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Teaching Young Learners

TEEN-ESCAPE ROOM

 

Teaching young learners is always demanding, but teenagers, especially, is one of the most challenging age groups to teach. This, of course, does not happen without reason.

As we all know, teens are at a phase of their lives when everything changes, both physically and mentally. They question things around them, they defy rules and regulations, they want to break stereotypes and most importantly they get bored easily. Like everybody else, teenagers get bombarded by hundreds of stimuli daily, something that is not easy to cope with. They not only get excited by something new, but also consider variety to be the spice of life.

In relation to foreign languages, a teenage student is usually a member of an exam preparation class. More often than not, high school students are the majority of candidates between B1 and C2 Level exams, something which means they are under a lot of pressure to succeed, spend most of their classroom time doing practice tests and mock exams, consequently forgetting the actual purpose of learning a foreign language and, thus, not enjoying the entire learning process.  As a result, they may get bored doing similar stuff every time they have a lesson and do not do their best in order to succeed.

Text by: George Vavoulidis

Experienced educators, however, know that breaking the routine from time to time can work miracles for bored or uninterested students. Changing the pattern or the flow of a lesson can attract teenage students’ attention in various ways. One original and creative way to do so is by the utilization of an ‘escape room’.

With the term ‘escape room’ we mean a game in which players (individually or in teams) find hints, solve riddles and perform tasks in one or more rooms with the aim of achieving specific goals within a limited amount of time. Usually, the ultimate goal is to get out of the site of the game or ‘escape’.

‘Escape rooms’ can have great educational value, because they help students use and develop various aspects of their characters, improving their knowledge of the target language as well. First of all, if the whole game is done in English (as an example of a target language), the participants have the chance to revise their vocabulary and practice the language while communicating with one another as they are forced to think in English in order to answer the riddles or the challenges provided.

Secondly, if students work in groups, they develop team spirit, learn to collaborate, and pay attention to what their partner is saying or doing. Moreover, they use their senses, perception and logic to the full, something that keeps them alert, interested and motivated. Also, the fact that they work under pressure and keep continuous track of time, gives the students an invaluable lesson on how to manage their time during exams and not to panic when ‘the heat is on’. Last but not least, the purpose of the ‘escape room’ is a real escape from reality as students forget their problems for a while, do something extraordinary that gets them out of their comfort zone and perceive the whole learning experience from a different standpoint.

Here is an example of implementation of an ‘escape room’ in a Foreign Language School.

 

  • Two or three classrooms should be used to ensure the success of the game. Of course, this is subject to change if the size of the FLS does not permit it.
  • The teacher prepares a series of riddles written on small pieces of paper and hides them in various places within the available classrooms beforehand.
  • The riddles should be appropriate to the learners’ level of English.
  • The answers to these riddles indicate the route the players have to follow. The solution of the final riddle leads to the key which eventually opens the door.
  • Optionally, the lights can be turned off and students can use torches for more suspense and higher rate of alertness.
  • Time limit should be introduced for the reasons mentioned above.
  • The teacher can intervene in case the players come to a dead-end and reward them when they complete the game.
  • Feedback provided by all the participants informs the educator about how successful the whole procedure was.
  • The teacher can exchange views and ideas with his/her colleagues for more positive results.
  • Changes and adaptations might be made to create a better experience next time.

This was just a simple version of an ‘escape room’ that can be organised in a FLS. Various themes, plots and scenarios can be used, with both teachers and students making their contributions to the game.

All things considered, an ‘escape room’ can offer variety in the classroom and keep teenage students’ interested. Games and activities like these give credit to the educator who puts them into practice, upgrading the level of knowledge offered.

So, are you ready to implement an ‘escape room’ in your teenage classroom? Try it and you will not regret it!