I first heard of Breakout Edu back in the fall when my building principal and one of our teachers developed and led a session at an early release PD. As a staff, we formed teams and solved clues and unlocked locks to achieve the ultimate goal of opening our Breakout Box. The best part: there was a surprise inside (jeans/dress down passes!). We collaborated, we problem-solved, and we used the strengths of each individual team member to try to beat the clock and the other teams. It was a fun afternoon in which we not only learned a new “tool” for our classrooms, but also developed some new strategies for working with each another.
However, I have been coaching in only kindergarten and first grade this year and, since I work with primarily first year teachers, I wrote it off as something that wouldn’t really fit into the work I’m doing right now.
But several weeks ago my assistant principal came to me full of excitement. She had seen kindergarten classrooms trying Breakout activities on Twitter and was anxious to implement it in our building–and wanted me to work with my mentee to make it happen.
We began collaborating–my kindergarten teacher, my assistant principal, our instructional technology coach, and myself–and determined that St. Patrick’s Day would be the perfect day. It was a half day of school, we had a fun theme, and if things didn’t go as planned, we were sending the kids off to Spring Break immediately after it ended and knew they would forgive and forget any disasters during the week off.
The day arrived and we were set–plans in place (you can see them here if you’re interested), boxes locked, clues hidden, kids dressed in team colors, and How to Catch a Leprechaun read aloud. An excited buzz filled the air as the kids entered the room and took their places on the carpet. The teacher introduced the lesson by explaining the locked boxes and the clues they would find, and asked, “Are you ready to try to catch a leprechaun?”
Immediately, a little boy at the front of the carpet jumped up and shouted, “I see him! He was just out the window, but he flew up to heaven to be with God!” Oh, boy. I love kindergartners.
The teacher calmed the kids down and we broke out into our teams. Just like the adults at our PD, the kids searched for clues, problem-solved, and worked together to open each lock. Every face had a grin that stretched from ear to ear, and the room erupted into cheers more times than I could count when each group successfully removed another lock. As each box was opened, the kids were thrilled to find a pile of gold coins–and were even more excited when my principal walked in the room dressed from head-to-toe as a leprechaun.
Not only was this a fun morning, it was a meaningful experience for both the kids and the adults in the room. Here are a few of the lessons I’m taking forward:
- Advance planning is everything, especially with kindergarten. Having every clue in place, every lock checked, and every coin counted was absolutely essential.
- It took a village. We had five different groups of kids and each group had an adult with them.
- This is a fantastic first step for getting kids to work with each other doing structured problem-solving. This group is used to having unstructured play workshop time, but this activity built upon that and required them to work through frustrations and conflicts in new ways.
- Students were incredibly engaged and each child had a chance to shine. Everyone got a turn to use their strengths to help open the box.
- Even when a new idea seems like it won’t “fit” what you’re doing or might be too difficult, it’s always worth it to step back and think about it differently. You never know what a great learning experience it might turn out to be–for you and the kids!
If you’re interested in learning more about Breakout Edu, you can visit their site here. For this activity, we used the purchased kits (boxes and locks) and created our own St. Patrick’s Day themed experience for the kids based on our kindergarten standards. (Note: I’m not trying to sell any products. Our school was lucky enough to have funds to purchase a set of their boxes and through their online resources I have learned a lot about how Breakout Edu works in classrooms.)
I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.