The Inspiration for ESL Escape Room

Hello and welcome to my website.  The purpose of this post is to give you an idea of the person behind ESL Escape Room and the journey that led me to creating it.

It probably started when I was only a young child myself.  As with most children, one of life’s main priorities was playing games, be it with family or with friends, I was always playing in some form.  Board games, card games, fantasy role play where we would run around pretending to shoot each other, hide and seek, kerbsy (One for the Brits of my generation), and of course PlayStation – PS1 at the time.

One of my most memorable PlayStation Games was Worms Armageddon.  To those of you not familiar, Worms Armageddon was a 2D game in which you controlled a small team of worms (yes, earthworms) that were armed to the teeth with an array of high-tech military assault weapons with the aim of destroying all the worms on the other teams before they destroyed you.  What did I love about it?  The violence, well yes, probably. The fact that you could play single player or multi-player so it was fun for all no matter how many friends you had over, for sure.  But the thing that gripped me the most was the strategic puzzle solving that was intrinsic to the game.  Sure, you could just launch rockets and grenades (and even exploding sheep) across the screen and hope that your enemies would be battered into submission before losing all of your own worms, but you could also use your firearms to dig tunnels, build bunkers and create strategic game plans that might outsmart your enemies.  This puzzle solving element fascinated me and if I’d spent as much time studying, as I did perfecting my war tactics, I’d definitely have boasted a few more A’s at GCSE.

Despite, endless hours of setting landmines and ordering in airstrikes, I did, luckily, get sufficient grades to go on to study A-levels, and eventually graduated University.  Soon after graduation is when my teaching journey began.  I was persuaded (persuaded is hardly the right word as I took very little convincing) by a friend to move to China and take up a position as Teacher of English as a Second Language.  Thrown in the deep end is the phrase I use when telling this story, as with no experience I was handed a book, thrown in a classroom with 25 children and basically just told to crack on.  It was a steep learning curve and I think in that first year I learnt more about classroom management, keeping trouble makers at bay, and making sure every student was entertained and engaged than I have in the decade since.  That’s not to say I haven’t spent the last decade fine-tuning those skills but if you want to learn how to swim, jump in the deep end – if you don’t drown, you’ll come out swimming like a hero!

After two years in the beautiful city of Xián, I moved to Myanmar, followed by Cambodia, and then Spain, eventually finding myself in the Basque Country where I still live today.  I won’t go into any detail of my time in these countries right now, as I think I should probably start getting to the point but I’ll do a deep dive on each place in another post.  The point I want to get to is that throughout these years I’ve worked with all ages and levels in classrooms ranging in size from not much bigger than a standard bathroom to conference halls and town squares, with bosses, time-constraints and resources imposing all manner of restricting and sometimes very difficult circumstances, and the question I’ve continuously asked myself is how can I make this class fun in a way that will have every single student engaged and learning?

Games. Plain and simple. Make it fun and get everyone (willingly) involved and they will learn!  It was this thought process that led me to creating ESL Escape Room.  I wanted a game that:

  • Allowed the teacher to create an hour-long (Or shorter or longer if preferred) lesson plan with 2 minutes or less prep time.
  • Covered all the key topics with regards to vocabulary and grammar that come up in ESL books within that very important A1-B1+ window. This level range is so important for me because the foundation that is built in terms of knowledge, confidence and attitude towards learning English will make all the difference when they progress to B2 and beyond.
  • Had interchangeable parts so that the teacher could create a game that focused on exactly what they’d been teaching, regardless of the curriculum they follow.
  • Had, between each session, enough similarities for the students to form a strategy, but enough differences for it not to become boring.

And thus, after hundreds upon hundreds of hours, mainly during the initial Covid lockdown here in the Basque Country, ESL Escape Room was born. 

As of 2021 I run my own English Language School in a beautiful coastal town and I use Escape Room at the end of each trimester with my older students and at the end of each month with the younger ones.  They absolutely love it and get extremely excited every time they walk into the classroom and see the Escape Room timer projected onto the whiteboard.

If you want your students to fully engage with an educational activity that they’ll be begging to play again and again for years to come, then please it out.  The fact that my students get to enjoy this game is reward enough for me but your donations give me the motivation to work on expansion packs and games for other levels.

Thanks, and enjoy!

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