February 8, 2019

Breakout: Fun and educational problem-solving teamwork

Chase McPherson, Annamaria Condon and Shiba Haddadi
By Lanet Hane

These problem-solving puzzles are popping up all over the country, with at least three locations in Portland alone. They are designed as group experiences and are often used to help build camaraderie and teamwork, though they are also a great deal of fun to do on a weekend with a group of friends or family.

Teachers at Windham High School, with the assistance of Instructional Technology Leader Natalie
Skovran, are in their third year of making use of the excitement around Escape Rooms to construct more engaging learning opportunities for students. Breakouts, the school’s version, are activities similar to escape rooms but remodeled for the classroom environment as locked boxes that students must solve clues to open.

“The games require students to work collaboratively if they are to succeed in decoding the puzzles and open the locks on the box before time runs out. While the students may not all see each clue as they work to solve the puzzles, they are rewarded if they use their critical thinking skills and work cooperatively to troubleshoot problems,” stated Skovran, “Either the whole class breaks out and gets the prize that is locked in the box, or nobody does!”

While there is a digital library of pre-created options in various content areas, many teachers choose to create their own games that directly relate to a particular lesson.

Among those who created their own versions is English teacher Mike Levine, who recently used the Breakout concept as a means to introduce students to their next book of study, The Alchemist.
“Breakouts offer students a fun and interactive way to gain preliminary exposure to pre-reading information needed to access literature that takes place in a different time period and/or culture,”
Levine said.

The Instructional Technology Leader position was developed by Windham High School four years ago as a way to provide much needed resources to teachers wanting to incorporate more technology into their instructional methodology. Along with assisting in the implementation of activities like these Breakouts, Ms. Skovran shares new technological options with faculty and helps lead lessons integrating new software in classrooms.

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