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Classroom Escape Room

Escape rooms, also known as breakout challenges, are a trendy activity. So, it is no surprise that classroom escape rooms are popping up in schools around the world. Escape room puzzles are great activities for students! Not only are they fun, but they also invoke several twenty-first century skills such as critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. Classroom escape room challenges can also be used for several purposes. For example:

  • On the First Day of School: The first day of school can be boring for students as it involves going over rules and procedures. Why not get your students up and moving? Introduce them to the school rules and procedures with an escape room activity!
  • Introduce New Content: Students can often self-check escape room puzzles, making it a fun way to introduce new material.
  • Test Review: Before state testing, escape rooms are a great way to ease the tension and make learning fun.

Escape rooms are a fun and challenging way for students to learn and review information, but they can be time-consuming and expensive for teachers to create. In this post, I will show you how to create an easy and inexpensive classroom escape room your students are sure to love!

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There are many fun and inexpensive activities you can use to help students review information as part of a classroom escape room.

Setting Up an Escape Room

There are two things every classroom escape room needs to engage and challenge students: a fun theme and a time limit. For example, I give each of my social studies escape rooms a time travel theme. I tell students they are traveling back in time to learn about events and people from a specific era.

Students are also told that they only have a certain amount of time to complete the challenge. If they do not complete the challenge in the given amount of time, the time machine will malfunction and the class will be unable to return to the future. Having this theme and time limit catches the students’ attention and forces them to use their problem-solving skills to complete the challenge in time.

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Every classroom escape room needs a theme. Try using a time travel theme for a social studies escape room.

For each of the escape room clues, there should be stations set up around the classroom where students will complete each puzzle or activity. There can be as few or as many puzzles that are needed to teach or review the content. For me, having five to seven puzzles works best. Also, consider whether students must complete the puzzles in a specific order or if they can move through the puzzles in any order. I like to create my classroom escape rooms so that students can move through the puzzles in any order. This prevents the stations from becoming too crowded.

Escape Room Clue Ideas

When coming up with escape room puzzles, the possibilities are endless. Here are five of my favorite escape room ideas for the classroom.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw Puzzles are a great escape room classroom activity, but remember that students need to actually discover something as they put the jigsaw puzzles together. For example, in my Harlem Renaissance Escape Room, students put together jigsaw puzzles to reveal paintings from the Harlem Renaissance. Not only do students get to examine art from era, but they also have to decode a message that I have hidden in each jigsaw puzzle. The message can only be read after the jigsaw puzzles are complete.

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Students love completing jigsaw puzzles as part of my Harlem Renaissance Escape Room!

Hidden Messages

My favorite classroom escape room activities are ones where students decode messages. Most students say these are their favorite puzzles to solve. Puzzles that involve decoding messages are also great tools for practicing critical thinking and inference skills. Some of my favorite hidden message activities include:

  • Pigpen Cipher: A pigpen cipher uses geometric symbols to represent letters. Using a key that is a grid, students decode a pigpen cipher message. There are many pigpen cipher fonts available online as a free download so that you can begin creating your own hidden messages with pigpen ciphers.
  • Color-Coded Message: I like color-coded messages because these types of hidden messages require students to complete several steps. First, students must read a short passage. Letters within the passage are highlighted using different colors. As students read, they write down the colored letters. Second, students must sort the colored letters to reveal words. Each set of colors represents one word. For example, all the blue letters make one work, all the green letters make another word, etc. Third, after students have determined each of the words, they must correctly arrange the words to create a phrase or sentence.
  • Symbol Message: With a symbol message, each letter of the alphabet is represented by a symbol. Students are given a key that shows what symbol is used to represent each letter. I like to add an additional challenge to my symbol messages by removing some symbols from the key. By adding an extra layer of critical thinking, students not only have to decode the message, but they also have to determine which symbols represent certain letters to be able to fully decode the message. To create symbol messages, I download doodle fonts from Teachers Pay Teachers.
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Pigpen ciphers are some of my students favorite escape room activities!
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Color-coded messages require students to complete several steps and use critical thinking.
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Using symbol messages, students decode quotes and excerpts from famous books.

Media

Depending on the topic of the classroom escape room, media may work well as part of one of the puzzles. For example, in my Jazz Age Escape Room, I have an activity where students have to listen to different songs from the era and answer questions about the songs. A video about a person or discovery, news footage, or a slideshow could also be used to go along with a topic.

Newspaper Headlines

Another great classroom escape room activity involves having students read a newspaper article. Students can answer comprehension questions about what they read or look for a hidden message within the article. The Newspaper Clipping Generator is a great tool for creating your own short newspaper article clippings. For my social studies escape rooms, I like to create articles about historical events. An article about a scientific discovery would be great for a science escape room or a book review would work well for a language arts escape room.

Graphs and Charts

Being able to read graphs and charts is an important skill. Have students practice this skill in an escape room activity. Students can analyze a graph or chart and answer questions about what they find. In my Cold War Escape Room, I have students learn about the Arms Race by analyzing graphs that compare U.S. and Soviet nuclear weapons. It is easy to find graphs and charts online that are related to any subject or create your own in Microsoft Office.

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In my Cold War Escape Room, students analyze graphs to answer questions and create a code.

Ending a Classroom Escape Room

I have seen teachers use different methods for ending a classroom escape room activity. When using boxes with locks, students earn keys as they complete each challenge. The keys unlock the box and reveal a prize. While this method is fun, it is also expensive and time consuming for the teacher.

The classroom escape room method that I have found to work best uses technology. I have students gather codes as they complete each of the puzzles. After they have finished each of the puzzles, they input the final code into a Google Form to see if they correctly completed the puzzles. If students get an error message after imputing the codes, they know that they have to go back and re-do a puzzle. Not only is using Google Forms fun for the students, but it also is a great way for students to self-check their work.

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Using this Google Form, students check their answers by submitting their final code.

By using Google Forms, students can also unlock a message that goes along with the theme. In the case of my social studies escape rooms, inputting the final code allows students to travel back to the present with their pretend time machine. When students type in the correct code, they unlock a message. The message congratulates them for fixing the time machine and tells them that they have successfully returned to the future.

By inputting the correct code, students also unlock a worksheet. The worksheet summarizes all of the information learned through the different puzzles and activities. There are also options to have students unlock a video message, which can be another great way to keep the theme going through the entire escape room activity.

Are you interested in learning more about using Google Forms to have students unlock the final code? Check out the following YouTube video to learn more!

Creating an Escape Room with Google Forms

If you are teaching virtually, you may be wondering if it is still possible to complete a classroom escape room. Recently, I have converted all of my science escape rooms into digital escape rooms using Google Forms. Students are loving these escape room challenges and it has been a great way to keep them engaged remotely.

To create these digital classroom escape rooms, I still use a theme, a time limit, and a series of fun puzzles and activities. The only difference is that I ensure students can respond to all of the challenges inside of Google Forms. You can learn more about how I create digital classroom escape rooms in the following video.

Conclusion

Overall, classroom escape rooms are a great way to review content and to get students using twenty-first century skills. Some teachers avoid DIY escape rooms due to time and expense. Keep in mind, classroom escape rooms do not have to be expensive or time-consuming. By creating a fun theme, having students complete engaging puzzles, and incorporating technology, you can create an escape room for the classroom that is both inexpensive and not time-consuming to create. Best of all, students will be excited to learn when they know that they will be completing an escape room classroom activity!

Thinking about using escape rooms in your classroom this year? Make sure to save the image below to Pinterest. Then, you can refer to this post for ideas and inspiration later on!

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