– Rachel Slivon –
Transforming our classrooms into escape rooms for our students can promote a student-centered learning environment that facilitates active learning, critical thinking and teamwork. Let’s look at what an escape room is, what an escape room can look like in a classroom, and the steps for creating an escape room.
An escape room is a live team-based game in which people work together to solve a series of puzzles or accomplish a series of tasks in a given amount of time. The teams successfully escape the room if they solve the puzzles before they run out of time.
By creating a series of puzzles, problems or activities for students to work through in teams given a set amount of time, we can transform our classrooms into escape rooms. Students must complete one puzzle at a time and have each puzzle’s answers approved before their team can advance to the subsequent puzzle. If students solve all the puzzles in time, they “escape.”
Escape rooms can be flexible: you can build one that is just right for your students and your subject. For example, you may create an escape room with a series of puzzles that progressively introduce a new concept to your students. Or, you may use an escape room to review course material and skills. Whatever you use an escape for, you will be promoting an active, fun learning environment that fosters hands-on experience, critical thinking and problem-solving.
We can begin to transform our classrooms into escape rooms by following six guidelines. After each guideline below, you will find an example from my Professional Communication class that responds to each guideline. Let’s look at the six guidelines for creating escape rooms in our classrooms.
Example: I want my students to review the material we covered throughout our course. Specifically, I want my students to review how to create a strong presentation structure, how to effectively create PowerPoint slides, and how to use descriptive and emphatic gestures. These goals fulfill my course objective of having students create and deliver strong, dynamic presentations.
Example: My classroom is conducive to students working in teams. I have about 30 minutes to run my escape room. I have 24 students, so I will have six teams of four students. I will ask my students to bring their laptops since they will need their computers to complete some of the puzzles. I will provide envelopes that contain the other supplies the students will need.
Example: I have about 30 minutes to run the escape room. I will create a series of three puzzles for my escape room, and I anticipate each puzzle taking students about 10 minutes to complete. My three puzzles will have students review:
Each puzzle will review a different concept of skill.
Example: For my instructions, I will use short, numbered steps, bold and white space strategically to make the instructions clear and easy to read. I will ask a colleague to review my instructions for clarity. At the beginning of our escape room, I will project the overall escape room instructions to the class on our classroom’s screen and hand out hard copies to the students. For each puzzle, I will provide students with an envelope containing the instructions and the supplies the students will need to complete the puzzle.
Example: For teams that successfully complete the escape room in the given timeframe, I will provide a small bag of candy with a paper “key” that reads, “Congratulations, you have escaped!” For teams that do not complete the escape room in time, I will provide a small bag of candy with a paper that reads, “Congratulations for making it this far!”
Example: I will ask my students for feedback about the escape room immediately after we finish the activity. We will discuss what they thought went well, what challenges they encountered, and how the escape room could be improved. Then, a week later, I will solicit written feedback from my students via an online anonymous survey.
Like many Flipped Learning activities, building an escape room takes time, and it is well worth the effort. Escape rooms encourage our students to actively engage with our course material as they practice and refine their teamwork and critical thinking skills.