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135: When Students Design Escape Rooms

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Sometimes when we explore new technologies, it helps to bring students along for the ride. After all, they often know more than we do, and can bring wonderful insights and creativity into the process of learning. The first time I assigned a podcasting project, I had no idea how to actually record one. The first time I had my students use digital technology to create a book that we really had printed for our library, I had never done such a thing. And let’s not even go into that first year I spent as an adviser to the journalism program! As my Norwegian grandma says, “Uff-da!”

Maybe you’re just starting to dip your toes into designing escape rooms for your students, or maybe you’ve already leaped off the cliff and into the lake. Either way, why not get your students involved? Today in episode 135, I’m going to share alllll the details (and the free curriculum set) to get you started with student-designed escape rooms. You’ll find out when to use the project, why to use the project, and how to use the project. And oh yes, there’s definitely a rubric inside the curriculum set, don’t worry, you’ll also be able to grade the project.

Ready? You can listen in on the player below, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and more. Or – read on!

Why Do an Escape Room Project with your Students?

OK, let’s be real. Escape rooms are awesome, but even with the shortcuts I’ve shared this month, they aren’t the kind of thing you can throw together at the end of the kind of long days everyone is having right now. So if you want to bring them into your classroom more often, getting kids involved in designing them benefits everyone!

Then there’s the real-world aspect of a project like this. Escape rooms are popular all over the place these days, and your students may well have been to one or heard about them. It’s always a good thing when there’s a clear tie between using their ELA skills and the actual work of the world. Like a web design or infographic project, a passion blog or social media project, an escape room project is a chance for students to use their critical thinking and develop their writing in a real-world context.

When to Do an Escape Room Project

I suggest you use this type of project after having students complete an escape room or two in class, so they’re quite familiar with the concept. That way you don’t have to give alllll the background and can dive into creation.

Then you just need to decide what type of content you want your students to cover with their rooms. Here are some ideas for you.

How to do An Escape Room Project with Students

Alright, so your students are excited for the project and you’ve got a great idea for content you want them to cover. The easiest option is to have students create digital escape rooms so there isn’t a ton of set-up for each group, and because that way you can provide them with a template to get the ball rolling (remember, I’ve got a free one all sorted for you that you can sign up for in a second).

The template (whether you use mine or design your own) can be a simple Google slide deck, with a room on the first slide with objects inside linked out to clue slides. As long as you put a “GO BACK” button on each clue slide, students can then play the final rooms in present mode and get a live, interactive view. The simplest option for students to create locks is simply to design a handout with the lock questions and print it out. It saves the trouble of teaching the complicated steps to design a Google form with answer verification.

A few suggestions:

  • You may wish to assign the groups yourself. On the first day, look at the assignment together, give out the groups and topics, and give students time to begin brainstorming their content, locks, and story.
  • Provide several days in class for creating the rooms and coming up with their frame stories and locks.
  • When students have completed their rooms, they should make their shows public on the web in the sharing settings and send the link to you, with “present” subbed in for the word “edit.” Then you can link to their room so that their classmates see it with a live interactive view. 
  • When the rooms are complete, let students play! You can spread out the rooms across several days or weeks, or have students choose one or two rooms to play, depending on how you structure the assignment.

How to Grade your Student Escape Room Project

As with so many creative projects, grading an activity like this can seem intimidating. I suggest you use a rubric to make it easy on yourself, so I’ve included one in the curriculum set.

The Curriculum Set to Make it Easy

The student handouts in the curriculum set I’ve designed for you guide kids through creating the content, story, and locks for their room, and provide template slides that are already linked from a room to house the hints and content. Ideally, students will add additional slides or objects in the room that link out to podcasts, videos, images, etc that they find or create to help teach their material. If you’d like to use this set, just sign up for my (free) weekly Friday emails below, and I’ll send it along!

    OK, that’s a wrap, my friend! You’ve got the curriculum and knowledge in place and all you need to do is schedule this project into your planner for the upcoming months. Good luck!

    By the way, are we hanging out over on Instagram yet? I’ve been sharing all my adventures abroad over there lately, and I’d love to connect there with you if you want to come along to Bratislava with us!

    hey there!

    I'm Betsy

    I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!







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    • This is awesome- my kids are loving the Poe room, and are excited to follow it up with their own Transcendentalist escape rooms. Thanks for the ideas and templates!


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