Monday, February 19, 2007


Improved Treasure Hunt Format

Have you found yourself with one or more of these instructional dilemmas?

Perhaps a revised treasure hunt is the solution. The revised treasure hunt model was developed by Regina Royer and Patricia Richards from the Salisbury University in Maryland. The model was presented in the article, “Treasure Hunts for Better Reading,” that appeared in the November, 2005 issue of Learning and Leading with Technology. I have summarized the article below. The orginal article can be viewed by ISTE members at:

Royer and Richards have revised the traditional treasure hunt model based on the ideas presented by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book Understanding by Design (1998) and the recommendations for reading comprehension instruction presented in the National Reading Panel Report (2000). The result is a format that begins with a statement of understanding, provides opportunities to answer higher-level questions related to that statement, and ends with a performance task that allows students to demonstrate their understanding.

Four Section of the Revised Model

The revised treasure hunt model consists of the following four sections: understanding statement, introduction, questions, and putting it all together. Each of these sections is described below.

Understanding Statement:

An understanding statement is explicitly stated at the beginning of the treasure hunt. The purpose of this statement is to guide students in knowing what they are expected to understand at the completion of the activity. The statement should be narrow enough to be adequately investigated within the framework of the treasure hunt. Keep in mind that an enduring understanding is a statement the students should be able to make after completing the activity.


The introduction has a dual purpose. As in a WebQuest, the introduction should hook the students and motivate them to engage in the activity. This can be achieved by making connections to something relevant in their lives. In addition, the introduction should include directions for the student to complete the activity.

Next, students are presented with a series of questions that relate to the understanding statement and can be answered by reading the websites provided. The questions can be separated into three distinct categories: QAR, Visual Analysis, and Metacognition. It is important to pose only questions that require students to identify, interpret, and analyze the information as it relates to the understanding statement.

The Question/ Answer/Relationship (QAR) method is recommended to design the series of questions. Each question should be labeled to indicate the type of QAR question. Here is a brief description of the types of questions of the QAR method:

If this approach is new to you and/or your students, review the chart on the following site:

Visual Analysis:
Visual literacy is rapidly becoming just as important as text-based literacy. For this reason, at least one question should be included that focuses on a visual image. If possible, students should be asked to compare or contrast the image with their own mental image of the information presented.

Engaging students in the process of metacognition has been shown to improve comprehension. Therefore, the final question should ask students to record the questions they still have about the understanding statement. This requires students to think about what they have been reading and learning. Students should be encouraged to seek answers to their own questions.

Putting It All Together:

The final section of the revise model assigns an end product or task that requires students to apply what they have learned. This should be performance-based and provide evidence that students comprehend the understanding statement.

Implementation Strategies:

When beginning a treasure hunt, it is important to preview it with students. This will give students the opportunity to active prior knowledge and to ask clarifying questions about the procedure for completion. The following steps can serve as a guide for introducing the activity to students:

  1. Establish collaborative groups and specify cooperative structures students should use to interact with others.
  2. Set the purpose for reading through the presentation and of the understanding statement and the introduction.
  3. Preview the linked web sites as you point out navigational features and draw attention to key images. Draw attention to websites that can be used to answer more than one question.
  4. Review the types of questions in the QAR approach and indicate how the type of question provides clues as to how it will be answered. Discuss fix-it-up strategies that should be used when text is not understood.
  5. Preview the questions and the assigned task. Provide opportunities for students ask clarifying questions before they begin.
  6. At the completion of the task, allow students to share the results of the performance task with other students.

Procedure for Developing a Treasure Hunt using this Model:

1. Select a topic for study that supports the curriculum and lends itself to study using Internet resource. Develop the understanding statement. Keep in mind that this is a statement you expect the students will be able to make after completing the activity. The statement should be narrow enough to be adequately investigated with the activity.

2. Design the end product or task. How will students demonstrate their understanding? Focus on a task that requires that student apply what they have learned as a result of engaging in the activity.

3. Choose grade-appropriate web pages that provide information on the given topic. Keep in mind that readability is important. The web pages selected should be on or below the instructional reading level or at the independent reading level of the students.

4. Using the understanding statement as a guide, develop questions that both addresses what students are expected to understand when they complete the treasure hunt and can be answered by reading the Web sites provided. Be sure to include QAR-type questions with appropriate labels with one question that requires visual analysis. End with a question that promotes metacognition by asking students to pose questions and seek answers to clarify their thinking.

5. Write a motivating, engaging, relevant introduction.

Revising Existing Treasure Hunts:

Since this is a relatively new model, I was only able to locate one example, created by Jeff and Regina Royer, that has been published online. The example, however, is missing the QAR labels.

The lack of examples should not deter you from attempting to use this model with students. Start with a traditional treasure hunt and modify it to meet the specifications of this model. If you do so, obtain permission from the creator of the original treasure hunt. These resources maybe beneficial in locating a treasure hunt to revise:

Where to go from here?

A web-based format that integrates Internet resources, while addressing the GLEs and providing instruction in reading comprehension is much needed. I am continuing to explore ways to improve this model and will share my ideas in this blog.


Diana, I just wanted to tell you how beneficial this post was for me. I just completed my eMINTS training and am getting ready for my 1st year "on my own." :) I've been trying to think of a way to get my kids ready for WebQuests as I don't want to have to wait until the end of 2nd or 3rd quarter as I've had to do in the past (I teach 3rd grade and their reading level is usually not up to what it needs to be at the start of the year.) It seems that creating a scavenger hunt and perhaps working through one together and then eventually independently will be a great lead into a full WQ while also building comprehension skills! Also, I had a thought that, in order to avoid getting bogged down with "I can't find it's" from my kids, I could post a sheet designated for each question of the scavenger hunt and then, once a group finds the answer, they could write a clue on the poster. Then, those who are "stuck" will have a resource other than me. I'm really excited to get going on this...and love the opportunity for a web based higher order project that's less involved than a WQ! Thanks again!
P.S.-I also read your spectrum about "world class thinking" and loved it!

I think that this format will help many teachers address reading comprehension skills while teaching with the Internet.

I like your idea for having the students provide clues for others once they have found the answer. Going through that process will cause students to engage in metacognition, thus improving their own comprehension skills.

Thanks for your comments.

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