Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Breaking Out" to Create New Learning Opportunities

This summer I tried a new experience for me. I went to an "Escape Room".  This was an hour challenge. I worked with five strangers and my husband (who grudgingly went along!) to solve a series of puzzles that allowed us to escape from a really amazing theatrical set up.  It was a fun and unique experience, and I have recommended it to friends...but it also started my thinking about how the engagement I witnessed and felt in this environment could be transferred to my classroom teaching practice.  During my 'escape' I noticed that despite the styles and personalities of everyone there, we were all engaged in this team effort to escape.

I went home and started researching the concept of escape rooms.  I found that there was a large community of fellow teachers around the country who felt the same way I did about this concept.  There was already a professional community of learners creating educational break out games, and espousing the practice as some of the most engaging activities they had done with students across a whole year of learning!  I began purchasing locks and signed up to be a beta tester on the breakout.edu site...where I could access games and ideas from other educators (http://www.breakoutedu.com/).

One of my main teaching goals in enrichment is for students to collaborate. In order to collaborate effectively I believe we must all be given many chances to work together.  The idea of a whole class working together to break out is very exciting to me and I wanted to try a game.  The fact that games already existed gave me the additional support I needed to get started early in the school year. I am very thankful for the online community who is creating these examples, especially game designer and librarian Amy Williams, whose game I adapted for my first break out teaching experience.

In our fourth grade enrichment/library class we focus early in the year on skills that students will need to work on capstone projects in the second half of the year. One important skill is the ability to find nonfiction resources in the library. This was a perfect skill for a break out!

It is a few days since I tried the break out with students and I am already considering how and when I will use this new methodology to introduce and teach other concepts.  Students are coming up to me in the halls asking to do another one....and telling me how much they loved learning this way.  Taking a risk and trying a new teaching methodology has reminded me of why I love teaching so much....to learn alongside students, to show them that I want them to learn but also that I want them to try new things, to take risks in their learning, and have fun....

I took many pictures of our first RES break out, and I hope this video helps to capture some of the engagement and excitement students experienced.


  1. It was fun to see that group of fourth graders problem solving. I recognized many of those,faces. Keep up the good work! Ms. Agner

  2. It was fun to see that group of fourth graders problem solving. I recognized many of those,faces. Keep up the good work! Ms. Agner


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