I have been wanting to do a Breakout EDU game with my 4th grade STEAM class, but was nervous about introducing the box and locks as I know the class time would not be productive as it could be if the locks were not involved. I tried a "Crack the Code" game a couple of weeks ago for International Sloth Day, and let's just say, I did not blog about it, so you can probably piece together how it went. It was a good learning experience for me though, as I learned a lot about my students, how they learn with minimal direction, their problem solving skills, and their need to scaffold their confidence level with each clue. Sooo, attempt number two for Thanksgiving!
As I was not implementing this game with a physical Breakout EDU box and locks, I used a recording sheet for groups to record their answers as they worked through clues. My intention was to provide them with guidance in what type of answer they will be looking for in their solution. I learned from Crack the Code attempt number one that this was a whole new type of learning, problem solving, and collaboration, so I wanted to provide some indirect guidance in getting them going in clue solving. That way the next time we do a Crack the Code (or a Breakout EDU game), they will have a better understanding of expectations and how it is necessary to solve the clues to be successful.
For this game, I intentionally started with Clue 1 being an easy clue and each clue getting progressively more difficult. My goal with this clue was really to get them warmed up, talking with each other, and working together to solve a problem.
For this clue, I was really looking for students to use their reasoning skills to find the answer. The text excerpt is not really of importance in solving the puzzle, other than the words in bold. I wanted them to learn how to connect different kinds of information to solve a problem.
When designing clues, I like to work in some clue types that incorporate some different content areas other than the theme of the game. In this case, it was binary language as a bit of an introduction to coding. I knew this would be a bit more challenging than the other clues, but hey, it is a good brain workout. So, why not a few "dad jokes" to make it a bit fun?
This was the only clue that I designed that incorporated another element other than a pencil or dry erase marker. As it used the blacklight flashlight, I intentionally placed this clue last (as it can often be a distraction). In my experience, as students realize they have almost solved all of the clues, they tend to really focus and work hard on the last one so that they can say they completed all of the clues. The Magic Square type of puzzle is often challenging for students as well, so I wanted them to have a sense of accomplishment prior to reaching this puzzle.
I always try and include a math puzzle in my games as it helps them see that math can be used in a variety of ways. As some of the clues in this game were easier, I included a "Loose Feathers" bonus clue in case groups finished the four clues of the game early and needed an early finisher activity.
One thing I have been wanting to do for a while with the 4th grade classes I regularly work with is a Breakout EDU game. I was a bit hesitant to introduce a game with the boxes and locks as I anticipated there being a lot of playing around with them and not a whole lot of clue solving taking place. I know there are many ways to manage this, but at the end of the day, we know our students best and need to adapt lessons and activities to their needs. As I really wanted to focus on the content, I thought I would try something that I had seen some teachers on Instagram do and try the "Crack the Code" approach. With this, it is very similar to a Breakout EDU game (and pretty much any Breakout EDU game could be adapted to this style), but does not actually use any physical boxes or locks.
I created a game for introducing basic Earth Day concepts, basic math review, as well as my love for sloths. I really wanted the students to focus on the critical thinking and problem solving aspect as they persevered through difficult tasks. Each of the six groups started on Task 1 and as they completed a task, they moved their group sloth from the bottom of the tree to the top. This allowed me to easily see where each group was with a quick glance at the board and check in with groups who might be struggling a little. I also intentionally did not incorporate technology into this game as I wanted to eliminate as many potential distractions as I introduced this type of game.
After starting with this approach, feel confident that the students would be successful in participating in a regular Breakout EDU game. I felt it was necessary to scaffold the game structure, so that I was not setting groups up for frustration and confusion. Also, to be honest, this was less work (short of writing an original game) on the setup end of things for a teacher. I simply had to make sure there were enough copies of each clue for the number of groups that I had as well as the necessary materials for solving (scrap paper, dry erase markers, black lights, etc.).
This was the "Learner Profile" that I created for this activity. My district is working towards making the 5Cs outside of content part of how we assess our students, so I am trying to make sure I have ways of measuring the activities I am doing with students. In full disclosure, I made this after I had done the game with students because I wanted to do some observation of the students as they were working. I have done Breakout EDU games countless times before, but I hadn't sat down and put into words how I would show a growth progression for their participation in the game. These Learner Profile rubrics were created based on the book, Becoming Brilliant and the EdLeader21 4C Rubrics. I tried to make them so that they could be applied to any Breakout EDU/Crack the Code games for any grade level (as I do games for many grade levels).
I also made a student self-assessment version. These are both works in progress (and let's be honest, are probably about 20 revisions away from calling it "done"!), but help me when I am watching students complete the games to see how they are growing or developing in some of the other "C" skills outside of the content.
NOTE: I do not always do a reward for students with Breakout EDU games (I am a firm believer in high-fives as rewards!), but I saw the Trolli sour sloths when I was at the store and I just couldn't resist!
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