Have you ever been to an escape room? Escape rooms are great addition in your classroom.
What is an escape room?
If you’ve never been to an escape room, they are an entertainment experience in which you and your team of people, somewhere between 2 and 6 is appropriate, solve puzzles in order to escape from a locked room. The puzzles are typically based around a theme and the entire room is decorated to support that theme. Usually the challenge is related to the theme. For example, one I’ve loved is a train ride in which a passenger was found dead and the clues to who-done-it are hidden in the suitcases around the room. Another theme I’ve loved is a submarine on which the captain is missing and you have to solve puzzles to figure out how to surface the submarine before you run out of oxygen. The things I love about them is that they are time limited – you have to solve it in an hour or you fail – and they are usually hard enough to be interesting but not too hard to get the participants frustrated.
The first time I was in an escape room, my first thought was “This is so much fun!” and my second thought was, “I have to adapt this to my classroom!” Adding escape rooms in my classroom helps engage students and lets them practice their learning in a new way.
Adapting Escape Rooms to your classroom
Of course, it’s illegal to lock students in a room, so I bought lockable boxes and locks that the students need to break in to. Turns out, there is an entire company who developed this idea. They are called Breakout.edu and they sell kits with multiple locks and boxes. Teachers can design their own games, which I usually do, or they can use the games that are available on the site. I’ve used breakouts for review activities before assessments in which the puzzles are all practice questions related to their assessment. I’ve also used breakouts for odd calendar days – times when there is only 1 day before a long break and I don’t want to start something new, or days when most of my classes drop and I don’t want to get ahead in the other classes.After I introduced the first breakout, my students were hooked. They begged for more breakouts and I happily complied. The trick is to make the puzzles connected to the material you want them to learn. It’s best if the puzzles are hard enough to be challenging without also being too hard and making them frustrated.
Why use escape rooms in your classroom?
Producing college and career ready students who can think creatively, analyze critically, and make decisions based on data requires intellectual curiosity, a growth mindset, grit, and outside-the-box thinking. Game based learning, including the spectrum of activities such as Quizziz.com, Kahoot.it, collaborative games, scenarios like Breakouts, and video games encourages students who are comfortable making mistakes and taking risks so that they can build the intellectual curiosity necessary to be independent thinkers and contributing members of society.
The research on Breakouts and escape activities is overwhelming. Using Breakout or escape rooms in the classroom, students are “immediately curious” and they use problem-solving skills as they “made mistakes, backtracked, and tried again, moving from one clue to the next” (Goerner, 2016). Breakout activities make learning “more problem-based, more social, more interactive and more physical” (Toppo, 2016). When students must work in cooperative groups, “even the initially reluctant students gained confidence and began taking active roles in the quest for solutions” (Goerner, 2016). Activities that are appropriately challenging without being too difficult are more engaging for students in much the same way that playing slot machines is engaging – you’re never quite sure if this time is going to get you the prize (McBride & Derevensky, 2016). “Breakout creates a real sense of excitement with the students and staff. They have to collaborate as a team to solve problems, use logic and communication skills and they need to have fun to solve the breakout games” (Dutton, 2016).
How to create an escape activity for your classroom
If you’re ready to try a breakout in your classroom, I’ve compiled a pretty exhaustive list of resources, tips, and tricks for designing classroom breakouts here. If you’ve never tried an escape activity in your classroom, here is a link to try a free full length digital escape activity which reviews weather vocabulary.
Digital escape activities are great additions in your classroom. Here’s how to make your own. If you prefer to use a template, here’s a free template for you to try.
Dutton, L. (2016). Breakout Edu: http://www.breakoutedu.com. School Librarian, (2). 83.
Goerner, P. (2016). SLJ reviews breakout EDU: puzzle-based challenges are the name of the game in these versatile kits. School Library Journal, (10). 10.
McBride, J., & Derevensky, J. (2016). Gambling and Video Game Playing Among Youth. Journal Of Gambling Issues, (34), 156-178. doi:10.4309/jgi.2016.34.9
Toppo, G. (2016). ‘Breakout EDU’ looks to invigorate education. USA Today.July 6, 2016
6 thoughts on “Escape rooms in the Classroom”