Teaching can be a big challenge, especially when the children are not motivated or interested. Teachers today face more resistance to learning than ever before. At the same time, pressure to deliver high scores for standardized tests is increasing. The last thing kids want to do is study for a test, but what if there was a way to make them want to learn the material and give their best effort? A scavenger hunt based on the subject students need to study is one of the best answers to this dilemma.
Using a scavenger hunt as a teaching tool has many advantages. The most obvious is that kids enjoy scavenger hunts, so they will want to participate and do their best. Creating clues that require students to learn the material they are expected to know creates a strong motivation to study. That is good, but it is arguably not the best benefit of using a scavenger hunt to teach. Kids engaged in a clue hunt have their brains turned all the way on. They are less likely to be distracted as they focus on figuring out clues, and they are thinking about each clue long enough for excellent retention. They are not only motivated to learn, they are also better equipped to remember what they are learning. Another very welcome bonus is that kids get a structured way to release energy that might otherwise be used to misbehave.
To get the most from a classroom scavenger hunt, there are some guidelines that should be followed. Clues should be written in a way that is consistent with how material is presented in the textbook or how it will appear on a test. This will be easier for some subjects than others, but it is always possible. If the answers to clues do not translate well to objects for students to find, a simple workaround is to use letters from the answers to fill in blanks. The actual object kids are expected to find could be anything, but the way they discover what that object is involves solving on-topic clues. It is a very good idea to stick to one subject for any given scavenger hunt. Students learn more efficiently when they are not constantly switching gears to think about a new subject, so avoid having them skip around between English, Math, History, and so on.
If you experience any resistance to using a scavenger hunt in your classroom from the principal or parents, make it clear that the goal is higher test scores. That will get them to pay attention and at least consider the idea rather than dismiss it out of hand. Scavenger hunts are very flexible tools. They do not have to be disruptive. The search area can be limited to a textbook if necessary. Some of the benefits may be diminished by such a restricted scavenger hunt but it would still be better than nothing. Give classroom scavenger hunting a try… your students will love it and you’ll love their grades!