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!
I try my best to be as environmentally conscious as I can be on a daily basis (I am a big fan of recycling and reusing!), but sometimes we all could use the reminder to do a little bit more to protect our planet. I know I have been making an effort to no longer use plastic straws when dining out - it seemed weird and awkward at first, but the more I do it, it doesn't feel that way. I believe it has been said that it takes 21 days to form a habit...I don't eat out that often, but it is getting easier to simply move the straw to the end of the table and drink straight from the glass. Sometimes Earth Day is that gentle reminder each year that we can do better as long as we choose to do better about our environmental decisions.
As Earth Day fell on a weekend this year, I asked the teacher I usually work with on Fridays if an Earth Day STEM activity would fit in to anything they were doing. She told me they were actually studying animal adaptations, so it fit in well with what they were learning. I found this video that we watched about kids taking action against pollution found in the oceans. The video was very powerful and the students definitely had thoughts to share on the issue!
When the classroom teacher and I were planning this activity, we had originally wanted them to do some brainstorming before building. When I arrived for STEM time later in the day, the teacher informed me that they have spent over 3 hours that day doing state testing, so we decided to not do our brainstorming worksheet and let their brains just create. And to be completely honest, I think it was the perfect decision for the end of a Friday after a long week of state testing. They needed to explore (we hadn't used Brain Flakes, wooden planks, or Plus Plus yet in STEM activities) and have some confidence in doing what they do best - create!
I am so proud of what these kiddos came up with knowing how brain-drained they were at this time. They had so many great ideas! Some of the conversations I had with students included:
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