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Teaching with Fiction - How to Create Escape Rooms

Updated: Apr 2, 2022

I had the opportunity to talk about escape rooms at the first Hungarian conference organised by Trendy English, an ELT support community in Russia. Click to read the summary of my talk, which used my favourite Korean drama as the main storyline.


I first met the idea of escape rooms back in 2019, when I went to Laszlo Katona and Nora Takacs' workshop called "Narrative Frameworks in Language Learning." They presented a cool approach which assigned participants/students an imaginary challenge that they had to solve together through various language games.

Then the next time I came across the idea was during spring in 2020, when all of a sudden teachers started to share their online escape room projects. So, I also wanted to share with you all why these rooms, which are sometimes also called breakout rooms, have become so popular.

What's an escape room basically?

It describes a sort of project task with an engaging background story, a final goal, and many smaller building blocks. In order to get out of the room or situation successfully, students need to complete the assigned tasks and collect digits or letters that will constitute the code they need to key in at the end.

So how do you set up one?

My engaging background story was the plot of a Korean drama I just watched (😍), and the code word was SEOUL, where the main character (Yoon Seri) has to be sent back safe and sound.

The third step means you need to create or find as many activities as there are letters/digits in your code word. It's important to mention here that you don't always have to create everything from scratch! Feel free to search for activities that have already been made and fit your purpose. But don't forget to customise them so that at the end students somehow get the code letter/digit.

What are the building blocks?

In my case, I used Learning Apps, Wordwall, Quizizz, and Genially. You can find the game links below:

How can you play it?

We played it live during the workshop, which meant that I

  • created a Google Doc including the 5 links ot the five games. The link to the document needs to be sent out to all participants in advance so that they know and have what to click on when they're in breakout rooms (in Zoom);

  • put the participants in 5 breakout rooms and told them to click on the link that corresponds to their room number

  • had them play the games then called them back

  • asked them to put the code letter they received in the chat

  • asked them to guess what word they could create from the letters

If you'd like to play it asynchronously (in other words, set it as homework), you can include many more activity platforms but setting it up properly needs a bit more practice (in the live version, you need to choose such platforms which let you send a "congrats" message with the code in it; Learning Apps is the best for that).

You can create a full-fledged escape room either with Google Forms or Genially (I'm pretty sure there are more than just 2 platforms but these are the ones I use...). I won't go into the details here, because there are two great resources (see below) that will explain everything. All I'm going to say in advance is that you'll need to get the hang of "required fields," "sections," and "field validation" in Forms while you have to master all the "buttons," "templates," and "transitions" in Genially.

And what's the point?

Hope you're going to try and create one yourself! :)

Also, check out Trendy English via these links:

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