Innovation Model Lessons

Breaking Out of a Spanish Mission – My first attempt to create a Breakout EDU

Jessica Vannasdall
Written by Jessica Vannasdall

I love Breakout EDU.  According to the Break EDU website, Breakout EDU is, “an immersive games platform for learners of all ages. In Breakout EDU games, players work collaboratively to solve a series of critical thinking puzzles in order to open a locked box.”  In my role as an instructional coach, I’ve facilitated at least 20 of these game session, and I’m never disappointed in the amazing critical thinking that occurs.

Knowing this experience is so powerful for students, I was hoping to find a way to dovetail it into our curriculum to make the already meaningful experience even more special.  As an introduction or review of key concepts, this game provides another level of depth. So I decided to take on creating my first curriculum aligned game.

My purpose for the game was not to teach content, but rather to use a content theme so teachers had a natural place within their curriculum to add this learning experience.  In fourth grade, in California, students study the Spanish Missions, and I happen to work with a large group of open-minded, ready for anything fourth grade teachers.  It was a natural place to start.  But, starting was daunting!  I put it off for several weeks with the fear of just how massive I thought the task could become.  If you’ve ever played a Breakout, you know that the game is laced with interwoven clues, some that are layers deep and without this complexity, the game just isn’t as fun.  I had no idea how I was going to begin.

Luckily, the Breakout EDU website provides a template for developing your own game.  To begin, most of my clues were lame.  They were simplistic in nature, but got the job done.  It did, however get me started.  I am fortunate to work in a fishbowl of dedicated coaches and one of them happened to have already created his own breakout.  Between the two of us, we were able to brainstorm ways to make the clues and riddles more challenging, while keeping the theme in mind.  I created a clue for a 3 digit lock, 4 digit lock, letter lock, directional lock and key lock – some needing to be opened in order to open others.  The game also relies heavily on students’ ability to do effective Google searches – a benefit as I am a technology coach ; )

One of my 4th grade colleagues was more than happy to let me try out the game with her students.  It was…….a learning experience.  To start, some of the students found the keys for the key lock without even needing a clue!  (one busted activity) Then, another student randomly opened a lock just by fiddling with it.  (second busted activity)  The rest of the activities proved challenging but doable.  The students came very close to breaking out in the 45 minute time period.

I was able to reflect with the classroom teacher and we ironed out the glitches we noticed.  I made a few adjustments and I’m ready to go again.  I think I’m even going to submit this game to the Breakout website so that others can try it.

If I were to do this again, I would make this expereince even more powerful.  I would front load a lesson on effective Google searching so students could practice their new skills.  I would also begin and end with a community circle about collaboration and communication as these are the areas of greatest need during a Breakout expereince.  The debrief is essential in these learning experiences.

You will not be disappointed with Breakout EDU.  If you are just starting, check out the games already created at www.breakoutedu.com.  But if you are up for it,

I challenge you to create your own Breakout – something that would be meaningful to your class and your students.  You will not only review content, but challenge students to use their creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking.   This is a great activity to work on with your grade level team so that multiple sets of eyes are working to make sure that all the clues match up.  Go out and Breakout!

About the author

Jessica Vannasdall

Jessica Vannasdall