Here are a few of my favorite … clues!

Last week, I was crunching out some copies in the faculty workroom when Michael Matera (yeah, I get to hang with him in at out of school – pretty awesome).  He asked if I had ever posted my preferred ideas and platforms for original BreakoutEDU / Quest / scavenger hunt clues, and I responded with a “not yet”.  Thanks for the inspiration, Mikey (I have said that many times in the past) – here are a few of my faves!

Timelines are usable for social studies geeks, right?  Have students determine the years of a series of events and put them in order. They can add one color and subtract the other to get a numerical clue, or have each event in one of four colors and use colors on a directional lock. It’s a great way to preview or review some of essential events – plus, it makes kids use their quick Google skills! Here’s a basic example – easy and effective!

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The old children’s dot to dot puzzle can become very versatile when you us use it as a clue!  Create your own dot to dot puzzle at by uploading an image.  Think of the social studies possibilities – the outline of a famous landmark, geographic borders, a picture of something hidden in your room .. you name it! Pre-made ones can be purchased, like Extreme Dot to Dot US History – wow!

Text mazes are awesome ways to hide instructions for finding aclocation, clue, or code.  They serve as effective roadblocks and are also great for larger scavenger hunts.  How easy are they to make?  Thanks to Festisite, it’s a matter of typing in your text and clicking “download”! Here’s one I recently used …

The first time I saw Snotes in use, I grinned from ear to ear.  It is a super simple web based code maker that can be used bit digitally and in print.  All you need to to do is type in your words, choose some colors and a background theme, and let your code breakers go from there! Here’s a Snotes message to you!

I love using Match the Memory.  It’s like the old game of concentration, but you can create your own matching pairs and infuse content as part of your clues.  Once students have matched them all, a message appears for the next clue.  Easy peasy! I have used it for the Roaring 20s – content and fun!

I almost lost my mind when I saw Mystery Piano used in a Breakout.  It is about as cool of clue as I can think of – you program a tune inthe platform, save and share it, and create a clue for the music.  You don’t have to be super musically inclined.  I thought of my tune and searched for the notes – it took about a minute! Click my alter ego below for an example.indiana_jones.0

Remember “Salvation lies within” in The Shawshank Redemption (in of my five fave movies of all time)? The hiding space in the Bible was an awesome gotcha in the movie – and a perfect place for a BreakoutEDU clue! Obviously, you can use a book for a clue about numbers or letters, but you can also conceal a physical object – a flashlight, laser pointer, film canister, invisible ink pens … you name it!

Fake receipts are awesome to use as clues.  A few receipts scattered around a room can lead to numerical or word clues.  They are simple to make using a few different platforms, including Express Expense and FakeReceipt – but don’t use these to fudge an expense report!

Integrating some augmented reality is also one of my favorite Breakout tools.  WallaMe allows you to hide numbers, letter, words, and images on your own walls in your classroom.  Aurasma lets you take the AR a step further (with a few more wrinkles) by allowing audio, video, and links to appear over an image.  The sight of kids when the see the AR work is well worth the effort – and it makes for a great clue!

I’ve been to a few Escape Rooms in the Milwaukee area, and I love grabbing ideas from those awesome  experiences.  So far, I have incorporated physical jigsaw pieces with a message and a laser pointer that bounces off a mirror and points to a number – very cool.  I am still looking for a way to use a clue frozen in a ice cube and a mini-drone – but I’m working on it!

It’s a starting list – there are so many more! I’ll try to add some in a future post. As most of you know, many digital tools are available on the old BreakoutEDU “Build Your Own” site.  Do you have any other awesome ideas?  Please comment, tweet them, share them on the awesome BreakoutEDu facebook groups, and most most importantly … keep challenging and engaging your kids with awesome Breakouts!


Time to think about summer PD – even in the winter!

One of the most powerful professional development experiences of my educational career was participating in the second Teach Vietnam Teachers Network summer conference in 2004.  Hosted by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the five day conference included presentations from authors and historians, interaction with peers from across the United States, and a once in a lifetime tour of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by the founder of the Wall, Jan Scruggs.  The conference truly crystalized my personal and professional commitment to teaching about, honoring, and supporting military service in history and veterans’ issues today. From developing a curriculum for Milwaukee teachers to helping host a Teach Vietnam conference in Milwaukee to presenting “Teaching Vietnam in the Middle School Classroom” at NCSS to organizing fundraisers over the past decade to support local and national veterans, this one week of my life made all the difference.

Why do I bring this up, well over a decade past my attendance? (It was so long ago, there is very little online archived material about the conference!)  Simple – the Teach Vietnam Teachers Network conference was an example of the incredible, vast, diverse, and often unknown professional development offerings that are available for social studies teachers every summer. Social studies teachers love to travel, meet with others, dig into content and pedagogy, and chat with others. These institutes, conferences, and fellowships have grown in number, and each provides an amazing opportunity, to learn, grow, connect, and contribute to our ultimate goal of becoming better social studies educators that help young people become inspired citizens in our local, national, and global communities. Ask the awesome Rhonda Watton – she attends two or three each summer!

Many of the conferences are my favorite flavor – free – or offer grants and scholarships to defray the cost of attendance. It’s time for me to consider my summer plans, as these conferences have application deadlines and can fill up rather quickly. Anyone interested?

Here is a list of many of the conferences I know of or found through a simple (and not exhaustive) web search. I’m sure I missed a few – so hopefully more will share what they find on twitter!  I hope to attend one or two this summer. – and hope to meet even more awesome teachers from across the country. Whatever the experience, I know it will be rewarding professionally and personally, and only help me be a better social studies instructor.

NCSS has a list of Conferences and Workshops that will undoubtedly grow over the next few months, so keep checking for updates!

COLLABORATIVE TESTING – A different type of learning experience!

The test – the time honored form of assessment that is used (and sometimes overused) in classes across the globe. There’s no surprise that we use tests to get a gauge for students’ understanding of content and ability to analyze information, images, maps, and more skill based abilities.  Is there a way that we can also use tests to increase discussion and engagement with content, offer a challenging method of teamwork, and even make a test “fun”?  Absolutely – by having your students work together on a collaborative test.

Collaborative tests aren’t necessarily a new innovation in assessment, as research has been conducted regarding the benefits of such assessment formats.  Much of the literature pertains to the college level, and the results differ slightly as to the benefits of the practice.  However. classroom experience over the last four years demonstrates that a collaborative test can offer an experience that increases student engagement, collaboration, and understanding. The experience can also offer less anxiety concerning testing and learning, even when the experience itself is “stressful.”

One more note for our rationale on this approach – for the past four years, the Civil War Challenge takes place on the last day of school before Winter Break.  It is already an anxious time for students (especially secondary students) as teachers in all classes are trying to get that final test or score into the grade book.  We have found that students still take the collaborative test seriously, but appreciate the environment that they don’t need to know and memorize everything –  and we appreciate this perspective as well, because we agree!

In our American Studies course, we (the awesome Laurie Walczak and very basic me) have used a Civil War Challenge to close our interdisciplinary unit.  I utilized an individual Civil War test prior to teaching a combined curriculum, and I personally feel this format is a better learning experience for my young historians. The challenge consists of a combination of traditional test items (multiple choice, short answer questions, map identification and analysis) with more interactive and collaborative thinking exercises (vocabulary tangrams, making connections with dominos). The experience moves progressively, as groups receive the test items one at a time in a 70 minute period, giving the test a feeling of a game or breakout.  Plus, offering feedback is much more manageable, and students can actually find out their success as the challenge progresses.  We make instant marks and comments and offer them to the groups.  It’s a great motivator for students to hear that they aced a section while they are still working on other parts … and an even great motivator when they hear they need to pick up the pace!

We created the groups, based on students schedules and abilities. Similar to any test in our class, students are given a review guide ahead of time and encouraged to collaborate through google docs or other formats.  Our students report that they use group chats as well.

As the challenge progresses, students enter into deeper discussion about the content.  It’s refreshing to see a small cadre of students dig into a multiple choice question and discuss the options of each.  When the test item requires evaluation (in this case, the most important turning points of the war), student discussion goes beyond what an individual will do alone.  The dialogue that we saw and heard demonstrated deep thinking about many of the topics, as students were stretched to go beyond lower level thinking. As for test scores, all but one team (out of 24) hit the overall targets for the challenge.  Fortunately, members of that team can either individually or collaboratively reassess, per our class policy.

We ask students to provide a self assessment of their own preparation as well as the collaboration and contribution of their group mates (before and during the challenge). In addition, we ask for their opinions of the experience.  In our four years, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  This year, students remarked:

  • I like collaborating because we can build on each other’s ideas.
  • It was good to learn while taking the test.
  • It was fun and kept you on your toes.
  • It was harder than a normal test, but more fun to collaborate.=
  • I actually enjoyed the test.
  • I love doing it together – it was more of an activity than a test.
  • The pressure was scary yet fun too.
  • It’s good to have multiple minds helping everyone with their work.
  • I love it – as long as you study and your group studies.
  • We all hd different strengths and contributed to success.
  • There was less pressure to cram and more about general understanding.

Many students commented how the test was less stressful, while a few felt the pace added to the stress of the test taking – but made it fun at the same time. Only 2 out of 90 students remarked that they would rather take an individual test.

Obviously, some students will not contribute as much as others and ride along.  To be honest, this doesn’t bother me very much, for a few reasons.  First, our goal is discussion and learning, not pushing for a grade.  The test environment gives the kids more of an impetus to have a serious academic discussion, and anyone involved will learn.  We also monitor the groups and encourage/prod/cajole the few that are not as engaged.  In addition, we use other formative and summative assessments to gauge their learning, including original poetry, a vocabulary assessment, a Civil War sensory figure and larger Civil War Turning Points project. Also, in our strong desire to eliminate the concern over letter grades, the challenge doesn’t have a huge bearing on a semester grade (but we don’t let the students know that!)

So, if the topic, timing, and class are right, I encourage you to give a collaborative assessment a whirl.  If our students’ performance and feedback is any indication, you will be offering an exciting learning experience!


Getting Loud at NCSS17

I’ve been very fortunate to attend the past 20 NCSS conferences in spots all across the United States. Whenever I return back to my home and school, I’m usually posed with a few simple questions (often by myself): Was the trip worth it? What did I get out of the conference? How will it help me improve as a teacher and have more impact on my students?

Ahh … here are answers aplenty. But first, a suggestion.  While many teachers approach conferences as a tie to be a sponge and consume ideas, information, and resources, I always suggest attacking a conference by pushing to share, connect, converse, and converse more.  I other words – be loud!

CONNECTION – Since becoming somewhat active on Twitter in the last 10 years, the biggest benefit of attending the national conference is making and reinforcing connections with amazing educators across the United States. They come from all regions, all types of schools, all grade levels, and all have one thing in common – a commitment to being awesome social studies educators. The Saturday morning unconference hosted by the gurus of #SSchat is the mother lode of connected educators,  as I get to sit side-by-side with the best of the best and glean incredible and practical ideas that I can incorporate in my classes and share with others. The excellent NCSS Tech Community (@TechNCSS) session turned into a time to meet and share as well.  If you go to NCSS (or any professional conference) and don’t seek to make connections, you are missing out on a treasure trove of people that can help you become a better educator.

EXHIBIT HALL – Touring the exhibit hall has changed radically over the past 20 years. It used to be dominated by textbook publishers – and they still have a prominent presence. However, I am overwhelmed by the professional development opportunities that are available in the exhibits. From The World War II Memorial Teachers Network to the offerings from Gilder Lehrman to the George Washington residential programs at Mount Vernon to the James Madison Fellows to the TransAtlantic Outreach Program in Germany offerings, the opportunities for social his teachers are almost countless. I wish I could sign up and get accepted for all of them, but I think one next summer will suffice. It’s also beneficial to meander through the exhibit hall and chat with organizations that provide a boatload of lessons and resources, both in print and online. While they are often available through a search or highlighted on social media, it’s nice to have many of them publicized in one place.  It’s amazing how much awesome free stuff there is available for social studies teachers now – you just have to look for it. A perfect example is the American Battle Monuments Commission, one of my favorite organizations -and they have great education resources!

PRESENTING – Presenting is always excellent professional development for anyone, and sharing great ideas has been a highlight for me at many NCSS conferences.  It’s the best way to meet other teachers and instantly find common interests and skills. I was fortunate to have a nice crowd for Engaging Your Students with a Social Studies BREAKOUT and I feel like they got something out of it. I also made a bunch of new edufriends, including the awesome Shyra Dawson who brought me a Diet Coke the next morning!

SESSIONS – Of course, attending sessions is the reason to hit the conference in the first place, in my mind. Unless there is a over-the-top major-league keynote, I tend to stick to the many presentations that apply to my role and curriculum. While I sometimes session shop and move from place to place, I was able to grab some awesome ideas from multiple sessions. Joe Schmidt’s Questions are the New Answers was an eye opener, got some great ideas from a trio of Fayetteville teachers on their WWI curriculum, saw awesome new excellent VR platforms for teaching social studies. The poster presentations are becoming more valuable every year, as one on one conversations lead to great ideas and more personal connections.

TRAVEL – What social studies teacher doesn’t like to travel? Fortunately for me, as an American studies teacher, every NCSS conference also involves some sort of historical site. I always talk about walking in the footsteps of history, and every NCSS conference offers that opportunity. Whether it’s going to the Alamo, touring Martin Luther King Jr.’s boyhood home, walking the battlefields near Washington DC, visiting the Boston Tea Party museum, or marveling at the Golden Gate Bridge this year, it’s both energizing and important to see different parts of our country. Plus, it really helps me get my steps up (over 76,000 steps while in San Fran!)

PEARLS – What?  I’m always looking for pearls – small ideas, techniques, and platforms that i can infuse in my classroom right away.  This year’s pearls include having students track my questions and we graph theirs as a class, integrating Recap @RecapThat and Formative @goFormative in the weekly/daily life of my class, new ideas for virtual reality in the classroom, some great thoughts on creative additions to my WWI curriculum, making more creative student videos in class, and using even more digital breakouts (inspired by the master, Tom Mullaney).

REFLECTION – The conference always offers multiple opportunities to reflect on my classroom, my practice, and where I am professionally. I always realize that, while I have some strengths in and out of the classroom, there are many areas that I can improve – growth mindset! Having three days to process everything without worrying about the next day’s classes is a bonus, and the long plane trip is an incredible opportunity to relax and think. I never leave NCSS without having my batteries recharged. The timing is also great, as we enter into the holiday season. The awesome ideas can keep me engaged as a teacher in a very busy season. It’s also a bonus to travel with colleagues like Brian Markwald, Will Piper, and Michael Matera, because our trip turns into a 72 hour department meeting – and it’s one of the reasons we work so well together.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the unwavering professional development support I get from my school, University School of Milwaukee.  I am incredibly fortunate.

I look forward to NCSS18 in the beautiful midwest as SS gurus descend on the Windy City after Thanksgiving next year. See you there!

What’s loud in your SS buds?

 When the iPad and iPhone first made it big a decade ago, podcasts were all the rage. Didyaknow – the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary selected “podcast” as the “Word of the Year” for 2005? Podcasting seemed to lose some of its luster for a while, but it recently experienced a renaissance due to some very popular shows. Serial, anyone?  This American Life?

The power of podcasting is not lost on educators, as we continue to take advantage of the personalized power of following podcasts and creating our own. Podcasts for professional development come in all shapes and sizes, and the social studies is full of podcasting love. You can dig into a certain area of content, find out about digital technology, and listen to discussions about innovative methods for instruction. Current events are also common fodder on podcasts, allowing you (and students) to examine various perspectives. Podcasters tend to be very active on social media, so the conversation can become a two-way street (or more). Many of the podcasts have a corresponding website that extends the conversation. Most educational podcasts also come with valuable show notes, in which the authors provide details and links to the various topics they have referenced in the cast. Finding time can be personalized as well. I carve out some podcasting time when I walk my dog every morning and night, spend time on the elliptical, and in the car.  Podcasts are free fifty free (my favorite flavor) and available for your phone or computer.

How can you personalize your podcasts?  Simple – choose the ones about your interests and goals as a teacher. (That’s not rocket science, right?) Here’s my own list, for example:

  • XPLAP – Gotta start with my US homeboy, Michael Matera, as he and his pals share awesome ideas for inspiring fun in the classroom – often with the social studies!
  • Talking Social Studies – Four awesome educators chat about the world of social studies education, and a whole lot of other topics. You can’t beat this crew!
  • Middle School Matters – Two middle school teachers share a litany of ideas, platforms, links, advisory ideas, and bad jokes that can be used in various middle school classrooms.
  • Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers – Angela offers insight on a litany of ed topics, all in bite sized ten minute pieces.
  • Pritzker Military Museum and Library – I love listening to the presenters and speakers, both for content and also inspirational stories I can relate to students.
  • Civil War Talk Radio Civil War Talk Radio – My go to every year I teach the Civil War, and Gerry Prokopowicz gives me the latest on Civil War historical works, interviewing historians, authors, and Civil War guides.
  • Gilder Lehrman has an insane (in a good way) collection of audio and video casts about  pretty much everything you can think of when it comes to American history.  Leading historians, fresh faces and viewpoints, and a wide variety of topics make these a standard on my playlist.
  • History of the Constitutional Convention – Every September, I listen to many of Ned Ryun’s @nedryun casts on one of my favorite historical topics.  He weaves primary sources and cool trivial information to bring these old men to life … which is what I try to do with my students when we reenact the convention.
  • Speaking of lectures … I use iTunes U a lot to search for specific content based discussions, especially in areas that I need a refresher (hello, Gilded Age).  Head to iTunes and search the iTunesU directory – there has to be something that you don’t know (or remember from college).

Looking for more ideas for general edcuation?  Betty Ray from Edutopia has a listFusion Yearbooks compiled quite a collection, and the catalogue from TeachThought is quite impressive.  Take a look, and see if you can find a few for you.

Of course, the next step is developing your own ed podcast.  Talk about personalizing your professional development! Maybe that could be a winter goal!

Got a favorite podcast? Tweet about it on #sschat and #sstlap!  Got your OWN podcast!  TOTALLY tweet about it!

Start the school year with gusto!

It’s the start of the school year, and you have the ultimate opening class for your students. You begin by having students get into their seating charts so you can learn their names, then hand out a paper copy of the class syllabus and go through it word by word, making sure you don’t miss anything. You establish and reinforce the rules that will guid class, then demonstrate the proper way to utilize the textbook. You end with a quick quiz on the summer reading and then assign the first chapter of the text.

It’s a perfect opener – perfect if you want to immediately suck the life out of your class, set the stage for boredom and monotony, and open the year with a whimper. You know your students will come home to the question “How was your first day of school?” You don’t want the answer to be “Well, Mrs./Mr. So-and-so’s classes is going to be worse than dental surgery.” As teachers, we need to remember that we only have chance at a first impression, so those first days of school are incredibly important. We want to demonstrate what’s going to go on in our class, possibly highlight different aspects of our curriculum, learn about the students as individuals and as a collective group, let kids know a little bit about us, and have kids and be active right away after not being in school for a couple of months. Most importantly, we want them coming back for more – right?

There are a ton of great first day activities that people post online – Glenn Wiebe has a few here, and  Peter Pappas wrote about a mystery idea a while back,. My favorite of the last 25 years has been a back to back combination of a collaborative Breakout and an individual Pop-Up Museum. These two activities set the stage for our (Laurie Walczak an me) combined American Studies curriculum, let us know a lot about how our students interact with each other, allows us to get to know our students as individuals, writers, and presenters, opens up involvement for parents and families, and hooks kids for an exciting year-long dive into America’s story.

Our breakout is actually a break in – a launch of our curriculum, some major highlights of the years, and an introduction to us and our style of teaching. We divide students into two groups, split them into our two rooms (connected by a central door), and have the teams compete to open a box with six locks. The clues all deal with aspects of our curriculum in American studies – a historical timeline, a literary timeline, our Washington DC trip, and more. Once one of the groups has opened the locks, it leads them to another set of clues in which both groups will collaborate. Those clues continue with the American studies theme. Once the entire large class cracks the code, we celebrate and then debrief about what they learned and experienced. It’s a great way to open, as the activity gives us an idea of which students are leaders, who likes to stay on the sidelines, and a little bit about the culture of the class. Plus, it’s challenging, requires risks, and is simply fun. And … it gets loud!

Once the break in is complete and debriefed, we demonstrate our second class activity – our America’s Story Pop-Up Museum. The museum has become a staple since I first saw it presented at NCSS in 2014. It is an incredibly versatile, easy and potent experience for us as teachers and for our entire eighth grade. Students bring in artifacts that help them tell their view of America’s story – either something about them or something they feel is important about American history. The students are in combined classes with larger numbers, and we set it up as a gallery walk with student presenters in front of their work. The entire activity offers us an immediate glimpse of how each students writes, presents, interacts, and thinks, and we also get some great stories that we can refer to throughout the school year. We give parents advance notice in an email the week prior to school in order to get the ideas generated at home, but also to invite them. Opening the doors to our class so early in the year reaps great benefits!

We will post massive amounts of images and some video on Monday and Tuesday and update this post as well. Please make sure to check out @drlwalczak and @chucktaft for some snapshots of each activity!

Side note #1 – I/we do have a syllabus for our course, and I do have classroom principles (not rules) that are guidelines for behavior. Students can read the syllabus on their own, as I don’t want to insult their intelligence. If they don’t read it, it’s their loss, because it’s kind of fun! In reality, the syllabus is more for parents – students will be in class every day! As for classroom principles and rules, those are embedded within the activities that we do early in the school year. Since I’m fortunate to discuss law and government at the beginning of the year, I can throw in the difference between rules and principles pretty quickly. I’m pretty sure that no student wants to hear a lecture about classroom rules first thing after over two months “freedom”. Plus, if you treat kids with respect, they’re going to treat others with respect.

Side note #2 – We do not use a textbook … I haven’t used one for seven years, and I don’t see myself ever returning to the dark side.

Side note #3 – I do similar activities to open my methods class as well. Check out some tweets in the next few weeks for examples. College students love these experiences too!

Digital Breakouts in the SS

It’s time for some heartfelt honesty – I have an addiction … to BreakoutEDU.  I continuously try to think of or look for new clues, shop for every different lock I can find, hit craft stores for cool ways to hide information, and scour Groupon for deals to local Escape Rooms.  I love creating them and my students love solving them (Breakouts were one of the top memories in my end of the year survey). I posted about Breakouts before, and I am excited to be presenting BREAKOUT! at the annual NCSS Conference in San Francisco in November. In my first BreakoutEDU post, I mentioned my thirst for digital breakouts and insinuated a follow up post … so here it is!

Similar to the classroom version, digital breakouts involve challenging students with a series of locks that must be opened, centered around a theme and clues tied to the curriculum. Instead of having physical clues in a classroom space, digital breakouts are housed on a website, with clues available directly (or hidden) on the website and/or through various digital platforms. Kids can learn a ton about the selected content and develop specific skills if desired as they complete the breakouts.  Once participants solve the clues, they unlock a new webpage with a congratulatory message. Most importantly, students experience the thrill of the chase, leading to increased engagement!

In my mind, digital breakouts have a few advantages over the classroom counterparts. Video,  audio, and online resources can easily be used to challenge students as well as convey curricular content. Also, digital breakouts can be completed asynchronously by students. Of course, students lose some of the collaboration that is a hallmark of classroom breakouts, but the digital variety can be completed in unison through various online means like messenger and Face Time.  Digital  breakouts unfortunately lack the physical movement that I enjoy in class and with classroom breakouts, but you can’t win them all – RIGHT?.

Digital breakouts are AWESOME for social studies content. Think of the available materials online regarding the content you teach – video, audio of speeches, maps, primary sources galore, images, cartoons, current events … the possibilities are endless.  Combine that with amazing digital tools that fit perfectly with the social studies and you have an awesome method of introducing content and skills to your students.

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Want some examples?  I created a digital breakout to introduce the major themes of the 1920s, and my students enjoyed it as a class activity. I also created a homework assignment to have studnets get the basic content of the early years of the Cold War, using the spy theme to make it “Operation Crypto”.  The kids loved finding a fake spy name and posting their spy image when they cracked the code.

Amanda Sandoval (@historysandoval) is my digital breakout muse, as she blows me away with her combination of history, challenging thinking, creative clues, beautiful design, and plain old fun.  Her Suffering for Suffrage is by far my favorite BreakoutEDU  of all time – physical or digital!  It is a must try, and also one to use as a model for awesomeness.

How do you go about creating a digital breakout? My first suggestion is to try to complete one of the many digital breakouts available online. The best place to start is BreakoutEDU’s digital site, as these creators have it DOWN to a science. Besides incredible tutorials and a litany of awesome online platforms for fantastic clues, the site has multiple examples of breakouts in all curricular areas from fantastically creative educators across the globe.  From there, you can determine what you want your students to learn and develop your clues. You’re not limited by the constraints of specific physical locks, because in digital breakouts locks can have any key you desire – a series of numbers, letters, words, directions, colors, dates, you name it!

I always consider the purpose of my breakouts,  Is it an introduction? Content delivery? Skill development?  All of the above?   For my content-based digital breakouts, I have students utilize a note taking device so that they can extract and record important info and also note any questions they may have. A breakout is not a substitute for a discussion, but it offers a great base of knowledge and gets kids excited about the content.

If you have the time to tinker this summer, I suggest creating a digital breakout for your class.  It can be a great opener, or maybe an awesome activity for that area of curriculum that you find tedious and want to spice up a bit. The best way to go about it is to play play play, but I warn you … they are addicting.

Join the BreakoutEDU History Teachers Facebook group to share ideas, collaborate, and find awesome social studies Breakouts – and join the #sstlap chat at 8:00 CST on June 29 as we explore breakouts in the social studies!