Friday, March 11, 2016

BreakoutEDU, YES!

Plan. Schedule. Print. Prep. Hide clues. Set locks. Test locks. Double-check clues.  Breathe. Engage. Breakout!

I won't sugarcoat this, the process of preparing for my first BreakoutEDU session took me a long time!  (I used a pre-made game, Grammar Guru, it was great by-the-way!) However, every bit of time I spent printing, cutting, re-printing, scanning, and building was WORTH IT!

Cyndi Childers, a 6th grade teacher at East Burke Middle School, was looking for something to get her students engaged, and I knew Breakout was just the trick. We ran two simultaneous games in two rooms, with Cyndi facilitating one room and myself in the other.  We had groups about about 12-15 students in each room.  The group size worked, it could have been smaller, but it really wasn't bad at all.  

This game has a progression of clue finding, one leading to another, so they were all somewhat forced to be working together on 1-2 clues at once, which I liked.  This helped ensure that all/most students got a chance to see/work on each puzzle.  

I know I was facilitating "too much" with my first group.  I got better with the 3rd block of students, I learned from the session right along with the students. The struggle is important for them, being rescued by an adult is what they are accustomed more!  I had moments of disappointment when I felt like the students were giving up to early, even when they were on the right track, and I nearly cried tears of joy for a shy, quirky, introverted boy when he finally found his voice.I'll call him Joey, I can't post his picture, as I don't have permission, but Joey's story is important to share.  

Joey stalked the box like a wild animal on the prowl for most of the game.  He wanted to be near it when someone cracked a lock, he wanted to see it!  I tried to encourage him to help solve some of the clues, but he didn't engage, as some of the "stronger" students had taken the lead. He looked around the room for clues when the students gotten to that point in the game, and generally seemed interested in what the other students were doing. It was the last clue that took the group the most time, it was a multi-step puzzle.  The first step, finding the words in the word search, was fairly simple, but the students were at a loss as to what to do next.  It was Joey, that was the only student that tried to look at this clue differently than everyone else.  Joey tried to put the letters together that weren't circled... he even started read what the combined letters said, but he was met with, "That doesn't mean anything, let me see it..." 

So, Joey backed off, he let the others take the lead, and they struggled to come up with anything.  In my head I was screaming, "JOEY!! Don't let them do that to you! You've got the right idea!!" I'm so glad the screams stayed in my head, because moments later Joey stepped back up and firmly said, "LISTEN. These letters are making words."  And another classmate listened as Joey started reading the next clue, others still denied, but he was encouraged to continue by one classmate, as he read the question with help from some others.  They jotted down the question and began working on the clue immediately, and Joey beamed!  He backed away, pranced around the room and said things like, "I solved that puzzle.  You guys were lost without me!  You should be thanking me!" He was not accusatory, or angry, or sore... he was proud of himself, and no one can take that moment away from him.  I feel lucky to have been in the room to witness such a great moment for Joey.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing. THESE moments are why Breakout EDU become so important to my professional and personally the first time I experienced it as a game participant. Cheers for Joey!

    1. Yes! It's awesome, and no two games are the same! Each problem was solved differently.

  2. Love it! Awesome job and thank you for sharing.

  3. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing! Lots of "Joeys" in our classrooms waiting for us to give them the opportunity to breakout! Blessed to have you as a teammate and an advocate for our students!

  4. Erin, thanks for sharing his experience! There were so many moments throughout all of our sessions that became "ah-ha" moments for those shy, quiett kids! There were also moments when those "leaders" in the classes realized they needed to step back - which was just as powerful to watch!

    Thank you for always being there to rescue me from the teaching ruts that I seem to find....


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