It can be tough to keep young students engaged as the school year winds down, but an end of the year escape room activity can be just the ticket! The hands-on, interactive challenge will stimulate their imaginations and keep them entertained while they work together to review and reinforce what they’ve learned throughout the year.
I started creating escape rooms for kindergarten after doing a few with my family and having such a great time! They have been such a huge hit, with both students and teachers begging for more which is why I decided to create one for the end of the school year.
In this post I’m sharing how I set up a fun end of the year escape room for kindergarten – first grade. However, the ideas in the post can be adapted for any elementary classroom. Learn how to create an escape room and keep your students entertained right up to the last day of school!
If you have not done an escape room with your students, they have many benefits.
The Benefits of Doing an Escape Room in Your Classroom
- They are engaging and fun for students.
- They promote working together as a team.
- Students use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to solve riddles and puzzles.
- They are challenging and get students to think.
- They are hands-on.
- Students use their imaginations.
- Students work together to solve a problem.
- Students can showcase their unique skills.
Get Students “Hooked” with a Fun Scenario/Problem
The first thing you need when setting up your escape room is an engaging problem for students to solve or a scenario for either your students or a favorite character to escape. This sets the stage for the activity and gets them “hooked” and ready to go “all in”.
The story or scenario should be something that inspires your students to want to get involved. It can be based on a favorite book, a fun place or activity, or your students’ interests.
For example, for my end of the year escape room I decided to use the scenario of a class graduation since that is something to which my class could relate (and are very excited about!). I used animals as the characters since young students love all kinds of animals and are always willing to help them.
It helps if you have some type of visual to “set the stage”. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just some type of picture to get their attention and then their imaginations can do the rest. I simply created pictures in PowerPoint using clip art that I had.
You can choose to print out the pictures or save ink by showing them in Google Slides on your smartboard.
Here are the animals coming to school for their big graduation ceremony and discovering that the door to the school has extra locks on it and they can’t get inside!
Tommy Turtle calls his friend, Detective Danny Dog, for help.
Time Limit or No Time Limit for Students?
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, for the first few escape rooms I did with my young kindergarten students I did not use a time limit because my objectives for the escape room were to review skills, problem solve, and work as a team, not focus on beating the clock. However, it does add an extra challenge for after they become more familiar with doing them or if they are very familiar with the skills used in the clues .
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.
Here are some examples of how to incorporate a variety of skills into an end of the year escape room for kindergarten or first grade.
I showed students this card and explained that Detective Danny Dog has sniffed out a briefcase that contains 5 clues and there are five locks on the door. I then asked leading questions to get them to come to the conclusion that the number on each lock is represented by place value blocks on each clue.
In order to solve the clues and find the combinations for the locks, students had to use skills that we were currently working on and skills that we had already learned (great review!).
Problem-Solving & Deductive Reasoning Skills Escape Room Activities
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 as the correct combinations for the locks. It is a fun way to improve their problem-solving skills.
For the end of the year escape room, students had to figure out which answers went to which lock.
I also love adding an extra challenge at the end of our escape rooms. Students had to use inference skills and deductive reasoning to narrow down a list of dog suspects until only one was left.
I read clues such as, “A dog with spots was spotted all the way on the other side of town in the park playing ball with his owner last night.” Students had to deduce that Spot could not have been the one that tried to stop the graduation and cross them off the suspect list. We continued until they figured out the culprit. They loved it!
Whole Class or Small Groups for Your Escape Room?
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.
You can choose to provide each group with their clues OR hide them around the room and have each group find their clues. You can assign specific areas of the room to each group and hide their clues in their assigned space OR label the clues with certain letters or numbers and each group must find specific clues around the room.
When groups have solved the clues, you can decide if you wish for them to come to you to see if they are correct or raise their hands and you come to them. You can also have printable answer keys and allow them to check their own answers.
Ending the Escape Room
It is nice to have some sort of picture or visual to end the escape room once all of the clues have been solved. It does not have to be elaborate, just a visual that shows the problem has been solved.
For my end of the year escape room I created a picture that showed the animals inside the school enjoying their graduation ceremony to show students they saved the end of the year party and ceremony.
Another option is to give students a certificate or reward for a job well done. This is not necessary, oftentimes just the satisfaction that they did it and escaped is reward enough.
If you do not have the time to set up your own escape room but wish to try one with your students, my End of the Year Escape Room has everything you need – just print and go!
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