KakaoTalk Treasure Hunts

The treasure hunt is an amazing activity that combines cooperation, competition, physical effort, and mobile phones to make a very enjoyable learning experience for students. Below is a description of how teachers can create such an experience and activity themselves.

(Warning: this activity is not for those who are disorganized, can’t multitask, or can’t handle a little time-sensitive pressure).

The premise of an ELT (or really any subject)  treasure hunt is simple. Students follow clues to find tasks, complete tasks, and get more clues until they have solved an entire puzzle. The clues and tasks are spread over an entire floor, building, or even campus. The subject of these clues and tasks is up the teacher, but usually some learning point students have recently been working on, reviewing for an exam, or in my case, practicing various proofreading skills. Students are given clues, which contain multiple answers. The correct answer will lead them to a task, which is posted in another location. They complete the task and message me the answer, image, or video. If they are correct, I give them the location of the next clue. And it repeats until the last clue, which has its task based in the classroom or office that I am in so I can determine the true winner. The winners get a small prize.

These kinds of treasure hunts can be done in any number of ways, but one of the ones I have made relies on KakaoTalk (What’s App and Twitter may also be possible to do this with). We already use KakaoTalk for messaging, class reminders, homework, etc., so it is a natural choice for anything mobile-based. The fact that Kakao allows users to send not only messages but also voice recordings, pictures and videos is a definite plus. Furthermore, the fact that Kakao offers a desktop application is a deal sealer. When I first started doing these treasure hunts, I did it all from my smartphone. Handling incoming answers and sending clues wasn’t easy to organize. The desktop application makes it much easier, though it still requires good multitasking skills…and patience.

To design a good treasure hunt takes some work. First, you need to decide on the number and types of tasks. For my proofreading tasks, I copies proofreading activities out of the book which required students to do things like gap-fills, choose the correct word form, make corrections, etc. Besides answering questions, students could also write sentences, draw math formulae (and send a picture), or have a conversation or discussion (and send the video).

After making the tasks, you also have to make some clues. Clues also test content, but in a less in-depth way. They are single questions that have multiple answers. The correct answer points students to the task. The incorrect answers lead the students to nothing, or if you want, on a wild goose chase.

The hardest part comes after making tasks and clues: mapping out the treasure hunt. I work in a five-story building, so I spread the clues and tasks out to the outsides of offices on different floors. My clues would point students to 217, 520, and so on. For each clue and task, I would include a note saying not to remove the paper, that it is part of a lesson, and if there are any questions to contact me or my department.

Finding locations is only part of mapping out the game. You also have to create a path for each team. I usually make four or five teams, and give each one a different path. I start them at different clues and make it so no team is at the same clue at the same time, or at least they don’t visit clues in the same order. I choose one team and plan out their route, then plan the next, being careful to choose different paths. It’s important to make sure that all students do the same amount of work, only in different orders.

The final steps are to actually post the clues and tasks around the school, and then test out the game yourself. Then, explain the activity to the students, set up team leaders whose main job is to be the texter (team leaders are usually the students who have phones with the longest battery life and the best internet connections), and then send them on their way. Then, prepare for the chaos.

Groups will send in answers – sometimes multiple groups at the same time. I usually quickly text back a “Please wait…”, which I figure out:

  • where they are
  • what task they completed
  • if they are correct or incorrect
  • where they need to go next

If they are incorrect, I text back what they need to fix. If they are correct, I tell them where to go next. It seems simple, but with multiple groups in different locations, it can be pretty hectic to organize it all. You need to set up a command center where you have easy access to the map you created and the tasks (with answers). Also, be prepared for missing clues (some get taken down despite the notices) and redirecting students to proper tasks.

I also usually set a time-limit (30 or 45 minutes) and a rule that when the first team wins, I will call all students back to the classroom. If you want them to do all the tasks, you could also end the game when the last team finishes.

Even though this requires a lot of planning and multitasking, it is an extremely rewarding experience for the students. They likely never get to run around the school like children. The fun, excitement, and physical activity combined with the tasks you give is a sure combination for a great learning experience.

Here’s a summary of what you have to do to make a KakaoTalk treasure hunt. This summary assumes students are already used to using KakaoTalk.

  1. Create tasks
  2. Create clues
  3. Map out where the clues and tasks will go
  4. Choose the number of teams and make different paths for each team to follow
  5. Post clues and tasks in correct locations
  6. Test run the game yourself, following each path
  7. Explain the activity to students
  8. Make teams, choose team leaders, and send them on their way
  9. Set up your command center and begin responding to students
  10. When all students are back in the classroom, announce the winner and give them their prize

Here is the latest Treasure Hunt I did. You will see all the tasks and clues (which conveniently label the locations they should be in) as well as the maps and checklists I made to keep track of students.

Here is a screenshot of my “command center”: