Scavenger hunts can be a really fun addition to your adult ESOL activities repertoire. They get students out of the classroom and into the community, they can be structured to require a lot of communication in English, and they engage a lot of valuable community navigation skills. I’ve seen successful scavenger hunts with young adults at an academic IEP and adult immigrants in community ESOL, and even a successful Chinatown scavenger hunt for a class of adult Mandarin learners.
The basic structure should be somewhat familiar to anyone who’s participated in a scavenger hunt themselves:
Participants are divided into teams and given a list of “items,” things that they must do or find in order to complete the hunt. There is usually a time limit, as well as a geographic limitation. In the version I prefer, you aren’t expected to complete every item. Rather, there are many items of different point values, and you complete as many as possible in the allotted time. If that’s not completely clear, a few examples should help:
- Find as many USPS blue mailboxes as possible (1 point each)
- Find a pharmacy (2 points); ask if they accept your insurance (3 bonus points!)
- Find the oldest building in the city (5 points)
- Find as many pizza restaurants with possessive nouns in the name as possible (2 points for each possessive noun)
I’ve always done this with either cameras or smartphones: each item is documented with a photo of a team member in front of the item, or a video of them completing a task. At the end of the day, everyone gets together and shares, points are tallied, and a winner is declared. If you plan it right, each group can present their results to the class and tell the story of their hunt, which makes for a whole lot more student-generated language.
This probably goes without saying, but in order for this to be a success, you’ll need to ensure that your students have all the prerequisite skills to complete most of the tasks. If you have any doubt about this, stop for a second and list out the skills (linguistic and non-) that students will be engaging to complete the task. Take these into consideration when weighting the items with points.
Not only can a scavenger hunt get your students out of the classroom and out navigating their new community with English and other skills, but they’re also just tons of fun!