Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas Carol Scavenger Hunt

For the past couple of years, I've really wanted to do a QR code scavenger hunt with my students.  When my 7th grade team member, Ms. Dibble, was in her interview, she talked about doing a QR code scavenger hunt with sixth graders when they were learning about The Dust Bowl and were reading Out of the Dust. Some might think I should have just gone for it, but here's the thing.  There are a lot of factors that have to line up for this type of activity to work. 
  1. You have to have a supportive administration that is comfortable with your students being out of your classroom and roaming the halls in search of clues.
  2. You have to have other faculty members who are willing to support the activity. For example, our students had clues in the library, the main office, the counselor's office, and the cafeteria.  Those adults had to be comfortable with our students disrupting their normal schedules.
  3. You have to be able to justify the activity as an instructional activity that's aligned with objectives.
Fortunately, we have all of these things at our middle school, and when we emailed our colleagues to ask if our students could come complete Christmas Carol-related challenges around the school, they all jumped on board immediately. What I loved about this activity is that it could be accomplished in one 50-minute class period, and it got students up out of their seats, which was perfect for the last week of school before Christmas break. I wish you could have heard the students' reaction to the idea that we were going to let them search for clues around the school!

You mean we get to, like, leave the classroom?!
Ms. Herring. You want us to search for clues AND take an iPad with us?!
So we get to walk around and stuff. We aren't watching a movie?

Success! They were so excited about this activity that I didn't even have to really build it up and make it "cool." However, sometimes that excitement can lead to a behavior struggle, so I started the class period by showing students my expectations for their behavior during the scavenger hunt. 
I find that giving students a small number of expectations that leave room for discussion is the most effective way to ensure that students will understand and live up to those behavioral expectations. Once we had discussed these expectations, each group of 3-4 students received an iPad and a folder with their first clue and a checklist of locations they would need to visit.  In order to prevent a bottleneck of students in any one location, each group of students received a different starting clue. The scavenger hunt included six locations, and students were to complete a small challenge related to our study of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol at each location; each group used their iPad to record a video or take a photo that proved they had completed the challenge.  They also used the QR scanner app on the iPad to scan the next clue once they had completed the challenge. 
Our Christmas Carol scavenger hunt took students to the following locations to complete these challenges: 
  • Cafeteria: Film your group singing a Christmas carol to the cafeteria workers.
  • Main office: Film your group saying Tiny Tim's famous line, God Bless Us, Everyone.
  • Counselor's office: Film a member of your group reading Fred's famous Christmas speech.
  • Library: Film two members of your group acting out the scene in which Scrooge raises Cratchit's salary.
  • Outdoor courtyard: Film your group spreading "Christmas cheer," (in our case, this was confetti) like the Ghost of Christmas Present.
  • Anywhere in the school: Take a "Scrooge-faced selfie" with either a custodian or a principal.
I created little poems for each clue, and then turned them into QR codes for students to scan. There are two reasons that I loved this activity. First, I loved seeing the joy and excitement that it brought to my students.  Every group that successfully returned to my classroom with all of their videos and photos on their iPad received a small reward.  This meant that every student, all day, felt like they had "won." In my opinion, this is so much better than having one winning group in each class period.  This wasn't an assessment; it was simply a culminating activity that helped every student remember their study of this novel. 

The second reason, and the thing I loved the very most about this activity, was seeing the joy that it brought to the other adults in the building who participated in the various activities. You want to talk about collegial actions? These awesome coworkers -- principals, secretaries, counselors, librarians, custodians, and cafeteria workers -- all worked with our students to make this activity a success. Not only did they work with them, they did it joyfully. Seeing the way that they cheered for students and encouraged them as they acted out scenes from the play, seeing they way they sang Christmas carols along with our students and took selfies and let themselves be silly and feel the Christmas spirit, was so incredibly rewarding. Christmas can be a very joyful time, but for many adults, especially tired educators, it can be a very stressful, exhausting time. I loved every minute of watching the joy that this activity created in our school, and I'm so glad I work in a place where this kind of activity can create happiness instead of more stress. I hope you can spread, as well as accept, a little holiday cheer this Christmas season! Merry Christmas!


  1. I stopped by school that day and saw this going on. Love it!!! What a perfectly neat idea:)

    1. Thanks! It may be one of my favorite things we've done this year!

  2. I stopped by school that day and saw this going on. Love it!!! What a perfectly neat idea:)

  3. Would you be willing to share your assignment? I am currently teaching ACC with my 7th graders and I would love to do this with them the last couple of days before Christmas Break.

    TIA Maegan

    1. Hi Maegan, I'm sorry I'm just now seeing your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed this post, and I'd be happy to share more about this lesson with you.