A blog following teacher Aaron Jura as he plans engaging, yet relevant English Language Arts content for High School students in New Orleans, LA.
Students across the nation constantly lament about the monotony of the classroom. Every educator knows increasing student achievement requires engagement from all learners in classroom activities and content. I have always said that the practice of teaching is something that can be learned, while the art of it is something that must be perfected. Much like a top producing salesperson for a corporation would do, effective educators are constantly selling (or to add some finance jargon I am sure I heard on a movie) “always closing”.
The question is how to we, as educators, engage students in the process of learning and get them to use all the amazing critical thinking skills we have taught them to be able to use. I think I found the answer to that this year with the addition of breakoutEDU games into the freshmen English classroom.
BreakoutEDU brings the concept of the escape room into the classroom. Using a series of boxes; locks; invisible ink; and clues, students work in small groups (size varies by game) to solve the puzzles and breakout before time expires.
So, you might be asking yourself: How this could help increase student achievement? While the jury is still out regarding peer reviewed sources and data on the topic, my classroom has truly benefited from working toward a more active and gamified environment.
I would also like to point out that BreakoutEDU is such a versatile tool for the classroom. Breakout charges between $150-200 a kit, which includes the items; boxes; locks; and access to get started. Breakout also provides an “open source” option where you can shop on Amazon and build your own kit (about $100 a kit). I was able to get my classroom 4 complete kits by writing a request on Donors Choose.
Anyway, in my freshmen English courses we have done 2 games so far as part of the inevitable Romeo and Juliet unit. I used Shakespeare Lost in Time and Unlocking Shakespeare to help breakup the pre-work (Elizabethan society presentations, Queen Mab illustrations, and sonnet writing). Students must work in small groups (each group had their own box) and they had to apply the lessons they learned after deciphering a series of cryptic clues. Each breakout game had several winners; however, there are also students who don’t break out. Usually this is a result of a lack of leadership in the group or things the group can reflect on to improve for the next game.
If you haven’t heard of breakoutEDU you need to check it out – get your classroom to a place of active engaged learners. Once they play a breakout game they will definitely want to do more!
Mr. J is a high school teacher in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mr. J believes in the power of educators to help children and families achieve. Follow his blog for tips and techniques to keep engagement high and student achievement at the forefront.