BreakoutEDU is becoming hugely popular in classrooms. Who doesn’t enjoy a good puzzle or game? I am sure there is something special about having a physical box with a variety of locks to open. BreakoutEdu sells a lock kit, though there is a wait to obtain one. You can also opt to put your own kit together with items from sites like Amazon.
There is another option. BreakoutEDU’s site has a section for digital games. You can try one out there to see what it is like. There aren’t too many digital options for Spanish class available yet, though. On Teachers Pay Teachers, Martina Bex has four free Breakout activities. I used this one about the 2016 ad for the Christmas Lottery in Spain without a box and locks. I do work in a 1:1 district, so all of my students have MacBooks and access to the G-Suite for Education. I created a ‘locked’ Google Form so my students could play the game and printed Martina's materials.
It might be easiest to start out with a game that has been created. But, if you want to create your own clues based on your content, a digital game has no limitations as far as the numbers or letters you can use for a 'lock'. If you are creating your own game, you probably want to create a new Google Site for the game. You can give it a title, and use it as a place to put your clues, pictures, videos, etc, that are needed to play your game. I like Google Sites because it is very simple to 'drag and drop', and you can easily add anything from your Google Drive or YouTube to the page. You can also put your 'locked' Form on the site. Most of my clues are done on Slides, Docs, Drawings or Sheets. The trick with sharing these types of clues is to make sure they cannot be edited by those playing the game. I like to use Slides to make a 'story map' type clue for a directional lock. Docs are good for simple question type clues. When using Slides or Docs, I make sure that I change the share settings to 'anyone with the link can view'. (See below)
If you want to create a clue using Google Drawings (this is a great way to make sequencing clues or or for clues that involve unscrambling sentences/questions) or Sheets (conditional formatting makes for a cool 'color lock' - if you put in a few content related questions, the cells will change color when the correct answer is typed in) - there is a way to share these on a Google site that forces the person with the link to 'make a copy'. This way, students can re-arrange words in Drawings or type in answers to questions on Sheets without editing your original clue. To do this, you need to allow anyone with the link to edit the Drawing or Sheet. (I know, this sounds crazy, just stay with me.) Then, copy and paste the shareable link into your browser. This last step is the most important. Change where it says 'edit?usp=sharing' at the end of the link to 'copy'. This forces anyone with the link to make a copy. Then, they can answer questions on Sheets, manipulate items in Drawings, yet not change what you originally created. (Special shout-out to my awesome tech coach Jen Fischer for sharing this 'hack' with me. Her blog is also awesome & you should check it out!) You put the link with 'copy' at the end right onto your Google Site. Or, get even more fancy and have the link hidden by a picture on the site. When someone clicks on the picture, they will go to the page that has them make a copy that they can edit.
Once you find a Breakout game to use or have created your own clues and put them on your Google site, you will need to make a new Google Form. Each question on your form is one of your locks. You want to create 'short answer questions' and make sure they are 'required'. To lock your form you need to use 'data validation' to require the correct answer. If an incorrect answer is typed, they will see an error message of your choosing. Data validation can be found by clicking the three dots at the bottom of your question (see below). You can use data validation to make sure you have an exact number for a number lock and specific text for a word, directional or color lock.
Here is a great YouTube video that explains how to make a 'locked Google Form.
The last step, before putting your form on your Google Site (or sending it out to students), is to click on settings (the little gear at the top of your Form), click on 'Presentation' and add a confirmation message. This way, students can show you they 'unlocked' the form.
I hope this is helpful. Feel free to ask questions or share your ideas in the comments. You can also contact me on Twitter )@kkeefe_hassan - I will get back to you!
Overheard in one of my ninth grade classes this week, “Why don’t we ever do anything ‘normal’ in this class?” I’m not sure this was meant to be a compliment, but I am going to take it as one.
Most people who know me well would probably say that I do things my own way. I often am a bit ‘outside of the box’. In fact, I sometimes find myself so far outside the box, that I can’t even see the box. If you were to walk into my classroom, it is unlikely to be quiet. It tends to be noisy, whether we are talking as a class, music is playing or there is pair or group work happening.
So, what is actually going on? Depends on the day. Last summer, I was looking for a way to start out the school year (having essentially ditched my textbook) that would be interesting to my ninth graders who have had Spanish before in middle school and weekly in elementary school.
In my search for inspiration, I first came across some ideas from Kristy Placido on her blog about starting off the school year. Off to Teachers Pay Teachers I went and purchased her Bingo Humano activity and her 4 Corners Posters. They both worked as great ice breakers with my students.
After getting to know my students a bit, I wanted to do something compelling and engaging. I read this post by Allison Wienhold on her awesome blog, Mis clases locas. I decided to use Allison’s idea and instead of starting off with a ‘review unit’, we began to read Esperanza by Carol Gaab. With all of the supplemental materials that were included in the Teacher’s Guide, we worked on the novel from mid-September until mid-November. I have never had so much fun starting off the school year. My students were talking about relevant issues in Spanish - and who could have predicted how relevant these conversations would be during the contentious presidential election in 2016? The novel gave them the vocabulary to talk about immigration. They also began using structures like object pronouns without having been explicitly taught them. In my early days of teaching, I would dread the point in the curriculum that I would have to teach direct, indirect and double object pronouns.
A colleague of mine who teaches the same level and, like me, started the year off with the novel, also had a few interesting comments from her students. One student asked her when they were going to start ‘learning Spanish’. What I found so wonderful about that comment was that the student didn't even realize she was acquiring Spanish, without worksheets & verb conjugations.
In my class, we do projects which are often technology infused. Since our district is now 1:1 and I am a bit tech obsessed, if you walk into my room you will often see my students on their MacBooks. They could be using QuickTime Player to create screencasts, videos or audio recordings to re-tell part of a story. We do spontaneous recordings using QuickTime Player or Vocaroo, where I ask a question or two and they record their answers. Formative assessment can be a quick Google Form, which enables me to see where my students are instantly.
These assessments feel integrated, because they aren’t rehearsed or things they could ‘study’ for. They write reactions to their reading or show they can interpret and understand what they were reading.
Now, we are just finishing up reading our second novel, Felipe Alou: Desde los valles a las montañas. I was so happy to be discussing Felipe’s story during Black History Month. We were able to make connections to MLK, jr., Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. From reading the novel, they had the vocabulary to talk about these issues. We also watched the film Rumbo a las Grandes Ligas. Students in my class regularly respond to their reading with #BookSnaps (thank you Tara Martin) which are shared via Google Classroom. I create a blank Google Slides presentation and allow students to edit the presentation. They are free to creatively express their reactions to what they are reading, as they are reading. I describe them as the 21st century version of a post-it. These are so much fun for me as the teacher and for students.
This school year, I heard about Breakout EDU. Then, Martina Bex shared her Breakout activity for the Spanish Christmas Lottery. With some help from Jen Fischer, I was able to create a digital version of the game, as I did not have a breakout kit available. We did this right before winter break and had a blast. As a culminating activity for Felipe Alou, I had my students come up with puzzles related to the novel for a Digital Breakout activity. My classes were engaged bell-to-bell. They were competitive, too, trying to outdo one another. The idea was to choose several of their puzzle ideas and create a digital Breakout game to use in class the next day. I ended up with three different digital breakout games to play. I plan to share more about the Breakout games in another post, so stay tuned!
As my students got into groups to work on creating their puzzles, I overheard the comment about my class not being normal. I like to ‘keep ‘em on their toes’ and change things up. Next week, I am planning on several Movie Talks as we try to work on telling stories, which is a logical step after reading the novel in the past tense. I strive to continue not being ‘normal’.
Share some of your ‘not normal’ activities in the comments!
Time and not having enough of it is the problem of just about every teacher I know. We need more time in class to accomplish our goals. We wish we had more time outside of class to come up with creative lessons and ideas, to learn more, to attend more workshops and professional development opportunities, and of course, to keep up with grading responsibilities. Balancing professional goals and personal goals is tricky. To top things off, it is not an easy political climate to be a teacher. Just look at Twitter and see the posts of many public educators who are frustrated with current circumstances. That is actually one of the reasons I began blogging. And, it is one of the reasons I am trying to go out of my way to be creative and bring more joy into my teaching. This school year, I am having more fun than I have had in my first fifteen years of teaching - simply by not being afraid to try new ideas and ‘ditching my textbook’ (Thank you Matt Miller and Jennifer Fischer for leading me here).
While not watching the Super Bowl, I was inspired to have my students create memes by Laura Sexton (aka Señora Spanglish). We did have a snow day which caused some changes in my original plans and I did not have time to try out the memes with my AP Spanish Language & Culture classes (the AP exam is less than 3 months away putting us under a bit of a time crunch). I think I found a way to get them in this week, so I'll share those later.
My ninth graders have less time constraints to deal with, so we had a chance to make memes in those classes. We are working on the novel Felipe Alou: desde los valles a las montañas by Carol Gaab. We are up to chapter 7 and, in my opinion, it is very “meme-able” - the chapter is called ‘Mi primera hamburguesa’ - how could you go wrong with a chapter with that title? I didn’t want to limit the creativity of my students, so I told them they could choose anything from what we have already read in the book. I offered a screenshot of the template that Laura used with Seesaw as described in her blog post. But, not wanting to limit their creativity, I told them that they could also use their own ideas. These kids are clearly tech ‘natives’ and many have made memes before. Some meme making sites were blocked at school, but PixMeme worked. I also suggested using Google Slides or Google Draw. They were all able to find a way to express themselves that they were comfortable with using. The memes did not disappoint.
Depending on their degree of ‘tech-savviness’, some of my students were fairly quick to create a meme related to Felipe Alou. So, I decided to add an optional second meme - they could create a meme about anything related to Spanish class. These were just awesome. The proficiency target level of this group is intermediate low, so I realize there are some grammar errors, but they are very comprehensible and appropriate for this level.
They used Spanish. I got to laugh, which is much-needed nowadays. I also get to continue to enjoy doing my job.
The Super Bowl plays a fairly significant role in the culture of the United States. For many, it is a big deal, with watch parties, a lot of food and staying up or out late on a Sunday night (Sunday nights out are not particularly common during the school year for most of my teacher friends). In my house, the Super Bowl is not a big deal. My husband loves soccer and tennis. Today, my kids were excited to watch Egypt play in the African Cup of Nations final today (spoiler alert they lost).
Super Bowl Sunday is otherwise just like any other Sunday here. Yesterday, we had a family movie night, watching a movie I had enjoyed as a kid, ‘Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’. Today, at around 6pm, around the time the Super Bowl started, my daughter decided we should watch the Tim Burton version, starring Johnny Depp - ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. So, that is what we did during the first half of the Super Bowl. By the time the movie was finished, it was halftime, so I got the kids to bed, watched Lady Gaga perform. Then, I needed something to do, so here I am.
First, I decided to re-read a blog I had read the other day from Laura Sexton, aka, Sra. Spanglish of PBL in the TL talking about ‘Taking a chill pill’. I thought maybe I would write my own thoughts on a similar subject. And, low and behold, she had a new blog post that grabbed my attention immediately. I have been posting about my fondness for #BookSnaps and Bitmojis (my students are obsessed). Laura happened to post about using Seesaw to have students create memes. Now, I am going to work on generating some memes this week. With my ninth graders, the memes will relate to chapter 6 of our class novel Felipe Alou: Desde los valles a las montañas. This chapter seems like it could lend itself to some memes, so I am excited to see what they come up with. I hope they have as much enthusiasm as they have had with the #BookSnaps so far. I’ll share some here in a few days.
And, not to leave out my AP Spanish Language and Culture classes, we are beginning our unit on ‘La vida contemporánea’ and are going to be watching the film ‘Entre nos’ this week. I may have them create memes related to the movie. Or, I could save the memes for chapter 5 of our Book Club Friday selection, ‘La Ciudad de las Bestias’ by Isabel Allende.
So, thank you, Laura, for inspiring me. The game is almost over, and being a teacher, it is getting to be very close to my Sunday night bedtime. Apparently, the game just got very interesting. Go Falcons!
I recently posted about using #BookSnaps (thanks again, Tara Martin sharing your idea). I had been using these ‘snap’ reflections and reactions to reading with my AP classes as we are reading our Friday Book Club selection ‘Ciudad de las Bestias’ by Isabel Allende. To change things up a bit, I decided to give a different assignment - a brief paragraph as a reaction to what they read for this week’s chapter. There were so many disappointed faces and I was asked if they could include a #BookSnap along with their paragraph (of course I said yes). I have had fun using #BookSnaps, but I didn’t realize that my students would miss them if we skipped them.
Allowing students to use Snapchat might seem unconventional. And, while Snapchat is very popular among teenagers, not all students use it, so I needed some alternatives. My AP students had been creating their #BookSnaps via Snapchat at home. This worked well for my AP Book Club Friday's. After seeing how engaged they were and how seriously my students took creating their #BookSnaps, I looked for a way to bring it into the class novel I am reading with my ninth graders (Felipe Alou: Desde los valles a las montañas by Carol Gaab, published by Fluency Matters). I wanted to find a way to use #BookSnaps created in class, without my students being tempted/distracted by their cell phone. I had some reservations about allowing phones in class to use Snapchat. My thinking was that it could lead to some inappropriate use that would be difficult to monitor.
We are fortunate to be in a 1:1 school where everyone has a MacBook Air and the full features of the G Suite for Education. I decided to use a Google Slideshow shared on Google Classroom for collaboration. Alice Keeler has some great explanations for how to do this - Google Slides: Collaborate in 40 seconds and Google Classroom: Submitting Collaborative Google Slides. I assign each student a slide to create their own #BookSnap. My students are very familiar with emojis and were able to add them to their slide. Several also added the Bitmoji Chrome Extension, giving them access to a range of expressive cartoon avatars that they could personalize. (One caveat to the Bitmojis - a few are a bit "colorful", so I suggest reminding your students to only use things that would be appropriate in a school setting). Their slide also includes a quote or passage from the chapter of the book we are working on. They could type out the quote or use the camera on their MacBook to take a picture of a part that grabbed their attention or surprised them.
It turns out that they are quite competitive about their #BookSnaps. I have three classes currently reading the novel, so I made one Slideshow, separated by a slide designating each period. The day after reading chapter four and creating our #BookSnaps, we viewed the Slideshow as a class. To vote for their favorite in each class, I created a simple Google Form that I shared via Google Classroom. This saved me a lot of time, since I didn’t have to tally votes - Google Forms did the work. The Form was quick to prepare - just be sure adjust the settings so students can only submit the the form once. Google has some info on how to set up and use the results of Google Forms.
The overall ‘winner’ was this slide, which we have unofficially named ‘Hombre salado’ (salty man).
All of this #BookSnapping (I think I just made up that word and hashtag) has inspired me to share and I have decided to take the plunge and offer a virtual book club for other teachers in my district. The book we will be reading is ‘Start. Right. Now.: Teach and Lead for Excellence’ by Todd Whitaker , Jeff Zoul and Jimmy Casas published by Dave Burgess Consulting. The plan is to conduct the book club through Google Classroom and instead of weekly posted questions and answers, I am going to use collaborative Google Slides and hoping to get some #BookSnaps into our virtual discussion. This way, not only will we be sharing insights from the book, but participants will have a new tool to use when reading with their own classes. Hopefully, people sign up for the book club! #BookSnaps can be used in a variety of subject areas, with just a little creativity.
Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!
High school Spanish teacher in NJ. Google for Education Certified Trainer. Always looking to try new things in my classes. Technology junkie.