Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Breakout Out of Traditional Coaching

As a technology coach, I believe it is important to model new and innovative ways of learning and teaching. I typically do this in an integrated way so I am presenting new information using an innovative strategy. For example, this summer our Tech Facilitators came for a summer training. Our ultimate goal was to create an environment of collaboration. To do this, we decided to incorporate gaming in the professional development session.  Marzano, Simms, Roy, Heflebower, and Warrick (2013) theorizes  educational games are effective because they hold students’ attentions. They say this is true because ”of the innate human desire to fill in missing information” (p. 50). BreakoutEDU games did just that for the teachers and later, their students.
If you’re not familiar with BreakoutEDU, check out this short introductory video:
The teachers completed a 45-minute mission to open the BreakoutEDU boxes by watching inspirational videos and doing activities centered on Growth Mindset. After the PD session, the teachers were excited to try this game in their classrooms. In order to meet the teachers’ goals of using this strategy, the tech coaches modeled with the students a Breakout lesson with the theme of digital citizenship while the teacher observed. Knight (2007) describes modeling as “going into teachers’ classrooms and showing them examples of how to employ the particular best practice that they are learning about” (p. 29).
The lesson was immediately followed by a coaching meeting with the teams to explore and to identify curriculum they wanted to try a BreakoutEDU kit with. This was accomplished by browsing the ready-made lessons on Goals to implement the learning strategy of gaming were identified and examined at each meeting. Marzano et. al. (2013) states it is important for a coach “to understand how the teacher must be supported to move from one level of the scale to the next” (p. 30). Some teachers decided to take BreakoutEDU to the next level by creating games themselves and also having the students create games for each other based on current units of study.
Marzano et. al. (2013) emphasizes four levels of behaviors for teachers and coaches. Below are the actions of each coaching sessions as the teachers moved from one level to the next. Being able to closely work with the teachers and implementing game-based strategies while writing and working through goals, proved to be an effective coaching opportunity.
Coaching Levels in Action:
  • 0 to 1- Teachers are introduced to BreakoutEDU by playing it themselves. Each faculty was asked to do a Breakout based on our district’s CIP goal- Creating a Welcoming Environment. The kit was created and distributed to all principals and played during the beginning of the year faculty meetings. The tech coaches also led the tech facilitators in a game during our summer training.
  • 1 to 2- Second through fifth-grade teachers observed as the tech coach came and demonstrated a Digital Citizenship breakout. The teachers observed student behavior and discussed what happened with the coach. The teacher chose one game to create and do with the class based on the current standards she/he was teaching.
  • 2 to 3- The teacher leads a Breakout session and the coach comes and observes. Coach and teacher discuss what happened with student learning and makes adjustments as needed.
  • 3 to 4- The teacher moves from a physical Breakout kit with boxes and locks to a digital Breakout session or creates a new game from scratch using the templates online. Children are asked to create their own Breakouts for other students to play.

Sanders, J. (2015, September 14). Introducing BreakoutEDU. Retrieved October 19, 2016, from
Knight, J. (2007). Instructional coaching: A partnership approach to improving instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: NSDC.

Marzano, R.J., Simms, J.A., Roy, T., Heflebower, T., & Warrick, P. (2012). Coaching classroom instruction. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Laboratory.


  1. Sara- Thank you for sharing your insight! I also loved the quote you referenced from Marzano. Marzano et. al. (2013) states it is important for a coach “to understand how the teacher must be supported to move from one level of the scale to the next” (p. 30). It is very fitting for when you discussed the BreakOut EDU. We did this at our culture day with Teachers and Students this year and it was so much fun!! We made our boxes by hand (using the format online). Have you joined the Breakout EDU group? They post new games all the time. It is a pretty active Facebook group! Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Hey Emily! Yes, I joined the group. You're right; they keep my Facebook wall busy! It has helped me a ton in the past when I haven't been able to reset a lock. Have you tried any digital Breakouts yet?

  2. I've never seen Breakout before, I am interested in learning more about it. It looks pretty cool.

    Marzano and Simms (2012) say that understanding the research and theory are the necessary first steps in moving from Not Using to Beginning (p. 37). How were the participants introduced to the research and theory behind Breakout? I can see some testimonials on the website, but is there a body of research to back it up?

    1. Great question, Paul! I think the research would actually be on gaming rather than BreakoutEDU. I do think there is quite a bit of that out there. One of my favorite people to discuss gaming in education is Jane McGonigal. She was a speaker at ISTE several years ago and was phenomenal! Check out her Ted Talk below: