You may not have been to an escape room, but it is likely you’ve heard of them. Escape rooms are extremely popular right now. The basic premise is this; you and a few others are locked in a room and have 60 minutes to use clues and objects to solve puzzles and escape the room.
Escape rooms allow for team-building, engagement, critical thinking, and problem solving. These skills are essential in the classroom, so why not build your own escape room to do in class?
Creating an escape room takes time and can seem overwhelming. We’ve broken it down into a few simple steps to help you get orientated.
Step One: Determine Your Goal
You may choose to use this activity simply for team-building, but most of you probably want to use this game as part of your curriculum. It’s important to have a clear goal so you can achieve this.
Do you want students to learn specific information during the game, or do you want the game to enhance the material you’ve discussed in class? The puzzles may even require knowledge from previous class assignments. Once you’ve decided on the learning objectives of the activity it becomes much easier to plan everything else.
Step Two: Consider Your Classroom Space
You don’t want to create amazing puzzles if your classroom doesn’t have space for them. How much space do you have when you move the desks? Where can objects be hidden without being too difficult? Once you have a better idea of the layout you have to work with, it is much easier to design your escape room.
If possible you may consider moving your escape room to another part of the building. The stage of an auditorium is particularly good for this. Talk to your administration to see if this would be possible.
Step Three: Design The Puzzles
The puzzles are the most important part of the escape room. You want to provide a variety of puzzles both in terms of difficulty levels and type. Every puzzle should not involve wordplay, for example.
Using math and numbers is a great place to start. Riddles and other wordplay puzzles are also simple to design. Using blacklight is a great way to give clues to students. Make sure there’s enough to do in the activity space so students can work in groups, and are not left fighting over the one available clue.
Step Four: Plan Puzzle Specifics
A successful escape room has many puzzles, red herrings, and tasks that cannot be completed until other puzzles are solved. The tough part is figuring out how to juggle all these tasks. Make sure each solved puzzle will lead students to another puzzle so they can see they are making progress.
Here’s an example. On your whiteboard there can be a passage of text with certain letters bolded. These bolded letters form a word, which tells your students where they will find a decoder. This decoder can be used to provide a number for a combination lock, which opens a container with another clue.
Step Five: Do A Test Run
This may involve you mapping out the game on your own or with a co-worker. You want to make sure the puzzles all make sense and lead to the desired outcome. If there are holes in your game students will become understandably frustrated.
It helps to think about the puzzle as if you were doing it yourself. Are there any jumps in logic you’d not make on your own? Do the clues lead to each other clearly? If not make some edits, but if they do you’re ready to present the challenge to your students.
Step Six: Evaluate
After your escape room activity is complete, ask for feedback from students. Take note of what worked and what didn’t. Make sure all the learning objectives were met. Can your escape room be improved? How can it be tweaked for next year if you plan to try it again?
We understand that even with these steps you may be intimidated by the idea of creating puzzles. They don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Here are some supplies you may want for your escape room and some puzzle ideas:
- Combination Locks
- Directional Locks
- Blacklight Pens
- UV Flashlights (Several For The Entire Class)
- Containers & Cabinets
- Books (To Mark Passages, Hide Items, Etc)
- Create A Secret Code
- Embed A Clue In A Reading Passage
- Hidden Objects
- Connect-The-Dots To Form A Pattern
- Create A Clue That Can Only Be Read With A Mirror
- Create A Glow In The Dark Clue
- Leave An Unfinished Crossword Puzzle In The Room
- Use colored stickers, crepe paper, etc to mark off areas in the classroom not to be explored in the game.
- Storage lockers and locking filing cabinets make for great obstacles.
- Allow students to decide as a class to ask for a hint, but limit the amount of hints they can use.
- Use props and lighting to create ambiance.
- Offer an incentive to students for if they “escape” in time.
- Have fun!
If you’ve done an escape room in your classroom we want to hear about it! Have any tips for a teacher just starting out? Post about it in the comments!