Goals for Writing Breakout Task
As a content teacher in high school, I knew that if I was going to find a place for Breakout Tasks in my classroom, I would need to find a way to satisfy two primary goals
Ultimately, the goal is to design clues that guide students to the combinations or keys for the different locks. This could be a 3 or 4 digit number combination, word combination, or hiding place for a key. BreakoutEDU has some great videos describing techniques for writing clues. I have compiled some of my favorite techniques below:
QR Code Generator - https://www.qr-code-generator.com/
It is useful to think about the flow of the task as you are figuring out how the individual clues will interact with each other. I have found that it helps to visualize this flow in a diagram like the one below to detail the Energy Breakout that I wrote:
In this process diagram, you can see that some clues, like the QR codes on the top lead directly to the combination for one of the locks while others require information hidden elsewhere like the small lock box before they can be solved.
As I mentioned above, I have found that the group work is the most effective if the task includes some "divide and conquer" moments. In the energy task flow shown above, the students have 7 separate cards that they can work on right away and anther 6 once they open up the small lock box.
Thinking about the flow is important in designing a rich groupworthy task. It allows you to ensure that there are some parallel options that give students choice without many bottlenecks that place too much pacing importance on a single clue.
There are many different techniques that you can use to mix things up so that using multiple tasks with a class throughout the year doesn't start feeling repetitive
If you have ever been to an escape room, you've seen that there is usually some sort of story that goes along with the task of "break out of the room". These stories help provide motivation and excitement to the task. For the breakouts that I have designed I have decided to focus solely on the content and clue design rather than writing an integrated storyline. If I had more time, I would love to add this sort of layer but I would recommend starting with the task itself and build that out first.
If you have already done a few breakout tasks with your class and want to raise the challenge, consider adding some clues that don't actually lead anywhere. That way they can get more practice with the content and take a little more time trying to figure it all out :)
The Logistics in a Classroom
Lots to Set Up
As you might imagine, getting 8 sets of breakout boxes ready for a class is a pretty big task. Although it makes more work up front, I have found that laminating all of the clues makes for less work overall. This encourages students to write more with dry erase markers and makes it so that you don't have to have fresh clues ready to go for every single section of the day. It should also make it a little less work when you pull out the materials in future years. So, find some colleagues to help out and have a little party as you cut out clues and update lock combos :)
Lots to Reset
Having so many groups working on individual breakout boxes also makes it challenging for any classes that meet back to back. While it wouldn't be too hard to reset one or two boxes during passing time between classes, it isn't feasible to try to do them all yourself. Instead, I have found a lot of success in having students reset their own boxes when they finish. To ensure that they do this correctly, it works well to put together a set up diagram of Reset Instructions to guide them along. Below is an example of the reset instructions for my Circuits Breakout.
Communicating and Sharing
One final step for your task is to share it with others! These activities truly are a bunch of work to design but it is all worth it when someone else can also benefit from the work that you've done :)
In communicating these tasks through my blog, I've developed an outline that others have found helpful in understanding and implementing these ideas. The links below contain a template that can be used to help with the creation process or just document so that others (colleagues, friends, other teachers online) can learn about your brilliance :)
Example Breakout Tasks
One easy way to get started is to modify a pre-existing breakout task to work with your context. For example, you could take the same process and general set up to create a math task out of my Circuits Breakout. You could either design problems that fit the numbers that I used or just use the structure and make your own combinations.
Father, Physics Teacher, Knowles Fellow, Friend, Techie, and Musician