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I’m so excited to welcome an incredible fourth grade teacher named Stephanie Michael to the blog today! She used the classroom escape challenge Escape from Emoji Island™ with her students, and they loved it! The gameplay is structured similarly for all of the different grade levels and subjects (even Planet Emoji), so you can get a pretty good sense of what it’s like to use one of these escape challenges in your classroom!
I have a class of 20 energetic 4th graders who absolutely hate doing worksheets during math. This group I have thrives on competition and group activities that are hands on. Throw a “prize” in and they’ll do anything you need them to! When I told them we were going to try something new for the day, and that they would have to “race to escape Emoji Island”, they jumped for joy!
Here’s how the whole process went in my room:
Prepping the Escape Challenge
The prep work for the Race to Escape Emoji Island was as simple as click, print, cut, and organize. Total prep time was maybe 20 minutes, which is super important when you’re an on-the-go teacher. I printed all the teacher directions, so I could have them handy, but I definitely recommend going over them on your own ahead of time. I printed all the colored pages on cardstock to make them more durable, and so I could use them again in the future. Even though it wasn’t required, I knew I needed to add something extra to the experience, so I borrowed a King’s crown from our music teacher at school to have for King Emoji. Below are some tips for when you prep your materials.
• Hang your Emoji Den and King of the Emoji’s signs on opposite ends of the room (keep the Den in an area that won’t be too crowded).
• Have a table for the challenge envelopes to be and a throne for your King to be at (I also had the answer key on a clipboard at that table for him).
• Put your “You’ve Escaped” envelope and badges under your stapler when there aren’t kids in the room! (I was so afraid of being caught putting it there!)
The Race is On!
The directions don’t call for a student to be the Emoji King, but I knew that I wanted to walk around, take pictures, help groups, and manage behaviors, so I chose one of my well-behaved/higher students to be our King. He sat at my kidney table, in his throne, with his crown, and managed all the papers as students brought up puzzles to be checked.
Here are some things that came up during our experience that may help you in your race:
• Before beginning, meet with your King and make sure he understands how to check for answers, what puzzle to give next, etc.
• Remind students to write down their answers in their escape logs, even when it’s an envelope challenge.
• Don’t make the kidnapping look like too much fun (I had students asking to be kidnapped because they thought it was funny or they just didn’t want to work).
• I had groups of 5, but groups of 4 would have been better because with 1 challenge page per group, it was hard to keep kids engaged constantly.
• Students want to just solve the maze without the math, but without the correct math code, they can’t move on. Some tried taking shortcuts and they didn’t pay off.
• As each group passed a challenge, the energy in the room became more focused, excited, and positive.
• Adjust the kidnapping to the den time when needed (5min was too long for some of them).
• Constantly remind kids to read the directions! The areas they struggled with were ones where they didn’t follow what the directions said.
In the End
Overall, this experience with my students (from introduction to getting a winner and reflecting), took about 90min. We ended up having to spread it out over two math periods. The winners wore their badges the rest of the day and then asked to wear them the next day as well. The group that did win wasn’t even the group that was in the lead for most of the game (and they were not made up of my highest math kids either). They struggled at first to cooperate, but pulled it together in the end, which was a nice bonus for this teacher! This was a fun activity that helped students practice various math skills (not just one skill like we normally do). My students loved it, I loved that they enjoyed doing math, and we all loved that it was something they could be successful at. I can’t wait to try more of these in my classroom!