Sixth graders at Churchville Chili Middle School are building a foundation for understanding the literature in their English language arts classes. They’ve been exploring “theme” this year, learning how to recognize many of the universal messages behind great stories. Their work recently culminated with a new kind of exercise: a class “breakout” challenge.
The activity was based on the escape room concept, with a twist. Students had limited time to find a map and escape from the dangerous Fairytale Forest. To get the map, which was locked in a small box, they had to read a series of classic fables and identify the themes.
Designed by ELA teacher Lockley Platt and instructional coach Andrea Lynch, the challenge started with small teams reading stories like “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Little Mermaid.” Readers matched their story with a simple theme, like “Goodness and purity will always conquer evil.” After other steps involving puzzle pieces, logical thinking, creative intuition and collaboration, the clues led to the combination needed to open the lock and escape.
The new lesson was shared with fellow sixth grade ELA teacher Margaret Assenato. Her class jumped into the task with enthusiasm, each reader eager to contribute an insight or idea. This was their second experience this year with a breakout, and upon reflection many said the earlier encounter helped prepare them for success.
“Young people are more likely to remember abstract concepts if they are attached to an engaging experience like this,” Assenato said. “It is great to watch the interaction and teamwork as the students work their way through the discovery process.”