Using Digital Breakouts in the School Library

For the past couple of years, I have heard a lot about escape rooms and breakout activities. I love the concept of students working together to solve puzzles and figuring out the codes to open the locks. However the typical breakout activities can take an hour or more to complete, which is not always feasible with a typical elementary schedule. When you factor in book check-out, many media specialists only have about 20 to 30 minutes for a lesson. So when I heard about digital breakouts I became very excited. I could create a digital breakout with challenges simple enough to be completed in or or two class periods while still teaching the skills that my students need to learn. And I knew the kids would LOVE them. This led me to create my first digital breakout: Library Rules and Orientation.

Benefits of Digital Breakouts

  • Students must work together as a team and collaborate
  • Helps students develop listening and speaking skills 
  • Engaging and interactive way to teach and review content
  • Incorporates 21st-century learning skills
  • Promotes critical thinking – specifically how to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information
  • Learn problem-solving techniques

Digital Breakouts in the Library

Digital breakouts are the perfect activity to use in the library. It teaches students vital critical thinking skills and incorporates technology and digital literacy skills as well. And students love doing them. In my experience, it can be a challenge sometimes to keep and hold students’ attention when they come to the library, especially 4th and 5th graders. But that is not the case with these types of activities. The students will want to come to the library and will not want to stop working. They will be engaged and working together as a team to solve problems. 

I definitely recommend students working together in teams of 3-4 if possible. In my library students sit at tables of 4 so this works perfectly for me. And also this is a way for me to control which students work together because all my classes have a seating chart. 

Students should be familiar with using the devices (Chromebooks, laptops, tablets). And they should be familiar with Google Classroom or at least Google Slides. This doesn’t mean they have to be proficient, but they should at least know the basics. If they do not, I would take a class period to go over this. This way when you start a breakout you will not spend a lot of time going over how to open the slide and how to insert a line. This is very important when you have limited time with classes.

Breakouts Using Google Slides

When I first started learning about digital breakouts, I wanted to start simple. So I created the Library Rules breakout in Google Slides. I have since started using Google Sites for my breakouts. I am writing a blog post with tips on using these types of breakouts. This post focuses on the Google Slides version.

If you are a Google school and use Google Classroom then you can very quickly share the activity with your students. I provide directions on how to do this if you are not familiar with the process. There are also directions for using it in Microsoft OneDrive. If you are not very familiar with using Google Slides, make sure you take some time to familiarize yourself with the application and learn the basics. At the end of this post, I have 3 different blogs that will help you with this.

Before you use a digital breakout with your students you MUST do the activities yourself. Read through the student directions, complete the puzzles and enter the codes into the Google Form. This will allow you to be able to assist your students once they begin the activity.

A digital breakout begins with a scenario, a simple story to “set the stage”. For the library orientation breakout, the scenario is that someone spilled water on the book “Monster Trouble”. The monsters became angry and turned the students into frogs. The only way to break the spell is to complete the puzzles.

VERY IMPORTANT: You will have to add a link to the Google Form onto YOUR copy of the breakout. There are directions on how to do this. Before you share this activity with your students you must complete this step. If you don’t then there will be no way for students to access the form to enter the lock codes.You will have to do this for every digital breakout that I create. 

Three Puzzles to Solve

Puzzle #1 is a word search. Students need to search and find 10 different library vocabulary words. I included highlighting strips for the students to use to highlight the words as they find them. The lock code for this puzzle is also hidden in the word search.

Puzzle #2 is a 4 x 4 table. Each box has a library rule in it (as well as a start and end box). Students will go to the start box. They will “move” the key to the box that has a correct library rule. They will do this until they reach the end box. This is a directional lock so the answer will be either R (right), L (left), U (up) or D (down).

Puzzle #3 is made up of four questions. The questions are about types of library books and call numbers. Students will type in the answer to each question. One of the letters in each answer has a circle around it. The letter that goes in the circle is the code. I also inserted a text box for each letter, the boxes are in alternating colors. This way students will not have to insert a text box for each letter themselves and will save time.

Entering Answers

When all 3 puzzles are completed, students will enter the lock codes into the form. In order for the form to be submitted all 3 codes must be entered and they must be correct. Once the form is submitted successfully a confirmation message will come up. In the message, there is a link to an online jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle is just a picture that I created that says the students were successful in completing the breakout. You can delete the link to the puzzle from the form if you do not want students to complete it.

Final Thoughts

I wanted to share with you three blogs that I have found useful when learning about Google Apps and how to incorporate them into my lessons.

Teacher Tech with Alice Keeler – This blog has a wealth of information on it. Whatever question you have chances are the answer can be found here.  

Create, Dream, Explore – This blog has many informative posts on using different Google apps in the classroom.  

Ditch That Textbook – This blog is similar to Alice Keeler’s. There are a lot of lesson ideas and suggestions on how to incorporate Google apps in your lessons.

In addition to the library orientation, I also have a Dewey Decimal Review Breakout. The formats are very similar. In the Dewey Decimal Breakout, students will complete a word search, do the directional map activity and take a quiz. In order to complete the breakout though they must also decipher an emoji cipher message.

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