Engaging Remotely: Scavenger Hunts

We’ve all been searching for more ways to engage our learners in this remote environment.  Many (probably all) of us have used a scavenger hunt or two (or 10) already as an SEL or culture building tool.  Therefore I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you think this has become a boring strategy and is unlikely to engage your students.  However, I’d like to encourage you to take this a step further than just going and finding fun/random items, although there’s still room for that!  John Spencer (who is a wealth of knowledge) has some great ideas as to how to employ scavenger hunts to engage your learners.  I’d like to add a few things while expanding on a few of his ideas.  (I’d recommend reading his piece before looking at my thoughts below.)

  1. Timing is everything:  Mix scavenger hunts into the middle of class, perhaps in between a mini-lesson and work time, to get kids moving and the blood flowing again.
  2. Real world connections:  Use scavenger hunts to show your students how the day’s lesson ties into the real world.  Are you doing a lesson on measurement?  They can find multiple tools for measuring or food items with different measurements.  Are you doing a book club with a small group?  Have the students find three items that would be in the main characters’ backpack and have them explain why they chose one of those items.  Never has it been easier to help students see how their personal context connects to the potentially abstract lessons they’re learning in school than now!  (If you want to help them make deeper connections, use the asynchronous version talked about by John.)
  3. Speaking of Asynchronous:  Have students add photos of their items to a Google Doc/Slide/Form etc. before class begins.  They can add a short caption or paragraph explaining why they chose this item.
  4. Conversation starter:  Do you have students who don’t seem to participate as much as you’d like?  Try an asynchronous scavenger hunt.  Ask a specific student (privately) to plan on sharing their item and talking a bit about it.  Meet with them beforehand to let them practice and gain confidence, then support them with the knowledge they share during practice (should they need it) while “live”.  Building confidence with those learners who are reluctant to share is key, once they see they can do it they’re much more likely to try again!
  5. On the fly:  Don’t be afraid to use a scavenger hunt as a quick brain break.  Give kids three minutes to find something, anything, in their house.  Their favorite article of clothing, a favorite snack, something from a different room/floor, anything!  
  6. Flip the script:  Let the students send you on a scavenger hunt in your classroom/house.  As an incentive let them send you off to find something!!

This idea is something you can deploy right away and something you could use frequently.  While it may only seem like it’s helping temporarily, this may help to engage students and get cameras turned on (especially in the older grades.)  A well-timed scavenger hunt may help keep kids engaged throughout class, even with their cameras turned off (they can also be a good check-in for you to see who’s still engaged!) 

I’d love to hear how this goes or if you’re already using scavenger hunts academically.  Please share if you’ve got more strategies or ideas!!

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