Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Breakout! Stand Back and Encourage


Breakout? Break out of what?

I sat down for the digital breakout session in a crowded room of geeky educators.

I had never heard of an escape room or a breakout, let alone a digital breakout. The presenter gave us a link to a digital breakout, read the prompt and said "go".

I sat there for many minutes as I heard frantic clicks around me. What were these people looking at? Where are the clues? Where are the directions?? I had a panic moment of being a student and having no idea what the rest of the class was doing. Did I miss something? Was I zoning out post Panera lunch?

Then the first person got a clue! As we worked together as a class, the clues slowly fell into place and we were able to "unlock" the puzzle. Yatzee!

Since that session, I have shown that digital breakout to numerous colleagues and students. I was inspired by the fact-paced collaboration, higher-order thinking, and innovation of these breakouts. Colleagues have had mixed feelings - some excited to build one or utilize the "sandbox" of already created breakouts. Others have simply responded with, "my students could never do this." We tend to gravitate toward what we know in our classrooms and when there is frustration about reading levels or math skills, sometimes students’ overall zeal for learning is discounted. Personally, I found that these breakouts are a way for the students who are sometimes left in the dust of the higher achievers to shine.


Students have been jazzed about finding the answers and even my freshmen students worked together to unlock 4 clues in about 20 minutes. With juniors, I first gave them a middle school level puzzle and though they were frustrated and asking “where are the answers?”, they really dove into the breakout the next time and worked in teams to get clues. It was great to see the collaboration happening right before my eyes and I think with time they’d even develop more skills to tackle these puzzles. When the breakout is already created (by you or another teacher), there’s really not much guidance other than encouragement. How wonderful is that?

Activities like this showcase the incredible power we have as teachers to ignite passion in our students. I hope to continue to learn more ways to bring innovative ideas to the classroom and "break out" of the stagnant ways to teach.



Ellen Fisher
Theology Teacher
Tucson, Arizona
@derbyfish8









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