Why You Should Use Scavenger Hunts in Your Classroom

Looking for a way to keep your students engaged and on task while practicing their reading and writing skills? Why not try out a scavenger hunt! My students always love them, and I love any activity that makes reading seem FUN. Read on to find out more about why you should use scavenger hunts in your class, as well as a few tips for setting up a successful one!

What is a Scavenger Hunt?

First of all, let's go over what a scavenger hunt is! In a scavenger hunt, various fact cards are placed around the classroom. Each student receives a sheet with questions on it that are related to the facts, and walks around to search for the cards and answer the questions!

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Why Scavenger Hunts?

My students always enjoy scavenger hunts, but if I just did things they enjoyed we would be watching YouTube videos of cats all day! As a teacher, I think scavenger hunts are great for several reasons:

1. They're an Awesome Hook for Reluctant Readers

In my opinion, getting all students to buy into the idea that reading is a fun activity is one of our most important task as educators! Many children don't like to read because it's never been presented to them as something interesting. Read this passage, bubble in an answer. Read that passage, bubble in an answer. With a scavenger hunt, you can take the same information that would be on a worksheet and present it in what I call the "Mary Poppins" way- with just a spoonful of sugar! Sometimes all it takes is the thrill of something different, even if all you've done is taped up some facts and handed them a clipboard!

2. They Let Kids Move...and Moving Kids are Happy Kids

Depending on what age group you work with, many students may come to you with the idea that reading is the "boring" subject. Math and science are typically viewed to be more "hands-on" and engaging. It takes a lot of work to show some kids that reading can be just as fun, and a scavenger hunt is a great trick to have in your pocket! I've yet to meet a child who just wants to sit at a desk all day. Instead of fighting that energy, USE IT! Let them move and learn at the same time.

3. Everyone Can Work at Their Own Pace

One of the things I love the most about scavenger hunts is that everyone can participate and enjoy themselves. I think that the idea of a scavenger hunt is often synonymous with the word "competition" but they don't have to be set up that way! Let students go off and explore on their own, and have something ready for early finishers to work on while their friends catch up. 

In addition, there's no law that says every student needs to finish the scavenger hunt! For your struggling readers, you may want to have them just answer the first five fact cards they find. This way they can participate without feeling overwhelmed! Or, you can buddy students up and have them help each other!

How to Have a Successful Scavenger Hunt

Hopefully, you've warmed up to the idea of a scavenger hunt and want to try one on your own! Here's some tips to help you get started:

1. Set Things Up Ahead of Time

Although there is nothing too complicated about setting up a scavenger hunt (you basically need tape and clipboards), it's not something you're going to want to do right before school starts. I would suggest setting up the night before- hide all the cards, have your clipboards ready with answer sheets clipped to them, make sure pencils are sharp and ready- this way, your students can get right to the hunt when it's time!

2. Find Unusual Hiding Spots

I pride myself on always hiding at least one card that my students are unable to find without help (#evilteacher). Backs of cabinets, under chairs and tables, the side of a garbage can, underneath the class rug...a fact card can go anywhere! If you're fortunate enough to have outdoor space you can use, utilize it! Your students will have a blast trying to locate those last few, out-of-sight cards.

3. Set Up Simple Rules Before they Start

You're going to want a few guidelines in place in order to prevent mass chaos. Here are a few things I've learned over the years:

  • Limit the number of students that can look at one card at one time.
  • Have students answer in complete sentences- this will depend on your particular class, but I've found it cuts down on the craziness big time if they don't just have to jot down one word!
  • Have something ready for early finishers.

Scavenger hunts are easy to create and set up, but if you're low on time (and what teacher isn't!), make sure to check out my Valentine's Day Scavenger Hunt! It includes 24 fact cards and 4 different writing prompts for early finishers.

Do you use scavenger hunts in your classroom? 

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