My BreakoutEDU Design Process:
1. What are we working on in class?
I ask myself what skills we are focusing on, or what resources we have been/will be using in class. This is the basis for any Breakout I design - how does it relate to our current learning objectives?
Examples: First Day Breakout over our classroom handbook, close reading Breakout designed entirely from one article, music history Digital Breakout focusing on a certain era of music
2. What are some key things I want my students to pull from this?
I look for key themes, words, or mental processes I want my students to really remember. This gives me the basis for my clues & locks. If it's a word I want students to remember, that may become my word lock. If it's a skill I really wanted them to learn, such as finding a footnote in a text, then I will design a clue that can be solved by using that specific skill. I generally use a table to organize this information (Headers: Lock Type, Answer, Clue, Anything else?). If I don't fill in all of the clues & locks here, I don't worry about it! I do want to have either a clue or a lock combo for all of the locks I'm planning on using, but if I'm missing the other piece, I can fill it in later. Another question that fits in this step for me is: What digital tools do I want my students to be using to get the answer?
Examples: What is our room number?, How can we get from our room to the cafeteria?, Where would I go to learn about _______? (using the index or table of contents), What are the first few notes of ______ song (note-reading in music)?, hiding information on our class website for students to find
3. What is the overarching story/problem students are solving?
This is where the imaginative storytelling comes in! I'll be honest, this is not one of my strengths, but I know it is more fun for students when there is a story behind it. I try to think about the theme of the unit, the Breakout, or our classroom, and think of some problem that could come with it. Sometimes I will write the whole story here, and sometimes I will just have an idea of the central problem they are trying to solve. Eventually, I write a little story that dramatizes the incident and gives them a reason to break out!
Examples: Something is lost/locked in the box, time limit before it's too late, have to save your friends because _____ is happening, real-life consequence of having science lab materials locked in the box
4. Start making the clues!
Going back to step #2, I start working on the clues that I know I want to be in the Breakout. As I start making the clues, this usually gets my mind rolling about other options for clues that could fit with the story or just provide variety in the experience. Usually, I want a variety of clues to engage different students and different ways of thinking (although on my Close Reading Breakout, for example, all of the clues were hidden in the article). I try to think about different modes of learning (visual, audio, kinesthetic), different types of problem-solving (words, numbers, symbols/visuals), and how complicated I want the clues to be (will they have to solve a clue to get a clue to get a clue to get the answer, or will it just be clue--->answer)? I also wonder about connecting clues (one clue = one lock, or do you need two or more clues, or can one clue be used for two locks). This is the time where I am really thinking about the flow of the game, and how students will move through it. I don't have any amazing advice for how to fill in the missing holes from step #2 - when I get going on this part, the answers seem to flow pretty naturally as I dive into the mechanics of this specific Breakout!
Examples: I don't want to give too much away, but check out any games that are already posted on breakoutedu.com or breakoutedu.com/digital for ideas.
5. Fill in any holes.
This is my final step in the actual creation of the game - filling in anything that hasn't been done yet (clues, locks, story, or anything else). When I'm creating Digital Breakouts, this is where I actually make the lock form and design the badge for breaking out. By this point, I am usually pretty impatient, because the fun imagining work is done, and it's just wrapping up all of the little details to make my game a reality!
6. Beta Test!
At the very least, you should try your Breakout from start to finish (in an incognito window for any digital elements) to make sure you have everything you need. I am lucky to have an awesome brother and sister who test all of my Breakouts for me (and I test theirs...we've got a good system going)! I've also posted to the Facebook group or Twitter to find some beta testers. No matter how thorough I think I am, they always find something to help me tweak and refine my Breakout - whether it's a huge missing chunk of information, a lock that's set incorrectly, or just a way to reword a question to help it be more clear. I always ask them these questions:
1. How long did it take you?
2. On a scale of 1-10, how hard do you think it was?
3. Was there anything that didn't make sense, seemed like a huge leap in logic, or didn't quite jive?
Their answers to these questions help me figure out how to improve the Breakout and if it is about at the right level for the group I am targeting. I've made lots of improvements based on the feedback I've gotten from these testers!
This is the most fun part - actually running and sharing your Breakout! Besides running the game with my class, I also like to share it via the Sandbox (physical & digital) so that others can enjoy the game, as well! I have yet to submit a full-fledged physical breakout, but the form to do so is linked above. As much as I like to share, there are some games I haven't posted, because they are just too specific to what we are doing in my class right then (and wouldn't be very applicable to everyone). I try to share these with the other teachers in my building, who are doing similar things with their classes!
Overall, designing a new Breakout usually takes me about 2-3 hours, depending on how complicated the clues are and how much I've thought about it beforehand. Usually, before I actually design the Breakout, I am thinking about it for a few days, so I have a rough idea of subject matter and maybe even a couple of clue/lock ideas in my brain. I don't do too well if I sit down and say, "I have to design one right now...go!" I need the lesson objective, or idea for learning, in my head already - otherwise it's not purposeful enough for me to wrap my mind around!
If you are a new Breakout designer, I hope this post gives you some ideas for getting started! If you have designed a game (or more!) before, I am curious - does your design process look similar? Do you go in a different order? Where do you get your ideas for game themes/clues/locks? We can always learn more from each other!