Getting Started with Digital Escapes
August 2, 2022
You've probably heard me wax poetic about the Escape activities I've used with my students if you follow me on Instagram. I've used Escape Activities as a classroom teacher, a Math Intervention teacher, and now as a STEAM teacher. The activities are versatile and can be purchased or custom made for any topic of your choosing.
If you're looking to start using Escapes/Breakout activities but have been hesitant, you're in the right place! Keep reading to learn all about classroom Escape Activities and how they'll be a positive addition to your classroom!
What is an Escape?
Escape Activities (also called Breakouts) are modeled after the trendy, story-driven puzzle-solving brick-and-mortar rooms where you and your closest friends are "locked" in a room and given an hour to solve puzzles that allow you to escape or breakout of that locked room.
Why should I use Escapes in my classroom?
I have three answers to this question:
ENGAGEMENT! My upper elementary and middle school students LOVE Escapes and the element of competition is definitely a driving force in an Escape day.
Typically, I use Escapes before tests as a review, or before holiday breaks, in order to keep my small humans engaged during those moments when, let's be honest...engagement is hard to come by!
Academic discourse. Problem-solving as a group is so important to help prepare our students for the real world. Escapes are completed in small groups so that students can lean on one another in the process of problem-solving.
-No work to grade! Digital Escape activities are self-checking and students can only advance when they provide the correct answer. No grading for you, just circulate, facilitate, and enjoy the positive vibes.
What should my students have practice doing before working on an Escape?
I work on a few classroom norms regularly, in order to support my students for when it's time to do an Escape. It's nothing super fancy, and it supports all of my other instruction, but I think it's important to mention these three things your students should do:
1. Solve puzzles regularly. I love to challenge my students to different types of puzzles throughout the school year, but there's no reason why we can't start that at the beginning of the year. If you want to know more about puzzles, click to read my blog post about my favorite classroom puzzles.
2. Set group work norms. The best thing about working on an Escape at school is that your students can use their strengths and differences to solve puzzles together. However, with group work always comes the importance of Group Work norms. Before I start an Escape activity I take a few moments to review our group work norms and ask my students how they think I expect them to speak to one another and work during this process. We emphasize respectful disagreement and all voices being heard - you never know who will have the right idea for solving a puzzle!
3. SHOW THEIR WORK! If you're in a pinch, your student's work can be written on scrap paper, but when I create Escapes I like to create a lock-by-lock recording sheet for each person or group to use. This is not specific to Math Escapes - puzzles require some "figuring out" and those thoughts should be jotted down as your students play through the activity. As the teacher-facilitator, this allows me to track my student's progress throughout the escape room at-a-glance.
OK, this is great but...how will I have time for this?
I know we are ALL feeling crunched for time as teachers. I promise Escapes are worth your while!
The amazing thing about Escapes is that they can be easily tied into curriculum and used as reviews. I love to have my students complete an Escape two days before a test, so I can see where they get hung up problem-solving and spend some time doing a more formal review on the following day.
Generally Escape Activities found on Teachers Pay Teachers are expected to take 30 minutes or less. In my school, we have 40 minute periods, so we spend about 5 minutes prepping and 5 minutes debriefing at the end of class. If anyone escapes before 30 minutes, I have a fun, fast-finisher activity ready to go that's connected to our Escape. This could be something as simple as a crossword or word search with the vocabulary from that Escape's topic.