Do you ever have one of those days that goes so well that you wish you could just freeze and save it and play it back when things are rough? That was my day today. I launched my first Digital BreakoutEDU game with these classes, and had high expectations for how it would turn out! Amazingly, it blew even my high expectations out of the water!
Students were engaged. All of them. The whole class period. I kept expecting to have to go over to tell one or two to get off of their online games or stop texting friends, but they were all working on the Breakout! A group even came in during their lunch to finish.
The energy in the room was amazing! There was a buzz, and so much excitement! All class period, I heard shouts of, "Look what I found!" "I think this is a clue!" "I got it!" "Check this out!" There was also lots of laughter, high-fiving, and cheering as they figured out each lock.
Collaboration, community-building, and teamwork happened across the board. I saw kids who usually don't interact working together. My first group to finish in one class was a group who is typically quiet, but works hard. It was fun to see them become the "experts" and see others looking to them for help. Students were walking across the room, sharing, and asking for advice. I was impressed at how well they did at giving each other hints (such as, "Look at the pictures to find a clue,") but not giving away the answer.
Students are not used to having permission to explore. When we first started, I had several questions along the lines of, "Are we allowed to click on this link?" Another question I answered was, "I think I need to figure out this person's birthday - am I allowed to use Google to do that?" It made me realize how much control we teachers tend to assert in the classroom and how kids are so used to being restricted.
Students used lots of different strategies to figure out the answers! This was one of the coolest things for me to watch. Students arrived at their answers in so many different ways! Some were reading sheet music, some were looking things up on search engines, some were grabbing their instruments and sounding out songs to solve the puzzle.
Failure is hard. By the end of the class, about 2/3 of the students had "broken out", but the remaining 1/3 were still working on it. Even though this activity carried no weight in terms of grades (although it did earn them bonus points in our class game, the Jedi Academy) and they could continue working on it at home with no deadline, it really upset some students that they could not get it. Interestingly enough, these were students who were reluctant to collaborate because they wanted to make sure they were doing their own work. We haven't debriefed yet, but it's made me think about the difference between doing your own work and truly working together. Surely there's some good conversation to be had there!
I'll end with a quote from the feedback form from one of my 7th graders:
"Oh my gosh, that was so challenging but SOOO FUN!!! I loved it!!! thanks so much for making this fun challenge Ms. Yeh! :)"
I'd call it a good day.
*Note: Thanks to everyone at BreakoutEDU & Digital BreakoutEDU for their inspiration! If you want to play, this is the game I used: Going Baroque!