Breakout!

By: Mary Kienstra on: December 30, 2016  in: #tlap, student engagement, teamwork, thinking

It is all that.  Breakout is the best new gimmick in student engagement.  Give a group a series of locks and puzzles and watch them go to work problem solving as a team.

My class of 4th and 5th graders recently read The BFG as part of the Global Read Aloud 2016.  (See my post about that.)  Luckily for us, Breakout.edu posted a game for The BFG that went specifically with the Global Read Aloud and my school had just purchased a Breakout Box.

To prepare for this “lesson,” I printed out the directions and the materials from their website.  I studied them carefully to make sure I understood what it was asking my students to do.  I looked over all those locks and set each one.  I set up the room and hid parts of the puzzles and posted other parts.  The Breakout box was on the table in the back, looking ominous with the clasp and locks.

The next step was to decide how to group my 17 students.  The more I thought about it and asked other teachers, I realized that I would let them work as one team – all 17 of them.  This group of students works very well together and allowing them to all be part of the same team was a good decision.

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Finally the day arrived!  After the introduction, students began in a state of confusion.  They were wondering where to start and what to do, but that didn’t last too long.  They rummaged around the room finding parts of puzzles and thinking about what they all meant.  As they worked, the kids divided themselves into groups, based mostly on interests.  Some focused on the word games, some of the video clues, and some on the “wanted posters.”  Everyone was involved in the problem solving.  In fact, the kids who typically remain on the fringe were some of the most engaged, actually taking leadership roles.

After they solved the first puzzle and unlocked the first lock, enthusiasm was high!  They continued to support each other to solve other puzzles and think about how these pieces fit together.  Within forty minutes, they had unlocked the box amid screams of excitement!

Breakout is an activity for any age group.  Kids are capable of solving these difficult puzzles when they work together and support each other.  Of course there were a few “hints” along the way, but in my opinion, it was all about the process, not really the product.  I’m already planning our next Breakout.  What do you suggest?

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