springtime language learning: scavenger and treasure hunts

Springtime Language Learning Activities: Scavenger and Treasure Hunts

springtime language learning: scavenger and treasure hunts

Flowers are beginning to blossom in and the talk of eggs, bunnies and little yellow chicks is underway. It must be springtime! Students are excited and invigorated by the changing season, so it is a perfect time of year to incorporate activities that match the energetic mood of your classroom.

Even though many of your students may not celebrate Easter, they are sure to notice the supermarket shelves lined with plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies. One activity from Easter that is sure to please all students is the search for hidden eggs. However, instead of calling it an Easter egg hunt, make it into a “scavenger hunt” or a “treasure hunt”! Have your students search for all kinds of things, big and small, to strengthen their language skills and help them get moving!

Here are some of our top tips to get your students moving and communicating inside and outside the classroom: 

  • Treasure hunt: A favorite activity is always one that has a prize (or “treasure”) at the end. For this activity, children read one clue after another that ultimately leads them to a final “treasure.” The clues can be short and specific or long and vague – you can decide based on your students’ age and language skills. Writing the clues as riddles can be a lot of fun and great for promoting dialogue since the children will talk to each other a lot to figure out what the clues mean!
    The key is that you, the teacher, must make sure to put the clues in the right places (and order) ahead of time so that your students will find the right clues each step of the way. Put the clues into plastic Easter eggs to make the treasure hunt even more fun during this time of year!
    As for the “treasure” at the end, children delight in all kinds of special “treats”: a snack, a story about a treasure hunt read out loud, playtime, sweets, etc.
  • Classroom scavenger hunt: For this scavenger hunt, you print out a list of items on sheets of paper and have students find the items individually, in pairs or as groups. It is recommended to have students work as pairs or in a group since it is usually more fun that way and promotes conversation.  If you group a student who has strong language skills with one who doesn’t, this just might facilitate exceptional language learning as well as classroom friendships!
    An important tip is to make sure that each sheet has either a different list of items or items that aren’t in the same order. This will ensure that students aren’t searching for the same items at the same time. Students can either bring the items back or they can write down what they found. You can make the list of items short (e.g. “Find something blue”) or longer and more specific (e.g. “Write down the name of a book that has a big, red dog on the front cover”). If you want, students can receive a prize when they have found everything.
  • Playground scavenger hunt: Hide items ahead of time in the playground (e.g. attach a red balloon to the side of the sandbox) or use items that are already there (e.g. swing set, sandbox, fence, etc.). As with the “classroom scavenger hunt,” you can have students work individually, in pairs or in groups. Have students document the items that they find which match your clues. For example, you might write “What is taped to the side of the sandbox?” and students would write, “A red balloon.” Alternately, students can write down a list of items that match your general clues. For example, “Write down the names of 3 things that are made out of metal.”
  • Student-made scavenger hunt: A fun way to get students using their language is to have them write the list of clues for a scavenger hunt. Have students work in groups and once they have their list of clues, each group passes their list to another group who then searches for the items. Make sure that your students have done a scavenger hunt before so that they will know what kinds of clues to write.
  • Hidden message scavenger hunt: To start, you will need to come up with a few sentences that tell your students to do something. For example, “Spring has arrived! Let’s all go outside for recess!” or “Learning English is fun! Go to the slide and get a prize from your teacher.” (The sentences can be longer for more advanced students.)
    Give each letter in the alphabet a number (A = 1, B = 2, C=3) and then replace the letters in the sentences with the corresponding numbers. Give each student a sheet of paper printed with the sentences that show numbers below the spots where the letters should be.
    Before students arrive at school, post sheets of paper throughout the classroom (or, even better, in the school hallways or in the playground) that show which letters the number represent (e.g. one sheet shows a big A and the number 1 under it, another sheet in a totally different location shows a big letter B and the number 2 under it). Have students search for all of the sheets of paper that show the letter-number answers and write in the correct letters to the sentences. When the students are finished, have them bring their sheets to you and you can give them a prize or have another surprise ready for them.

These are just a few ways to incorporate scavenger and treasure hunts into your students’ language learning activities. The best part is that you can alter them based on the language-level of your students. For more advanced students, write out clues that are longer and more complex. For less advanced students, use words and sentences that will be more easily understood. How you pair up students can be crucial in creating positive social and linguistic benefits.

We hope you and your students will enjoy these activities. At the very least, students will be putting their springtime energy towards improving communication and camaraderie!

Photo credit: Umair Mohsin

Do you incorporate scavenger or treasure hunts into your curriculum? What are your favorites?

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