can experiment with and use as you like!
Related: Are you in love with Google Forms? Making an Escape Room in the classroom is just one of the seven new ways to use Google Forms!