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Hi everyone!  It’s been a long summer since I’ve written, but it’s been so busy around these parts!  The Teacher Anchor has been flying out of my office and into the hands of teachers who are ready to have their best year yet!  As of right now, we have less than 100 left until we are sold out for the fourth year in a row!  Yahoo!

Also this summer, I taught my 9th course at the collegiate level.  I taught Integrated Literacy at a local university within their pre-service/in-service teachers education program.  Over the four years that I’ve been teaching in higher education, I’ve continued to try to introduce my students to new ideas, new resources, and new ways to build community and present content within their classroom.

Earlier this summer, a colleague told me about BreakoutEDU.  It’s like the Escape Game, but for the classroom!  “Breakout EDU games teach critical thinking, teamwork, complex problem solving, and can be used in all content areas.”  I just knew that I had to introduce it to my students who teach every subject and every grade from kindergarten through 8th.  So, here’s what you need to know before trying it in your classroom:

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BreakoutEDU provides two ways to get your hands on a kit.  1. You can buy directly from their website  2. You can order everything individually off of Amazon.  When I priced out both options (and yes, I have Amazon Prime, so that helped), I found that the open source option came in at $20 cheaper, strictly because I didn’t have to pay $20 for shipping.  Otherwise, the cost of the kit and the cost of the supplies were almost identical.

Once you have your kit, you find a game that matches your age level, group size, and content area.  The idea is for students to use their research skills to learn more about a topic in order to unlock various locks throughout the game.  Once all of the locks (usually 3-4) have been opened, they have “escaped”.  The catch is that there is a 45 minute time limit, so it’s a race against the clock!  Here are an example of some of the games.  My class played Time Warp (we had 12 students).

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So, once you have all of the supplies that you need to play the game*, you can literally play ANY game!  This was the biggest benefit that I presented to my students.  As a teacher, we are so strapped for funds and supplies.  It’s nice to know that once you have all of the materials for one game, you have materials for them all.

*You must sign up for a Beta account in order to gain access to the password to unlock the games.  But I’ll preview Time Warp here!

Time Warp Game

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As you can see, you get a brief synopsis of the game.  I read this “story” to my students before starting.  Also included once you choose a game, is how to set up the room (see below… FYI this is not the full instructions, just a sample).

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I liked how explicit they were.  Not to mention, it was so quick to set up!  The entire process took me less than 30 minutes to prepare the room before my students arrived.  Also included with each game is an overview video.  This specifically walks you through the entire process and allows for you to visually see how the game will work.  I’m a visual person, so this was so awesome.  I probably watched it three times!

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Once the room was set up, I let my students come in.  I gave them a brief preview of what exactly BreakoutEDU was (since this was a teacher education course) and then I turned them loose!  I left out 8 hint cards and let them know that they had the option to use them if they got stuck.  Unlike the Escape Game that we play here in Nashville, there is no time penalty for asking for a hint.  For our students, they should be encouraged to ask for help during times when they are at an impasse and I really stressed that it wasn’t punitive.  Another great thing I love about this game!

My students ended up breaking out with 9 minutes to spare!  Afterwards we had a discussion from both an educator and student perspective.  What went wrong, what could they do next time, what was hard/easy, how would we use this in our classrooms, when would we use this during the year, etc.

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A few notes:

  1. My students did NOT communicate enough.  I think this was a breakdown in the sense of community in the classroom.  I had two different groups of grad students in class (pre-service and TFA) and they gravitated towards their own cohort and didn’t intermingle with each other, despite this being the 8th week of class. 
  2. Because their communication was poor, they spent a lot of time on mundane tasks in the game.  So when they asked for a hint, the one I gave was to “TALK TO EACH OTHER!” 
  3. Students need to have access to technology for this to work.  Elements of the game included Google searching, emailing, and can even include a digital lock option (should you choose).  In classrooms where tech is limited, you may have to allow them to use your own personal smart device(s). 
  4. Reading comprehension also needs to be high for some of the tasks.  My students were reading a lot of advanced web pages and Wikipedia pages, which we know have higher reading comprehension.  Although there are games for elementary, I’m sure all of them include some type of reading/researching.  This would be a great culmination of a research unit where you taught appropriate research skills and activities to your students.
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Overall, I LOVED this.  I plan on introducing it to my next class at the beginning, instead of the end.  I think that will help build a sense of community and encourage more communication.

I hope you’ll think about incorporating BreakoutEDU into your classroom!  What a great way to allow students to control their learning opportunities and increase collaboration and fun!

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