Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Treasure Hunt

I recently had to teach a lesson on directions as part of my first year English class. Last year I had the idea of giving the students a treasure hunt to complete which was moderately successful. It entailed me hiding four clues around the school campus with directions to the next clue. Once students found a clue, their was a simple riddle on the back which, when solved, would give them a number. Once all the four clues where found then, they would have a four letter number referring to a room where I was waiting for them.

A typical clue looked like the following (where the circle marks where they need to write the number):

Three people are on a bus. At the first stop, two people get on and one person gets off. 
at the next stop three people get off and one person gets on. 

How many people are on the bus?

○ _ _ _

Now, the reason I say that this activity was only moderately successful was because my class is a communication class, but they were only really passive in completing the task.

So this year, I endeavored to get my students to make their own treasure hunts and the results were better than I expected. Read on to find out how I did it.

Necessary items

  1. Coins / treasure for students to hide


  1. A map of the campus for each group
  2. A sound cloud account to store groups directions to their treasure (not 110% necessary, but recommended).
  3. An iPod or smart phone for each group (not 100% necessary, but recommended).
Overview of the project

First class 
- refresh students memory on how to give directions.

Second class 
- as a group decide where they want to hide the treasure.
- write directions to the location. 
- go to the location and hide their treasure. 
- record the directions to the locations onto an iPod and upload to a shared sound cloud account.

Third class
- go and find other groups treasure.
- dictate the directions they heard.
- add corrections to the other groups dictation.
- review the grammar used for homework.

Detailed descriptions follow below:

Lesson 1: Directions review

During the first lesson, I went over a basic review of directions: 
  1. Brainstorm ways of giving directions and write them on the board (for reference).
  2. Put up a map on the board and direct each other to various buildings located on the map (controlled practice).
  3. Complete an information gap activity guiding other students to various unknown locations.
  4. Ask students to describe how to get to various rooms in the university (close to the classroom).
  5. Actually leave the classroom and attempt to lead your partner to the location you thought of.
The important thing that students learn from point 5 above is that they can't use words like "stop" when they write their treasure hunt, so they have to use expressions such as "when you can see ____ turn left."

Lesson 2: Set up the treasure hunt

This class is used for students to devise their directions to a specific place where they have hidden treasure. They can come in and out of the class and test their directions as many times as they want. Once they have written out their directions, they use soundcloud on the iPods to upload their directions to a shared location that is accessible from any smart phone.


  • To lead students to a particular place on campus. 
  • At that point will be a piece of treasure.
  • Once there, they take a piece of the treasure and bring it back to class to prove that they found it.
Goals (Linguistic):
  • For groups to devise a precise set of directions that other groups can follow to get to the treasure.
  • Groups will be judged on how many groups managed to complete their route, so accuracy is essential.

  1. Students write their directions out on paper.
  2. Once they have the general directions written out, they go to the actual location, hide the treasure and write the final detailed instructions (such as "The treasure is under two stones").
  3. Students record their directions onto the shared sound cloud account via an iPod: http://soundcloud.com/tduenglish
Nothing much more to say about this class other than, some classes finished early if groups had a clear idea of where they wanted to hide their treasure.

Lesson 3: Play the other groups' treasure hunts!

Take a map for each group to class. Students draw on the map where they found the other groups treasure.

Finding stage
  1. Hand out the iPods and show them how to access other groups directions. I actually found that most groups had at least one smart phone user, so they decided to use their own phones for the most part.
  2. Students listen to the directions on the iPods, go and find the treasure, then come back to class.
  3. Once back, they write down the directions they heard on the left hand of a piece of A4 paper, and make any improvements that they can think of on the right hand side.
  4. For homework (or if you have time in class) get students to complete a grammar/vocabulary focus activity. I used the grammar focus page from their textbooks.

To speed up the treasure hunt process: Give the first team to find all the treasures and mark it on their map bonus credits. If not, they will take ALL lesson to go and find the treasures!! (I learnt the hard way!)

Focus on Form
Do the grammar-focus page in their textbooks.

All in all, this was a very successful project for me. I think my students enjoyed it a lot too. Teaching directions is a great topic to get students out of the class and really using the English they are learning, which is rare in a monolingual EFL context in my opinion.

Let me know if you used it or have any advice!

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