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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Breaking out of the Box

This year just like many others I have tried to step outside of the box. The box of "the typical classroom." The box of "comfort." The box of the "routine." In my previous post I shared with you a little about my switch to alternative seating. Now I want to share with you about two things that have taken a front seat in my classroom, and changed our ways of learning. 

Google. 
Over the summer I had the opportunity to attend Google camp in my district. I learned so much at this training, and am currently continuing that professional development with Google site training. (Another step outside of the box...I will be presenting at our Pioneer RESA Google Camp this summer!!!!!)

This year my school was blessed with several Chromebook carts to share between classrooms. I also took advantage of partner funding on Donorschoose.org and added another 10 Chromebooks to my classroom. I have truly enjoyed watching my students use technology in meaningful ways! I will post soon to share more of what that has looked like in my classroom. 

Breakout EDU.
At the beginning of each school year teachers in my district are given a grant opportunity through our local EMC. I thought long and hard about what to submit in my proposal, and then remembered a product I had researched several years ago. Breakout EDU. I thought "why not?!?!". Long story short my grant proposal was selected and my classroom is now the proud owner of 3 Breakout EDU boxes. The cool part about these boxes is they offer amazing opportunities for learning!! Even better, it allows an outlet for group work and problem solving that my students have flourished with. 
You can visit Breakout EDU's website for more information on the actual product.

Okay, back to business.
The first day I chose to use these in my classroom I tried to keep it simple. Main reason, my sanity. Alternate reason, fear of the unknown. I began the day by placing 2 of our Breakout EDU boxes at the front of the classroom. This started engagement from the moment my students entered the classroom. They immediately asked *gasp* "What are the boxes for?!?!?!". (Insert instant smile on a teacher's face.) 

Luckily for our first attempt I chose our first subject of the day, so we were able to jump in almost immediately. 
I chose to use our word locks 
to safeguard the prizes inside. For this particular activity, I felt that this was the best application. My students had to complete tasks based on adjectives (our current ELA standard at the time) to figure out the word which would open our lock. My students had to find adjectives around the room and bring them to the carpet. We compiled the list of words and then began discussing similarities and differences in the words. The lesson continued with discussion on how these words, if any, could be grouped together. they had the understanding that there would be two groups, because there were two boxes. My students were instantly engaged and learning was such a pleasure!  

I have used our Breakout EDU boxes several other times throughout the year. Each time a little more detailed than the last. I found that the more I use them the more comfortable and creative I can be. 
**On a separate note: Breakout EDU does offer some predesigned learning opportunities specific to various grade levels. You gain access to these lessons upon purchase.**

The latest time was a bit of work, but super fun. My students had to solve math problems and then riddles to determine their 3 digit or 4 digit lock code. Once inside my students were directed to Google classroom, where they watched a video I had developed explaining the measurement tools in their box, and what they would need to do. 
(Note to self and you: In the future, when requiring students to watch a video of instructions allow multiple computers so that they can view the material in smaller groups. :) )

Students then began working in their groups to complete assignments. I watched as my 7 and 8 year olds collaborated, problem solved, and persevered. 





This lesson was just as much fun for me as it was for my students. It did take some time and effort on my part, but for the learning that was produced it was WELL WORTH IT! So glad I took the time to write the grant that provided these materials. TOO MUCH FUN, and even more to come. 

I hope that you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you. If you have been looking for a way to shake up learning in your classroom, consider looking into Breakout EDU. I have loved it, and am excited to adapt and learn more about incorporating this into our classroom routine. 

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