School Counseling Escape Room: Social Skills

Everybody is doing escape rooms these days…and I’ve jumped onto the bandwagon with enthusiasm! Even though the kids had tons of fun with the safari conversation skills lesson and safari social filter lesson, I knew they would need additional reinforcement of those skills. Because escape rooms are best for review, this was the perfect opportunity to create a school counseling escape room.

For those of you interested in doing your own, I’ll try and be detailed as I write it out for you. If you have questions (about this particular one or just how it went in general), please feel free to contact me!

Before each lesson, I snuck into the classroom to hide three envelopes: one in a bookcase, one under an adult’s chair, and one under the table. Because these were 2nd graders, I tried not to make it too difficult. One day I had two classes back to back, so I opted to make a second set of envelopes so I could hide them all ahead of time. I wasn’t sure if I trusted them to keep their eyes closed for 60 seconds to let me hide them once they were already in there! I also quickly briefed the teachers so they knew a little about what to expect, since this was obviously a little different than a typical lesson.

To set the stage, I came to the lesson in my ‘safari’ costume that I sported in the first two lessons and told the students I had bad news. We were having a great time exploring the savanna and mischievous monkeys stole our jeep, took it apart, and hid the pieces all around. The good news was that the monkeys left us clues to help us find the pieces so that we could get back to school.

school counseling escape room clue

escape room puzzle piecesThen all together we opened our first clue, the one the monkeys left behind. Inside were baggies of thought bubbles and directions to 1) sort them by “say it” or “filter it” and then 2) flip over all the “say it” pieces to reveal the location of the first jeep piece and the next clue. The only tricky part was convincing them to actually read the thoughts and not just flip them all over right away. Each group completed this themselves and then when every group had finished it, we did an “On the count of 3, everyone say the location of the next clue!” (It was “bookcase.”) I asked them if there were any bookcases in their room, they vigorously nodded, and then I picked a few students to stand up and go look for an envelope by each of the bookcases. When one of them finally spotted it, we all cheered and then gathered together on the rug again.

The next envelope included our first jeep piece, hurray! We taped it onto our grayed out picture and then looked at the directions for the next clue. This was a bit tricky, and I’ll admit I didn’t do a stellar enough job explaining it the first time. Students were given several dialogue statements to sort into three conversations and put in the correct order. It was great practice in seeing how a back and forth, on topic, conversation goes. Then, just like in their first challenge, each group flipped the lines over – spelling out three words that told them where the next clue would be (“UNDER”,  “ADULTS”, “CHAIR”).

After the previous challenge, the monkeys took it “easy” on us and gave us an easier activity next: using a decoder to decode a secret message that each group then whispered to the “monkey leader” who released the next jeep piece and clue.

safari decoder sheet for escape roomsocial safari escape room message

The final challenge was three multiple choice questions about conversations, where all of the answer choices were visuals. Groups read and answered each then put together the letters that went with each answer to spell…TRASH! Once each group discovered the word, I had the tricky decision of which student I would send to to the trash can to retrieve the final piece of the jeep!

We placed the last piece of the jeep on our picture and with that, we had finally ESCAPED the safari! Cheering ensued and then I walked elatedly back to my office, determined to do more of these in the future.

Some takeaways from my first foray into counseling escape rooms:

  • I was a bit worried about how the groupwork would go since this was a bit more ‘high stakes’ than a regular lesson and one of my 2nd grade rooms is struggling with working together. Luckily, they actually did better than usual! I think this was due to a real shared common purpose.
  • The more you’re into it, the more they’re into it. This is essentially true for most lessons but especially whenever there’s a theatrical/imaginative element.
  • I wished I’d had an hour. The escape room itself was pretty perfect for our 45 minutes together (2nd grade, about 30% ELL, 4 groups of 5 students each) but that meant there wasn’t any time left to debrief and reinforce.
  • It felt well worth the prep time. Most of my lessons are fairly simple with prep (print, cut, sort) and this was definitely more time consuming. It was incredibly fun and now that it’s done, I’ll have it ready for future years…AND for future small groups! I’m excited about having this in my pocket for social skills groups I do.
Looking for an escape room already made? Click the pictures below to find them in my store!

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Hello, I’m Sara!

With 10 years of experience in
elementary school counseling,
I get to serve in a different way now
– by helping fellow counselors and

I value quality over quantity,
effective practices and resources,
and meeting the unique needs of all
our diverse learners.


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