If you haven’t tried an escape room with your students yet, St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect opportunity! That tricky leprechaun can “visit” and leave all sorts of fun riddles and hijinks for your students! Not only will your students be completely engaged but they will also be
- Working together as a team.
- Using critical thinking and problem-solving skills to solve riddles and puzzles.
- Completing challenges that get them to think.
- Having hands-on fun
- Using their imaginations.
- Working together to solve a problem.
- Showcasing their unique skills.
Setting up an escape room does not have to be complicated! No special props are needed! All you really need is a good story and some fun puzzles for clues. Young students’ imaginations can do the rest! Here is how I set up a fun St. Patrick’s Day escape room for kindergarten. The ideas can be adapted for any elementary classroom.
Get Students “Hooked” with a Fun Story or Problem
The first thing you need when setting up your escape room is an engaging story or problem for students to solve. This sets the stage for the activity and gets them “hooked” and ready to go “all in”.
The lore of the leprechaun creates the perfect scenario for a fun St. Patrick’s Day escape room! Since leprechauns are known for their trickery, I like to “set the stage” for the escape room by rearranging some things in the classroom to make it seem like the leprechaun has visited.
For example, I may turn over a few chairs, place a few books on the floor, rearrange our alphabet posters and turn some posters upside down to see if the students notice anything peculiar.
After we figure out that a leprechaun has visited and is playing some tricks on us, I “discover” a note that he left.
I then show them the next two pages.
We look at the pages and I use guiding questions to help students figure out that there are gold coin clues for each pot on the answer sheet and the pictures on the gold coin clues begin with the blends on the pots of gold. We deduce that it’s important to match the correct clue with the correct pot of gold when filling in our riddle answers for the leprechaun.
Base the Clues on Skills You are Learning or Reviewing
No need to hunt for or design elaborate clues. Simply use activities, puzzles, or mazes for the skills that you are currently learning or skills that you wish to review.
It is a great idea to incorporate a wide variety of skills into your escape room so that all students can showcase their abilities. The clues should be challenging but not too difficult as to be frustrating for students.
To make it a little more fun and suspenseful for students, you can place each clue inside an envelope. The envelope hides the clue from sight and students get excited about opening or “unlocking” each one. Any type of envelope you have on hand will work. Personally, I like using the large 9″ x 12″ or 10″ x 13″ ones. You can also hide the clues around the room for students to find.
I like to hide the clues for the St. Patrick’s Day escape activity to make it seem as if it is part of the leprechaun’s trickery.
The clues that I use for the St. Patrick’s Day escape are based on skills we are currently doing and ones that we have covered. I feel it is best to let students figure out on their own how to solve the clues and then how to use their answers on the answer sheet. It is a fun way to improve their problem-solving skills.
Whole Class or Small Groups?
Students should work together as a team to complete the escape room.
If this is your first time doing an escape room, you may want to do it as a whole class in order to show students how escape rooms work. You present the story and problem to the class. If you have hidden the clues around the room, you can give students hints as to where they are located. Once they think they know the location, choose a student to retrieve each one. Work together to solve the clues.
After you do a couple of escape rooms as a class, if you feel your students can complete the clues independently and know they can work together well in groups, then you may want to complete the escape room using small groups. Start out as a whole group while you present them with the story or problem. Then, you can split them up into small groups.
Since by this time of year we have done a few escape rooms, I use small groups. I hide each group’s clues by something green in their assigned area.
Before sending students in groups, I like to remind them of our guidelines:
•They can only work on solving one clue at a time.
•Everyone in the group must be working together on the same clue.
•They can not open the next clue until the current clue is solved.
•Everyone in the group must have a chance to participate and help solve the clue (one person can not do everything, take turns recording answers, work together as a team to solve the clues).
Time Limit or No Time Limit?
You can add an extra challenge to the escape room by setting a time limit for the students to complete the escape. If using a time limit, I suggest posting the time remaining somewhere the students can clearly see it and announcing the time remaining every once in a while. Be sure that the time limit you choose gives students a good chance at success.
Personally, with my young kindergarten students I do not use a time limit because my objectives for the escape room are to review skills, problem solve, and work as a team, not focus on beating the clock. However, it does add an extra challenge for older students or students who are familiar with doing escape rooms.
Problem-Solving & Deductive Reasoning Skills
Students work together to solve the clues that the leprechaun left them making sure they are recording their answers in the correct places on the answer sheet.
After all the groups have completed their clues, we go over them together and do one more challenge. Students use inference skills and deductive reasoning to narrow down a list of possible leprechaun suspects until only one is left.
I show them the following card and say something like, “I was able to narrow it down to 6 possible leprechauns that could be the tricky leprechaun that visited us, but I need your help to figure out which one it is”.
I give each student a copy so they can get a “closer look at the suspects” and then I say clues such as, “Another school reported that the leprechaun with one bow in her hair was at their building today at the same time.” Students deduce that Clover could not be both here and at another school at once and cross her off the list. We continue until they figure out the correct leprechaun. They love it!
Ending the Escape Room
It is nice to have some sort of fun celebration or ending to the escape room to celebrate a job well done. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, some sort of simple prize or reward “from the leprechaun”.
For my St. Patrick’s Day escape room, after we figure out that Lucky Leprechaun was the one tricking us, I “discover” another note and read it to the students.
While setting up the escape room, I hid certificates & gold coins in a green bin up high on a shelf (a place that the students would not be looking when searching for the clues earlier). After we discuss where the surprise may be, I look towards it and say, “Hmmm….I don’t remember that green bin being up there before…” and go investigate. Inside are the awards signed by “Lucky Leprechaun” along with some of his gold coins.