Some may say I’ve gone a little BreakoutEDU crazy since we brought six boxes into our district in December. I must agree I’ve caught the fever! I have so much to share about the amazing adventures I’ve been on as I’ve witnessed learning come alive in every grade K-12 with a set of BreakoutEDU boxes and locks. It's blown my mind! There will be more blog posts to come, but today I will focus on how we've extended the BreakoutEDU experience beyond classrooms so families could also take part in the magic!
It all started back in February when one of our elementary schools that had caught hold of the fever, approached me about incorporating BreakoutEDU into their STEAM Family Nights. I thought it was a fantastic idea and was super excited to help facilitate it. One of the teacher’s took the idea and ran, finding isolated clues of varying difficulties on the BreakoutEDU platform. We printed and laminated them to make sure they could stand up to lots of handling. To create as many stations as possible, we divided the small and large boxes and placed each of the 12 on a table with the corresponding clue. Every box was locked with the BreakoutEDU sign and candies inside. We also had some stations with a digital BreakoutEDU game set up as additional options. When families solved the puzzle, we took a picture of them with the sign and locked the box back up. It was an incredible success!
After coming home tonight from the third successful BreakoutEDU experience I’ve helped facilitate for a STEAM night, I felt compelled to share how I set it up in case other schools would like to do something similar.
Facilitators: Select 3-4 staff members that can help facilitate each station. Give them a key containing the combination codes and give them a run through of how the puzzles are solved so they are able to guide families as needed.
Location: Each STEAM night that I have facilitated took place in the school library and it worked perfectly! However, you could make this work in a variety of spaces. Just make sure you have a space where families can gather around the box and have room to solve the puzzle.
Station Set-up: Place a locked box, corresponding clue, and scratch paper/pencil at each table.
If there are computer stations in the space you are facilitating, set up a few digital games for families to rotate to. Families can start at any station they choose. Once they unlock a box, they can take a bookmark (or other item, if you choose) out of the box and have a facilitator take a picture of them holding the BreakoutEDU sign. I think it would be really fun, though haven’t done it, to have Polaroid camera to take pictures of each family as they solve it so you can send them home with a keepsake from the experience. Or, have a green screen set up to take a picture in front of! Facilitators will lock boxes back up as they are opened so the next family can work to solve it. It is possible to make this work with only two facilitators, but I have found that four works perfectly as some are needed to help guide families when they get stuck and others can be looking for boxes that need to be relocked as well as restocking with bookmarks, etc as needed.
This system worked exceptionally well and the families loved the experience! The number of stations seemed like the right amount for crowd flow as there weren't any families waiting for a table to open up. Incorporating BreakoutEDU into a STEAM or other type of family night is great way for parents and guardians to witness the 4 C’s (creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking) in action as well as create a challenging, fun, and memorable experience. I would highly recommend bringing BreakoutEDU to your next STEAM or family night! Such an amazing time was had by all!
I love reality television singing shows. Partly because I can not sing. At all. In fact, singing “Happy Birthday” is a serious struggle for me every. single. time. I’ve always thought it would be amazing to belt out beautiful tunes on key. But it’s more than that. Even though I can’t sing a tune, I feel a connection to the journey these contestants are on. I can relate to their passion, their dreams, their drive. They touch my heart with their stories. It’s a beautiful thing to watch them take huge leaps of courage in spite of incredible and sometimes heart wrenching obstacles.
This season as I’ve watched American Idol, one contestant in particular has captivated me from the moment that he auditioned. When a humble Alejandro Aranda walked into the room it was obvious he was lacking self confidence. However, when he opened his mouth to sing and began strumming his guitar, it was absolutely captivating. In fact, I had to replay the performance multiple times because I loved it so much. The judges watched him in awe and when the song was finished Luke Bryan said, “I feel like I’m in the presence of greatness”. Katy Perry told him, “I think you’re really special. I think you’re an absolute genius.” The look on Alejandro's face when he heard these words of affirmation was a mixture of shock and awkward disbelief. As he walked out of the auditions without a soul other than Ryan Seacrest to greet him, his face reflected pure joy. Immediately my mind flashed back to the hundreds upon thousands of students that have entered my classroom over the years with similar looks of doubt and disbelief. To see splashes of joy as they begin believing in themselves and what they are capable of is indescribable. That’s the magic moment as teachers that we live for. As I watched Alejandro walk away from the judging panel tonight after finding out he was moving to the Top 20, you could almost feel his increased confidence and joy. He turned around and said, “Thanks for believing in me.” Wow! What powerful words.
As I reflect on my own transformative journey, I realize how vital it has been to have people along the way that have believed in me. The truth is when you are chasing your dreams, it can be lonely. Not everyone is rooting for you. Not everyone is excited for you when you win. Those “believers” mean the world to me. They pick me up when I encounter self doubt. They challenge me when I feel like the next leap is too high. They celebrate my victories. They hug (sometimes virtually) and reassure me when I fail and help me to get back up again. They remind me how far I’ve come, and what I’m still capable of. They see me for who I truly am and who I was meant to be. They help me believe in myself.
We all need people in our life that believe in us. Find those beautiful souls; they are special. Be that person to someone else, because there are a lot of precious gems out there that don’t know how brightly they can shine and we have the incredible honor of helping them see their true beauty.
On a turbulent plane flight home not too long ago, I decided to spend some time organizing the many apps on my phone and discovered quite a few that I didn’t even realize I had. Looking for a way to keep my mind preoccupied as the plane bounced through the air, I played a game that I hadn’t yet tried called, 4 pics 1 word. This game is played exactly as you would imagine from the title. Four picture clues are displayed and you try to figure out what word connects them all. As I often do when I play games, I started to think about how this game could connect to learning and the various ways I could adapt and bring it into the classroom.
SOME IDEAS THAT COULD BE ADAPTED TO ANY CLASSROOM
Connect the Four
Find four pictures that connect to each of your vocabulary words in the unit. Each day of the unit, place four pictures on the screen that are associated to one of your unit vocabulary words as students come into class. The entire class tries to figure out the word before the timer runs out. You could also have students solve individually or on teams.
To make it slightly easier, you could add blank spaces on the bottom of the screen to indicate how many letters are in the word that the pictures have in common. You could also give the students a hint such as: 13 letter lock. Or, fill in some of the blanks such as: __v__t____tes.
You guessed it! The answer to this clue is, "Invertebrates".
IDEAS FOR VARIOUS CONTENT AREAS
Four pictures that connect to a historical event.
Four math formulas that all connect to the same solution.
Four elements that belong to a group in the periodic table.
Four pictures that connect to a novel.
Four pictures that connect to a recipe.
Four pictures that connect to a type of design style.
Four pictures of musicians or songs that connect to a music genre.
Four artists or works of art that connect to art genre or era.
VARIATIONS OF GAME PLAY
Variation 1: Set a timer for 3 minutes and have students work in teams to figure out the common word before time runs out. In a gamified class, you could give XP or other classroom currency to teams that solved the clues in time. You could give each team a buzzer to indicate when they solved the clues.
Variation 4: Create a Google form and upload an image of 4 related pictures for each question. Using a short answer response and response validation, create a digital escape that leads to a bonus challenge or quest if unlocked.
LET KIDS CREATE THE CLUES!
Now let's flip this idea around! What if students came up with the picture clues? Assign each student or team a word and a slide number in a Google Slide deck and have them come up with four pictures that connect to the word. You could use these picture slides as openers or questions in digital games such as Kahoot, Quizlet Live, Gimkit, Quizizz, or Quizalize. Or, give each team a bank of words and they create their own digital games using the picture combinations.
THE BENEFITS ARE NUMEROUS!
Learning Sticks: When students connect images to vocabulary it helps make the learning stick. Because students are trying to find common characteristics and connections between the words the likelihood that the vocabulary word will cement in their long term memory is even greater. When you reverse it and have students make the connections by finding the pictures themselves, that increases the stickiness even more!
Critical Thinking Skills: It takes a lot of problem solving and logic to find common threads of meaning in the pictures to solve the clues. Whether they are solving the puzzle or creating it, logic and problem solving are needed!
Vocabulary Acquisition: The ultimate goal of the picture puzzles is the learning of new vocabulary. What better way to learn vocabulary than connecting the word to images?! Additionally, when students are creating the puzzles the acquisition is strengthened even more.
Perseverance: The productive struggle that occurs when students are solving puzzles is powerful! Helping develop student's ability to keep going when learning is hard is important. When you bring this into an experience that is challenging and fun, it motivates the learner to not give up when frustration sets in.
Accomplishment: Nothing beats the sense of accomplishment when a puzzle is solved! Couple that with a shared team experience, and wonderful memories and bonds are made!
Fun: Joyful, playful learning makes learning memorable and meaningful! The more we can bring fun into learning, the more learning becomes enjoyable. When students love learning, it becomes something they want to continue far beyond the time spent in our classrooms.
The possiblilities for bringing word clues into your learning environment are endless! I'd love to hear your ideas! Please share! Let's make learning magical together!
“There are moments in life that make you pause and reflect; moments that you know will be pivotal in how your story unfolds.”
As I read this opening sentence from my very first blog post on November 28, 2015, I am overcome with emotion. Never would I have guessed how pivotal that moment in time would be. Three years and four months later, I am celebrating my 100th blog post. This milestone holds incredible meaning for me because it represents so much.
✨The thousands of educators that are now a part of my professional learning network.
✨The amazing educators and authors from around the world that I'm proud to call friends.
✨The incredible conference venues where I’ve had the opportunity to share my passion.
✨The hundreds of leaps I’ve taken.
✨The fears I’ve conquered.
✨The courage and confidence I’ve gained.
On that pivotal day in November 2015, never would I have dreamed my “story unfolding” would lead to writing and publishing my own manifesto with Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc; a publishing company that I have the utmost of respect for. As I send this 100th blog post into the world tonight, I will take time to reflect, celebrate, and appreciate this amazing journey I’ve been on. March 29, 2019 will forever be etched in my mind as a milestone that represents the 100 ways my life has been impacted by that first blog post. Everyone that has supported, encouraged, and challenged me along the way...thank you. I am incredibly grateful for each one of you. Because of you, I am forever changed.
Special shout out to Brent Catlett for challenging me in December of 2016 to take my blog writing to the next level. Thank you for helping me realize the true power of reflection and how much I truly love to write.
If I could choose the ultimate job title, it would be “Joy Specialist”. My heart longs for classrooms full of joyful learning. To create experiences where students are curious, immersed, and empowered is my passion. It is what sets my soul on fire. It’s my calling. Unlike happiness which is fleeting, joy abides in your heart. When you connect to your passion and find your life’s purpose, that joy radiates from your soul. You can't keep it quiet. I dream of classrooms where joy is ignited, and passions are realized. Today as I was pondering the word "joy", my eyes settled on a quote hanging in my living room; one that holds incredible meaning and sentiment to me.
As a child, there were many nights I’d be lulled to sleep by my grandpa’s beautiful recitation of the poetry he loved most. My very favorite poem that he would recite from memory was “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud”, by William Wordsworth. The cadence and inflection of his voice was enchanting and I can still hear it echo in my head many years after he has left this earth. Due to his Dementia, when I would visit him in his later years he often didn’t remember who I was. Though, I knew in his heart he did. There was a twinkle in his eye when I would sit with him and hold his hand and ask him to recite this poem. Though he didn’t remember our names, what he had for breakfast, or other details of his life, he never forgot the words. Each time he recited it in the same way I remembered as a child, with passion and conviction. Tears would fill my eyes and joy would fill my heart as I listened to these words from a man who impacted my life so greatly.
A few years following my grandpa’s death, I was wandering through a store while on vacation and I felt compelled to look at a display of wall quotes. As I was looking through, I noticed many were discounted by half. Always excited by a sale, I continued to rummage through the various quotes until my eyes fell upon the back of a wall hanging that had been reduced to one dollar. As I turned it around to see what it said, my heart skipped a few beats. The words that have always held such meaning, were staring back at me.
"My heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils"
As my heart rate returned to normal, my tears started to flow. My grandma had just passed away and had always loved to shop. Even more than shop, she loved a good sale. After many shopping excursions throughout my life we would come back home at the end of the day and calculate how much we had saved on each purchase. These outings are special memories that I hold onto dearly. The quote treasure I had found, was not by random. I know it was a special gift from heaven from her. It was her way of saying, “grandpa and I are with you always. Live your life to the fullest and keep dancing with the daffodils"
As I read through each stanza of this beloved poem today, the lines bring another layer of meaning. To me the daffodils represent joy. Though sometimes my edujourney can be lonely, tiring, and downright difficult, the joy always radiates because I'm living out my life's purpose. My heart is always dancing with the daffodils.
I WANDERED LONELY AS A CLOUD
I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:--
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the shew to me had brought:
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.