Ever since I did one of those Escape Rooms earlier this year, I've been thinking about how to incorporate something in my classes. I wasn't sure if I could really engage students with the target language, since the level of critical thinking and problem solving is so high - my novices just don't have the language for this. Then I started thinking whether I had the skills to sequence the tasks - that's not my skill set! Fortunately, someone else was thinking this too - Breakout.edu
I got one of their boxes and used one of their pre-designed games with my methods students today. After using them as guinea pigs, it helped me really see how to use this in the classroom. So this is what I learned:
It shows natural roles when working in a group. Y'all, I love the TV show Survivor. Before you roll your eyes, it's because I love the social dynamics and the psychology behind everything. I see all the group archetypes play out right there on the island. So involving my methods students in a collaborative activity where they had to solve a problem (break into the box) gave me so much insight into who they are as individuals and team members. There was the leader, the follower, the cheerleader, the thinker, the risk taker....all playing out right there in front of me.
I also learned that it takes me an 1.5 hours to put it together, even with VERY DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS. Was it worth it? I think so. I also thought they could finish sooner than the recommended 45 minutes. Uh, no. They finished in 38 minutes because they got the lock off by accident but by then, had already used up 2 hints.
I learned that I could use this with Spanish students, but the objective would have to be very different than what I envisioned. I think teachers could use the target language for various clues, but it is probably unrealistic to expect students to maintain the TL the whole time. Those who know me well know that this goes against ever fiber of my being - 90%+ baby! But I think the TL clues or cultural aspects would be secondary; the primary goal is seeing how students work together. Having students reflect on the experience would give teachers a lot of information about how to arrange future collaborative tasks and teams, would help students self-reflect on the roles they are most comfortable playing so the teacher can gently move them a little past their comfort zone during the year. It is also a fun team building exercise.
I also learned that one box is good for about 5 people so teachers with classes larger than that (uh, everyone) would need several boxes.
Final thoughts: I think it is worth it, but not sure how many times you'd do it in a year. Teachers - have you incorporated any type of escape or Breakout Box activities with your World Language students? Tell me about it!