Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.

Ursla Le Guin (1929-2018)

The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969

Maze Challenge

Choice Card: Maze Challenge
Vocabulary Review
elementary aged and up
3-6 minutes
Class Size:
Small Groups (large class possible)
Energy Level:
Puzzle Game
Maze Sheets, pen, counter, timer


Players attempt to navigate an invisible maze. Can they make it out within the time limit? The example given here uses Halloween vocabulary but the idea is not limited to Halloween. You need two copies of a sheet per game. It's a good idea to laminate sheets and put them into plastic sleeves during play. This way marker pens can be used and sheets used more than once.


Give the players a sheet and spend a little time going through the vocabulary. Then take a sheet and draw a maze by making walls using the squares. The maze should have an exit at the top and an entrance at the bottom. Any design that allows players to visit every square is legitimate. Give the players a pen and a counter, set the time limit and start the clock.

Method of Play

Starting at the bottom the players try to trace a path through the maze. Players may move up or down but not diagonally. In turn each player names one item. If the move is legitimate say ”OK”. The players move the counter to that square. But if the players attempt to move through a wall call out “Wall”. Players draw in the wall and move the counter back to the start. This is key. Every time the players hit a wall they must start over from the beginning.

Example Maze: With four players, play may go as follows) Player One: “Gravestone” (OK), Player Two: “Ghost” (Wall! Start again!). Player Three: “Gravestone” (OK), Player Four: “Black Cat” (OK), Player One: “Mummy” ((Wall! Start again!).


Rather than using a pen to draw walls and a counter players could attempt to navigate the maze through memory alone.

The challenge can be increased by having students make a sentence using a word rather than simply naming it. An even greater challenge is to stipulate that the same sentence cannot be used more than once. Of course, if the students are making sentences the time limit should be adjusted.

When the time limit goes players should be allowed to keep going until they hit a wall. In this way there is a chance that they can escape right at the end.

If the maze design is difficult (usually one where players are required to go backwards) players can be given a hint. For the example above you could say, "Sting those bones!" or "Don't' go trick-or-treating".


When introducing the game it is usually best to start with a simple maze with more than one way to get out. When players are familiar the teacher can ask whether the players want an easy, medium or difficult maze and design one accordingly.

When players hit a wall make a sound effect for the process of returning to the start. Mimicking the sound of a dying Pacman can work well. A little humour can soften the blow of having to start again and even increase the players' motivation to get through the maze.

When using the game with large classes players can divide into teams. Each team can have a copy of the sheet but take turns calling out words or sentences. Alternatively, players could work in pairs or small groups and take turns designing mazes for each other. Just make sure players are drawing legitimate mazes. A good option is to limit a design to 6 outer walls and 6 inner ones.

Maze Design

A blank template is provided to download. The Halloween example also uses 16 different vocabulary items. It is possible to repeat items which may work better from the point of view of re-enforcing vocabulary. However, if an item is used more than once be careful to make sure that the items are kept apart. Be wary of creating a confusing board where the same item can be moved to twice from one square. See the diagram opposite - in the top example there is a problem moving to a spider from the skull - which spider? The bottom example doesn't have this problem.