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How To Use Escape Room Riddles As A Learning Tool For Students

Kids love riddles... what more reason do you need to add some to your teaching arsenal?
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Shirley watson puzzle master
Incorporating escape room riddles into your lessons increases student engagement, helps cement lessons learned, and makes you the coolest teacher of the year!

So What Is An Escape Room Riddle?

We all know riddles. Many of us grew up listening to the Riddler ask Batman, "riddle me this…?" We traded riddles in grade school, but these were usually just goofy questions designed to trick unsuspecting friends.

Escape room riddles are a little bit different.

First, escape room riddles can only be solved by making a logical connection to the solution. Sure, the connection may require thinking outside the box, but it exists. If the answer to your riddle leaves people saying "well... ok",  instead of "oh of course!", then it means the logical connection between the riddle and the solution wasn't strong enough.

Secondly, the solution to an escape room riddle has a use. Rather than being the end and moving on, the answer keys the solution to another puzzle. The answer may be part of a 4-digit code for a combination lock. It might be the key to a cipher. It may even be a 50% off coupon for a 4-piece box at KFC. You won't know until you solve it.
Because each riddle leads to another riddle, players feel a sense of urgency. Adrenaline courses through their veins as they move from one riddle to the next, each solution a step to the ultimate goal. Like Indiana Jones in a long-forgotten temple, they rush from step to step to find the answer.

Lastly, the solution to an escape room riddle will often rely on other information in the room. The riddle may require examining phrases on posters or pages of a book. In the case of a lesson, solving the riddle may require recalling the information learned in the previous lesson. Now you know who was paying attention and who was secretly trying to figure out how to reach the next level in Fortnite!

Now that you know what an escape room riddle is, we will show you how to use them to supercharge your lessons. Hang on!

...of course... if you don't know what an escape room is, click here, I'll explain it.

Step 1: Do Your Research!

Read riddles. Tons of riddles. Silly riddles and serious riddles. One riddle, two riddles, red riddles, blue riddles. Read them all.

Then play an escape room or two (or three or four). Download a DIY escape room and look at those riddles.

Analyze how the riddles are constructed, which ones work, and which ones should never have seen the light of day. You'll have your own style, but this "research" will help you determine how to construct your own riddles.

Step 2: Start From The Answer

It's hard to start a riddle from a catchy clue. You don't want to have to figure out the answers to your own riddles! You need to know the answer before you start. Knowing the answer makes it much easier to construct a fair and logical puzzle. 

Make your answer concrete. Vague concepts make poor riddle answers. Your players need to search for a thing as part of their answer. The answer needs to be the result of logical connections made to solve the riddle.

In a history class, the answer could be November 22, 1963 (JFK assassinated). Or it could be 1964, although that might be too easy. Everyone knows that's the year of the Beatles' first concert in America.

You get the point. The answer needs to be something concrete that the students can figure out from the information provided.

Draw on the most important lessons from your current module to craft your answers. This allows you to craft exciting and fun riddles for your students while determining if they actually paid attention in class. (After all, you can't be sure those weren't ping-pong balls on their eyelids!)

Step 3: Decide What Knowledge Your Students Need to Demonstrate

What were the most important parts of the recent lessons? Which information is the most critical for the students to learn? The answers to these questions will help determine your answers.

However, the lessons will also help determine the riddles. Here you will find the information the students need to make the logical connections required to find the answer.

You don't need to make it easy. Include hints to the knowledge, but don't make it obvious or transparent. You want to see them work, and perhaps squirm, as they try to find these answers.

Step 4: Brainstorm Word Association

No, we're not therapists. Trust us, that's a good thing. What you need to do is list as many words as you can link to your answer. For example, John, Ringo, Paul, and George are associated with the Beatles. Of course, those words might be a little too closely associated.

List out words associated with your answer. Include any verbs and adjectives that come to mind. For the Beatles, popular, talented, and fab would all work.

You won't use all the words you list, so don't be afraid to make a long list. The point of this step is to inspire you! So making a longer list gives you the best chance of crafting an exciting escape room riddle.

Step 5: Write the Riddle

You thought you'd never get here, but you did! It's time to write the riddle.

Remember, riddles make heavy use of metaphors. A pencil may be a "yellow spear." A computer may be a "logic machine." It should take a little knowledge and a focused mind to make the connections needed to find the answer.

Play with the words. Don't try to trick anyone, but make the riddle require more than a cursory glance.

Step 6: Revise Your Riddle

Rewrite your riddle. Tighten it up. Put it aside. Come back, then tighten it up some more.

This is your quality control. QC can be brutal but worth it. Send the riddle to a few of your friends. Make sure it can be solved. Request feedback on how well it's written, how easy it was to solve, and any other thoughts they might have about the riddle.

Don't send the riddles to your sugary sweet friends who might want to spare your feelings. Send it to the sarcastic. Send it to the filterless. You want honest answers, not feeling-sparing praise.

Then rewrite some more. Send it back out to new friends. Request more feedback.

Rinse and repeat until your riddle is ready for prime time. You are almost ready to turn it loose on your students... or even use it in an escape room game.

Step 7: Show Time!

Now you have a bunch of top-notch riddles. What do you do with them?

Incorporate your escape room riddles into a worksheet, gamifying learning like these ones. You can have a test made up of riddles. You could add a riddle to the bottom of a worksheet or test that serves as a bonus answer.

Have a speed contest in class. Have fun prizes — candy, 10 points on the next test, a new iPhone — for those who answer the quickest.

Write the riddle on the board at the beginning of class. Hide the information needed to find the answer in that day's lesson. See how many students can solve the riddle before the end of class. Everyone who finds the answer gets a prize. We recommend a new puppy but use your own judgment.
Kids working together to solve the Lost Mummy

BONUS STEP: Create An In-Class Escape Room Using Your Riddles!

At home DIY escape room games with your kids
Assuming you made more than one riddle (you did, didn't you?), you can create your own escape room for the class!

This escape room won't look like a professional escape room. After all, you only have so much time. However, you can craft an excellent DIY escape room with a few props or no props at all!

First, combine your riddles into a logical order so the students can move from step to step with all or at least some of the information they need for the next riddle. Remember, escape room riddles build on themselves or at least help light the way.

Second, decide on a theme for the escape room. The riddles should give you a theme and even an escape room name!
Next, decide whether you want to use props. Remember that you will likely have multiple groups playing this game, so you will need multiples of each prop. For example, if you want to use a box with a padlock, you will need several boxes and padlocks. Props do make the game more fun. But, especially in a classroom setting, they are absolutely optional.

Divide your class into groups (we recommend groups of 4). Give each group a copy of the riddles. You can give them all the riddles at once or make them come to your desk to verify the correct answer before receiving the next one.

The groups can race against each other to see who finishes first. You can also treat it as a team-building experience, putting people with different strengths into each group to help them learn to work together. Either way, your class will have a blast!

Whatever you do, your class will love playing an escape room. They'll forget this is school while they reinforce past lessons and learn valuable life skills.

Get Started!

Kids love making escape room games
What are you waiting for?

Using escape room riddles as part of a lesson or part of an escape room will electrify your classroom. Combine it into an escape room, and now you're cooking! You'll increase student engagement and inject excitement and adrenaline into the lesson. Kids will retain information better and gain a new love of learning. 

Have fun!

Skip the Hard Work By Grabbing A Classroom-Ready Escape Room Kit:

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