I’ve been hearing a lot about BreakoutEdu and, more recently, Digital BreakoutEdu. It’s something I have been wanting to try in my classroom but was unable to find the resources that were appropriate for my middle school students. Honestly, I didn’t have the resources and I hadn’t found the time to search for them.
Enter Twitter…! (Have I mentioned how much I love Twitter?) On Twitter, I was able to find an AMAZING Digital BreakoutEdu that was ready to go. The BreakoutEdu was designed by Tom Mullaney and his colleagues at Gravelly Hill Middle School. Click HERE to check it out!
The discovery of this Digital BreakoutEdu came at just the right time. Our Math department had a planning day, so myself (I teach Math 7 Honors) and the 8th Grade Honors teacher spent about 15-20 minutes trying to “breakout” of this challenge. It was a lot trickier than we thought it was going to be. In fact, we needed a few hints (Thank Tom!). However, it was so important for us to go through the process before introducing this to our students. After we were able to “breakout”, both of us talked about how fun it would be to combine our two Honors classes and create a giant Digital BreakoutEdu challenge. So…That’s what we did!
We were able to combine 2 of our classes, since we each teach AVID at different times so not all of our classes lined up. We had the students create teams of 4, which had to include two 7th grade students and two 8th grade students. We gave them about an hour to work together to complete the BreakoutEdu and walked around offering hints to help the students.
Here is what we were able to take away from this experience:
- Our students have strong content knowledge, but this doesn’t mean that they have strong critical thinking or deductive reasoning skills.
- Our students have a strong foundation in combining like terms, using the distributive property, and solving equations. However, it took them the entire hour to work on the Digital BreakoutEdu. They are so used to being told exactly what they need to do. Giving them a complicated puzzle, such as a Digital BreakoutEdu, taught them to slow down, think about what they are being asked to do, and to think outside of the box.
- Some of our students have perseverance, some of them do not.
- We definitely had mixed reactions from our students during the activity. For the most part, all of them really enjoyed the challenge. Every time that the Google Form told them they had a correct answer, they were thrilled! However, some of our students found this challenge to be frustrating and overwhelming, particularly my 7th grade students. Again, our students are used to being told what to do in Math and how it should be done. In the Digital BreakoutEdu, they were given very little direction on how to solve this challenge. The students that showed perseverance would continue to work and analyze the problems and pages to determine what they needed to do. The students that did not have perseverance would give up or put their hands in their heads. For me, it taught me that I need to help these students understand that struggling and failure is okay – it’s how we learn, grow, and succeed.
- Teachers – Complete the Digital BreakoutEdu first!
- This is a must! If we hadn’t completed the challenge first, we would have had no idea what the students were being asked to do. There are so many parts to this activity, such as different Google Forms, sites, and videos, that it was critical that we understood where and what are students were doing. Take some time and go through it with some fellow teachers.
- Small and large classes are fun, but it is especially fun to work with another teacher
- During two of my Math classes, I was able to combine with an 8th grade teacher. During my last class, I just had my group of 7th grade students. Both options work! It was really entertaining to watch the 7th and 8th grade students try to work together. We often focus on collaboration and communication in our classes, but what happens when you combine two grades levels of Math classes? Well, some students worked really well together and some did not. I think some of the 7th graders were a bit shy and some of the 8th graders didn’t feel like the 7th graders always pulled their own weight. However, if we do this again, we now know that this is something that we need to work on with our students. Also, it is really fun to be able to share this experience with other teachers. When we had our combined classes, we were able to come up with so many ideas for the next time we do a Digital BreakoutEdu, as well as ways we could share this with our staff. It was a great teacher-teacher collaboration!
- Digital BreakoutEdu would be great for teachers, whether as an ice-breaker or professional development.
- I really enjoyed working on the Digital BreakoutEdu with another teacher during our department collaboration and this is an activity aimed at students. This has the potential for being such an amazing activity for teachers! First, it would be a great ice-breaker activity at the beginning of the school year. It would be an amazing way to team up new teachers with veteran teachers to create relationships that may last the entire year. Even more important though, I think that this would make a great professional development activity. This is a fun and engaging activity for students that requires them to think critically and develop perseverance. However, neither of these traits are always natural for our students. I think that this could be a great conversation starter with teachers on how to help our students develop their critical thinking skills, as well as their perseverance and grit for solving more complex problems.
Overall, the Digital BreakoutEdu experience was a success! Our students enjoyed the challenge, even though it was often a struggle, and it is definitely something that we would do again in our classrooms.