Teaching Reading Comprehension : Treasure Hunt

by Louanne Piccolo, January 20, 2017

Teaching Reading Comprehension in the ESL Classroom highlights that reading must be made meaningful for students to be able to benefit from it. Although that may seem logical, you might find yourself asking, "Yes, but how?"
There are a lot of fun ways to teach reading but today’s article is going to take a look at how treasure hunts can put reading skills into use and reinforce vocabulary.

English Reading Comprehension activity


Treasure hunts are great fun and children love them. Although to be honest, so do most of my adult students. They can be taken outside or organised inside, depending on the weather and season, and can be played with large groups or only one or two students.
I suggest you keep the reading activity based on some specific language use and vocabulary reinforcement, centered around what you are teaching them at the moment so that your students will be able to read almost all the language and understand the instructions easily.

For children, I often use Winnie the Witch while teaching children how to read in English. The story line is fun and easy to understand, there is a lot of repetition and the images are lively and colourful. The vocabulary in the book is centered on objects that are found in the house as well as body parts and colours. If I were to organise a treasure hunt as a follow-up activity to reinforce the vocabulary, I could send students inside and outside to look for clues.

You can vary the difficulty according to what your students are able to read and understand. Remember that to be able to play they must read the clue and understand it so that they can be lead to the next clue. Here are some very simple clues that could be used:

  1. It is where we wash our body and it is white

  2. It is where we sleep

  3. It is where I sit when I eat and it is brown

  4. It is on the floor in the lounge

  5. There are trees and green grass

  6. It is how I go up and down in the house  


The answers are:

  1. Bath

  2. Bed

  3. Chair

  4. Carpet

  5. Garden

  6. Stairs

Under the clue, put as many lines as there are letters in the word. For the word chair, you would draw five lines. That way, the students cannot just read the clue and run off to find the next one, they must also write the word on the lines to make sure they have the correct word and to reinforce correct spelling.
You will have to prepare the same amount of clues as there are groups otherwise the first group to find the clue will write down the answer and leave it there for the others to see. You can colour-code groups and leave clues on coloured cardboard. The red group must read their clue on the red cardboard and can leave with it in their hands once they have found the answer and written it down. The same goes for blue, green and yellow groups.


Organising the Treasure Hunt
Think carefully about how to organise the groups. If they are too big, not everyone will contribute. If they are mixed-level groups, weaker students may be too slow at finding the answers before stronger students. So, if it’s possible, try and put your students into pairs. If not, then make sure that groups are divided up according to their level and capacity.

All students should be able to share the prize. Slower students who finish ten minutes after the quicker ones have done the same amount of work as the others, just slower. So, they should also be rewarded. You can either keep adding treasure every time a group has claimed a prize or you can change the last clue for every group, sending each group to a different destination for their treasure.

If you do put clues outside, be sure to put them into plastic bags or laminate them to protect them if it rains between the time you hide them and the end of the treasure hunt.

The treasure can be sweets, stick-on badges or cheap toys. If you have an on-going points system in your class, then you can also just award points; five points for the first group to finish, four for the second group, three for the third group and so on.

The aim of a treasure hunt in reading comprehension is to reinforce reading strategies and learnt vocabulary as well as to provide students with a meaningful reading - and writing - task that is more relevant and motivating than asking them to answer questions from an isolated passage in a book they have never read.

The hunt is on!