Monday, May 9, 2016

Student-Designed BreakoutEDU game, Day 1

In March of this year, I built a #BreakoutEDU kit so I could finally try out the platform with my students. I scheduled my 9th Grade English classes to play "Fortune's Fool" as an introduction to Romeo & Juliet. My students LOVED the game so much that their first two questions were, "When are we playing again?" and "Can we design a game?" I was so excited by their response then and I'm even more excited to report that those same students started designing their own BreakoutEDU game based on Romeo & Juliet today.

So without further delay, I present the first in a series of posts about facilitating students in the design process of a BreakoutEDU game. I am not an expert in this but rather just a beginner trying to document the process well. I am ready to fall flat on my face through this process and fail a million times because that's the kind of learning I value. I think the BreakoutEDU community would agree that the journey is far greater than the destination. My hope with these posts is that there would be some insight that would guide other educators in this process. I invite and value your feedback. Please leave comments, ask questions, or simply offer a word of encouragement. 

Day 1 - Monday, May 9th - Laying the foundation

Going into the design process, I knew there would be a few "non-negotiable" decisions I would have to make so that we would end up with a viable game. Those non-negotiables are as follows:
  1. The class will be split up into 5 groups (you may want more groups depending on how many students are in your class)
  2. Each group is responsible for creating a clue or puzzle
  3. The game must be based on Romeo & Juliet
  4. The clues/puzzles should include a wide range of difficulty.
  5. The clues/puzzles must demonstrate students comprehension of Romeo & Juliet and require critical thinking to be solved.
To lay the foundation of the game design process, I came up with the following tasks for the students to complete today:
  • Establish Groups
  • Design the game's flowchart
  • Review materials they can use (locks, boxes, UV flashlight, etc.)
  • Sign up for locks and materials
After going over the agenda for the day, I gave my students a few minutes to get into their groups. Once they formed their groups and I noted who was in each group, we moved on to designing the game's flowchart. Here is one of the flowcharts we made:

As you can see, I added the names of the students responsible for each puzzle and lock and also added which lock they decided to use for their puzzle. Puzzle #3 for each game will lead to the 3-digit lockbox and the students responsible for puzzles 3 and 4 each get to choose something that will go into the lockbox that will help participants solve puzzles 4 and 5 (or a secondary puzzle for puzzle 3). In this case, the students responsible for puzzle 5 wanted to use invisible ink as part of their puzzle. This led to them asking the students for puzzle 3 to include the UV flashlight in the lockbox. Once they reached this agreement, I let the students responsible for puzzle 4 also choose something to include in the lockbox. 

By the time we finished the flowchart and established which lock each group would use, our time was up for the class period. Two of my main takeaways from today are:
  1. I'm really excited about how ready my students were to collaborate on the puzzles.
  2. The flowchart provided an excellent frame of reference for my students to begin thinking about how their puzzles will all connect.
Tomorrow and Wednesday represent day 2 of the project because my school does block scheduling. I'll see one group of students tomorrow and the other on Wednesday. I have 2 sets of tasks for my students to accomplish during day 2: whole-class tasks and group tasks. Here is what I'm hoping my students will finish tomorrow and Wednesday:

Whole-Class Tasks:
  1. Give our game a title
  2. Establish the backstory for the game. What is the mission that the participants are trying to accomplish as they play our game?
Group Tasks:
  1. Fill out the Puzzle Planning Sheet (Google Doc - feel free to make a copy)
  2. Review your puzzle with at least one other group and the teacher.
I will do my best to write a post about Day 2 on Wednesday evening and provide an update detailing how things went and where the students stand in the design process. Then, I'll write a post on Friday to reflect on Day 3 of the design process. Last, next week I'll publish posts about finalizing the game and actually playing the games. I'm very excited to see how it all turns out and I truly hope that these posts are useful to others who want to dive into the game design process with their students.


  1. Kyle - Thanks so much for sharing your process here.

  2. I'm starting this process tomorrow with eighth graders, so I really appreciate the ideas!

    1. I'm glad it's helpful for you. Good luck with your 8th graders!

  3. Hi Kyle! I too very much appreciate being able to follow this process. I teach grade five, and I am hoping I might be able to do this with my students. I am curious about the kinds of puzzles you created. Can you give an example and how this relates to the lock? I am very green, but intrigued :)

  4. Hi Kyle, I too very much appreciate learning about your experiences with this thank you for sharing. I am wondering if you would be willing to share an example of a puzzle and how its solution relates to the lock...I am very new to this, greener than green actually, but intrigued to learn more :)

    1. I'm drafting out the write-up for Design Day 3. Then, I'll write one last post about the process that shows examples of the clues. Some of my students know about this website so I don't want to give them clues early. I'll post another comment here when I have the new posts published.

  5. I accidentally stumbled across "Breakoutedu" last night... and stayed up WAY too late exploring.... and then couldn't sleep because my brain was racing on how to go about creating one.... and after 5 hours of sleep - I'm back researching - and found your blog! Thanks for sharing this journey. I'm looking forward to designing a few this summer!