#125 Scavenger Hunts

Published on May 27, 2008

=> Word Origins: Scavenger & Scavenger Hunt
=> 3 Scavenger Hunt Ideas
=> In the Next Issues

Word Origins: Scavenger & Scavenger Hunt

Scavengers are animals that find and eat dead animals. These include vultures, beetles, and raccoons. Scavenger comes from a Middle English word, skawager, which was, actually, a customs collector. (You can see what people think of tax collectors!). Ordinary people can scavenge too: meaning collect things by searching through a bunch of old stuff.

“A scavenger hunt is a game in which individuals or teams seek to find a number of specific items, or perform tasks, as given in a list. The goal is either to complete the list first, or to complete the list in the most creative manner.” (Definition from wikipedia).

Elsa Maxwell (1883-1963), an American author, songwriter and professional hostess is credited with developing scavenger hunts and treasure hunts as party games. The press called her “the Hostess with the Mostest.” (That’s most-est, a non-grammatical superlative form of the word most.) Giving parties was what she was most famous for.

Of her life and success she said,”not bad, for a short, fat, homely piano player from Keokuk, Iowa, with no money or background, who decided to become a legend and did just that.” (Homely is a polite word for ugly).

3 Scavenger Hunt Ideas

Scavenger Hunts are great language activities because they’re easy, quick, and fun, and they put students in the center of the action. Students work together, organizing their searches. They practice skimming or scanning, a useful reading skill. They use their imaginations and interpret things.

You can even ask students to make their own lists of things to be scavenged, once they understand how the game works.

1. The Magazine Scavenger Hunt

You will need some magazines, five to ten per group. But you can add newspapers, books, posters, adverts, postcards, decorations on the classroom wall, etc. It’s best if these are in English. But they don’t have to be.

Put students into groups of 2, 3, or 4. Each group will have a pile of magazines or other things to look through. Hand out the Scavenger Hunt List to each group:

1. something red and round
2. the word “after”
3. two separate things that are physically connected
4. something in a glass
5. someone wearing glasses
6. an animal with a tail
7. a woman holding something
8. a chair
9. a sentence of exactly five words
10. a man who’s not smiling

This is a race. Each group will look through all their materials trying to find all items in the list. The first team to find all 10 is the winner. (They will need to show where they found them).

Afterwards, the teacher can elicit more language by asking questions. Ask students, for instance, to show and explain what they found that were separate but physically connected. Or “What is your five-word sentence?”

The activity works for any level. For basic levels, a Scavenger Hunt list might look like this…

1. a ball
2. a dog
3. something purple
4. a chair

And so on.

Tip: If you live in the U.S., public libraries or recycle outlets often have bins of magazines for the taking. Grab 30 or 40 for your classroom.

If you live overseas, ask your friendly neighborhood foreigner to donate old magazines. Or try your U.S., Canadian, British, Irish, Aussie, Kiwi embassies for material.

2. The Classroom Scavenger Hunt

With basic-level groups, to reinforce utilitarian vocabulary, make a list of things that can be found in the classroom (or in purses and wallets), like this:

1. a pencil
2. an ID photo of a person
3. coin
4. a bill / note (money)
5. a folded piece of paper
6. something green
7. a paper clip
8. a dictionary
9. a cup or glass
10. some kind of fruit

Yes, it’s possible that some of these things won’t be found. That’s okay. Whichever team finds the most wins.

Until the Cows Come Home3. The Internet Scavenger Hunt

Make a list of questions.

1. What is the Alamo?
2. Who invented the skateboard? When and Where?
3. What does the idiom “till the cows come home” mean? (See the drawing to the right. Can you figure out the meaning? Click to enlarge.)

And so on. Each group will go to the Internet, and try to answer all the assigned questions. Once again, it’s a race.

In the Next Issues

“The Great Song Translation Activity.”

Thanks to Nadya Solovyova in Obninsk for reminding me to publish ETs in Russia.

Copyright 2008 Kevin McCaughey & I.M. Poosheesty.

Comments are closed.