[Editor’s note: “The Classmate Scavenger Hunt” described below uses information about students gathered with the “Student Information Sheet” which can be viewed HERE.]

INTRODUCTION:  After 25 years of college teaching, I have learned two important things. One is that the first few class sessions represent a critical, formative period that strongly shapes students’ initial impressions and subsequent perceptions of the course. The other is that there are three critical “connections” that should be made with students at the outset of a course, namely: the student-instructor connection, the student-course (subject matter) connection, and the student-student (peer) connection.

I attempt to make the student-instructor connection by using the Student Information Sheet. I attempt to make the student-course (subject matter) connection by taking about 15 minutes of time during my review of the course syllabus to provide students with a “sneak preview” that highlights some of the more interesting and exciting course topics or issues that will be discussed during the term, and by seeking students’ written input on topics that interest them.

Lastly, I attempt to promote the student-student (peer) connection by a class-community building or peer bonding exercise that I call, “The Classroom Scavenger Hunt.” This classroom exercise is designed to introduce students to each other, reduce students’ social anxiety, and build a sense of group trust and class cohesiveness.


1. Directions Form (see DIRECTIONS section below)

2. Scavenger List (see sample in RESOURCES section below)

DIRECTIONS: [Provide the following directions on a transparency or handout.]

1. Your goal is to find classmates who are associated with the personal statements listed on the provided “Scavenger List.”

2. Pair-up with a classmate. One of you takes the role of questioner who attempts to find the partner’s description on the list by reading one description from the “Scavenger List.” The other person assumes the role of respondent who answers either “yes” or “no” to the description read by the questioner.

3. Alternate roles (the questioner becomes the respondent and vice versa), and follow the same process described in Step 2.

4. Continue alternating roles until one of you finds the statement that matches the respondent. Then ask for the person’s name and record it next to his or her personal statement on your copy of the scavenger list.

5. After the first member of your pair finds the statement that belongs to the partner, the second member continues to play the role of questioner until s/he finds the first member’s matching statement.

6. After both of you find each other’s matching description, move on to join another partner, and continue this pairing-up process until you have met and obtained the signatures of all students in class next to their correct self-description.


* When you’re asked a question by your partner, you can only say “yes” or “no.” Please do not tell your partner the statement that describes you.

* After your partner finds the statement that matches you, do not take your partner’s sheet and write your name on it; instead, please say your name and have your partner record it.

* When trying to find your partner’s personal statement, try to pick statements that you think relate to that person, rather than just going down the list. In other words, let’s see how good you are at guessing or predicting people’s interests based on their appearance or behavior. (Take a look at the list now to get an idea of the different descriptions you’ll be looking for.)

7.  If there is class time remaining after completion of the exercise, I ask students to personally reflect on the process and briefly describe the nature of their interactions or their feelings about the exercise. For example, I’ve asked such reflection questions as: (a) How did you feel about participating in this exercise when I first described it? (b) In the middle of the exercise, did you feel differently about it than you did at first? (c) Were you able to predict or guess what statements belonged to different individuals based on their appearance and behavior, or were you frequently surprised? (d) Did you find any personal statement on the list to be particularly interesting, intriguing, or memorable? (e) Did you meet anyone in class whose interests or experiences were similar to yours?


The Classmate Scavenger Hunt is an in-class exercise that asks all students to get up from their seats, move around the room, and discover the names and interests of their classmates. Each student is given a “Scavenger List” (See RESOURCES below for a sample Scavenger List) containing personal statements, including one of their own and one from each of their classmates, which I have drawn from the Student Information Sheet. When constructing this list, I intentionally pick self-descriptive statements that are distinctive and/or humorous, but not too personal or private. Serendipitously, I’ve discovered that students are almost always delighted or flattered to see something about themselves appear “in print.”

While I provide written directions for the exercise, I simultaneously project a version of the directions on an overhead transparency at the front of the room, so students are able to see them. I leave the transparency projected during the exercise, so the directions can be easily checked by anyone who is initially unsure or forgets what to do. (I find that this is a useful strategy for any multi-step class activity.)

Before beginning the classmate hunt, I model what students are expected to do by engaging in a short role-play of the exercise with a student volunteer. Prior to starting the exercise, I also acknowledge that people who are shy (like me) may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but assure them that previous students have responded very positively to this exercise, and got more comfortable as it went along. I also provide the class with a rationale for why I’m asking them to do it, and inform them that I will be doing it with them. (I add a personal statement about myself to the scavenger list.) Lastly, I thank them in advance for working with me on this exercise and remind them that they will receive course credit for the final product they submit following its completion. The “final product” is a completed list turned in by each student, which contains the names of all their classmates recorded next to their personal statements.

The time needed to complete the classmate scavenger hunt typically turns out to be about one and a half minutes per student. For example, in a class of 20 students, it should take approximately 30 minutes to complete the exercise. If there isn’t enough class time remaining following the exercise to answer the personal-reflection questions, I ask students to complete them as a take-home assignment.

The ultimate goal of the classmate scavenger hunt is for every student to connect with every one of his or her classmates and learn something about each of them. It has been my experience that such early peer interaction helps to create a classroom climate conducive to student participation and collaboration.  For students in my freshman seminar, the exercise may also address a primary need of students at the very beginning of their college experience because research suggests this is a time when students are most concerned about “fitting in” and establishing social ties. I believe that the classmate scavenger hunt is a proactive strategy that addresses students’ initial need for inclusion, facilitates their subsequent social integration, and promotes their eventual retention.

RESOURCES: Sample Scavenger List

1. A sarcastic, former swimming instructor and future nurse, who intends to transfer to Loma Linda University:

2. A beach volleyball player who’s good in math and would love to take a spontaneous trip to Ireland:

3. A volunteer coach and future teacher, who loves watching live bands and may transfer to the University of Hawaii:

4. A fire-eating stunt man who would love to go scuba-diving and glacier-walking in Antarctica:

5. A former scorekeeper and assistant trainer who’s into sports management, philosophy, and USC (Trojans):

6. A Hawaiian surfer and future sonographer who plans to attend Seattle University:

7. A computer graphics major who’s good at math, loves the arts, and would like to become a cartoonist:

8. A former swim instructor, lifeguard, and peer mediator, who wants to work with kids as a child psychologist or teacher:

9. A criminal justice major who intends to transfer to Sacramento State University, and would love to go to Japan to party with family:

10. Comedian Rodney Dangerfield suddenly appeared at this person’s house one day and asked if he could put a billboard on the roof:

[Etc… for as many students as you have.]

–Joe Cuseo, Faculty, Psychology & Director, Freshman Seminar, Marymount College, CA

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