Unlocking Design Secrets for BreakoutEDUs

BreakoutEDU is challenging and exciting. It is a similar concept to an Escape Room, and can involve physical or digital locks (without actually locking the students in the room). I did have one of the original Official BreakoutEDU boxes, but I create my own Breakouts with various additions. There are pre-created resources online or you can get as creative as you want. I love using Breakouts because if done right, all students are engaged; it is not just for the smart kids or the vocal kids. They have to work collaboratively to be successful. Students will request it.

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I love trying to explain my crazy thought process during school professional development or at Edcamps. The first place to start is a good brainstorming document. I use a Game Flow GoogleDoc for each of my BreakoutEDUs. The original document was inspired and shared by BreakoutEDU; however, I have customized it and modified it to adapt to the learning needs of my students. I also have additional notes and anticipated student mistakes / suggestions for hints since I share these with my PLC. I switched from physical locks to digital locks because of frustration with jammed directional locks and sweaty hands accidentally rubbing the numbers/letters away. I often use an actual physical lock for the final clue, because there is excitement when they get to see what is in the box. 

This Game Flow GoogleDoc is specifically for digital breakouts using Google Forms for the locks. The difference is that it incorporates the custom formatting to create a lock and the custom error message. Learn from my mistake: without a custom error message it just prompts with the answer. HUGE and disappointing fail. It’s so important is it worth repeating – YOU MUST HAVE A CUSTOM ERROR MESSAGE. The Game Flow also includes a space for brainstorming. I often start the process with a single inspiration. I gradually develop the clues around key vocabulary, big ideas, important events, places, people, etc. It is not the type of thing I sit down and design at once… I will admit that sometimes the obsession takes hold and I can develop a game in a single weekend. 

I know there are other platforms for hosting a digital breakoutedu, including the offficial breakoutedu website with a paid subscription – but I’m a fan of mixing Google Sites and Google Forms. There are so many other tools to create hints. Some of my favorites: 

If you are still unsure what this looks like, there are plenty of examples. You can just Google Digital BreakoutEDUs to find resources. There are active Facebook groups of BreakoutEDU teachers who often share their creations. My current BreakoutEDUs include: 

Climate Change in Antarctica Digital BreakoutEDU

Example BreakoutEDU Contract

Election Literacy BreakoutEDU

World Shipping (Globalization) BreakoutEDU 

Winter Holiday BreakoutEDU 

To manage the chaos and the groups staying focused – I employ a Team Contract. This is not part of a traditional breakoutedu, but it establishes clear group expectations. I also include three symbols at the bottom that the students can utilize for hints. When they request a hint, I just cross one off. Students take it seriously and hold each other accountable when they start complaining or threaten to quit. 

About Lisa Butler

Middle school geography teacher, tech trainer, Flocabulary MC, Nearpod PioNear, and Edcamp Hershey Founder. I have embraced the power of purposeful technology and am creative with their application. If I am not doing something with ed or tech, I am probably reading children's books, baking with a toddler sidekick, running around, or dreaming of traveling.
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