Reaching Even the Most Challenging Students
Nearly every teacher has had at least one student who just doesn’t seem engaged. Maybe they’re bored with school, or they’re focused on challenges at home—or maybe they lack the confidence to even try. Elementary school teacher Donnie Piercey was struggling to reach one such child until he tried using Breakout EDU. Suddenly, everything changed.
Bringing Escape Rooms into the Classroom
Piercey teaches fifth grade at Stonewall Elementary School in Lexington, Kentucky. He’s the sort of teacher who is constantly introducing his students to fascinating learning opportunities.
One of the innovative programs he has introduced in his classroom is Breakout EDU, which applies the concept of escape room games and to classroom activities.
Breakout EDU offers hundreds of learning activities that are presented in the style of an escape room game, complete with a backstory and a series of academically-aligned challenges that students must solve by working together. Successfully completing a challenge reveals information needed to complete a further challenge, until students reach the game’s conclusion.
“Doing a Breakout EDU game is a great way to wrap up an instructional unit. Rather than end with a 30-question multiple choice test after a history lesson on Lewis and Clark, I might have students work together to solve a game using the knowledge they’ve acquired over the course of the unit,” Piercey says. “I’ve found this is a much better way for students not only to demonstrate their learning, but to acquire many other skills as well.”
Teaching Collaborative Problem Solving
The Breakout EDU kit includes lockable boxes, five types of resettable locks, an invisible ink pen, a UV flashlight for reading invisible ink, hint cards for when students need help, and other materials needed to set up and play the games. An online platform includes digital games that students can play, as well.
Teachers can choose from hundreds of pre-made activities spanning every subject area, or they can create their own learning challenges using the game materials provided. Additionally, teachers can gain unlimited access to hundreds of Breakout EDU games by subscribing to full platform access!
As an elementary teacher responsible for multiple subject areas, Piercey appreciates the cross-curricular nature of the Breakout EDU games. For example, in one game, students read a poem that refers to area and perimeter. The students must infer that they’re supposed to calculate the area and perimeter of another object they find in the game, and the numbers they get are the combination to a locked box.
By working together to complete these challenges, students aren’t just reinforcing their core curricular knowledge; they’re also learning collaborative problem solving skills that will benefit them in whatever field they choose.
“The biggest thing I think they get out of Breakout EDU is learning how to work well with others,” Piercey explains. “When I run a Breakout EDU game in my classroom, I don’t assign roles to students. Instead, I want the students to figure out how to work together and what role they can best play throughout the game. The only thing I’ll say at the outset of a game is that everybody has a voice, so make sure you’re respecting your classmates and listening to what they have to say in order to solve the challenge.”
He adds: “For many students, this is the first time they’ve had to think critically, work with others, and listen to others. And I’ve found this is where many students realize they have leadership abilities that they didn’t know they had.”
Breakout EDU shows students that learning doesn’t have to be accomplished by sitting in chairs and taking in information, Piercey says. This hands-on, student-centered, problem-based approach to instruction can engage even the most challenging students.
Piercey recalls a student in his class who was “the kind of student other teachers warn you about.” For the first few weeks of the school year, that’s exactly the type of student he was.
“He never turned in any work, and he didn’t seem to care,” Piercey says. “But when I introduced the class to Breakout EDU, I remember vividly that this student—for the first time since I’d known him—was fully engaged. He was up and moving around the room, and he was taking on a leadership role. He was listening to his classmates, and his classmates were also willing to learn from him. He had suddenly transformed into the kind of student you want to have in your classroom.”
When the game was over, Piercey told this student that he was really proud of him. “The next day, he came in and pulled out his computer. He showed me that he had stayed up late the night before, designing his own escape room game in Minecraft, where users had to solve math problems to open up these various doors. It was the first time I’d seen him be creative—and it all stemmed from that experience using Breakout EDU.”
Piercey concludes: “This stands out to me as an example of how nontraditional learning experiences like Breakout EDU give students who struggle a chance to finally show what they can do.”
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