Monday, June 13, 2016

La hija del sastre BreakoutEDU

Many people have contacted me in the past month to post about my Breakout sessions that I've done in class. Here is an explanation of one that I've done in class with the novel La Hija del sastre by Carrie Toth.

Why a BreakoutEDU?
   There are many reasons! To name a few:
It addresses most Universal Constructs - problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration
It's a change of pace for students
It's a new way to review the events of a novel
Students are using the target language in a different way
It creates leaders that ordinarily aren't leaders in class
It's fun!

Preparation - what do you need?
There are few things you need to do this particular BreakoutEDU:

Scrabble letters that spell out "mentiras" and another set that spells out "Lérida to Toulouse"

Black light and an "invisible" marker that can only be read by the black light.

Of course two Breakout boxes.

Six locks: one directional, three letter, two number

Map of Spain/France with the route from Lérida to Toulouse marked in invisible ink.

Map of Spain/France with the route from Lérida to Toulouse marked by arrows to indicate the route taken by Ignacio and Emilia's family: west north, east, north

QR code of a picture of a basement

2 hint cards

2 Breakout success sheets

online stop watch for recording time

 Cards to denote box 1 and box 2

QR code to wikipedia site of Franco to note his death: 20/11/75

Copy of the rules

Copy of the letter (below) to present to each group to get them started with their clue seeking.

The letter to get them started

Mi querida Emilia,
Yo soy un mentiroso. No trabajo en el banco ni soy un hombre bueno. Soy un soldado fascista y soy un hombre enamorado, enamorado de ti. La verdad es que el ejército me había contratado para conseguir información acerca de tu padre. Quería dejar la misión pero no podía sin ponerte en peligro a ti y a mí mismo también…
Estoy entre la espada y la pared No tengo otro remedio si yo no le cuento tu secreto al coronel, otros soldados van a forzarlas a revelar el secreto.
Escápense a Francia. Huyan. La vida de toda tu familia está en peligro. Sigan al norte donde se encuentren un mapa. Es un mapa de una ruta segura. Si Uds siguen la ruta marcada, pueden escapar a Francia.
Emilia, te pido perdón. Si me puedes perdonar, quiero casarme contigo. Seguiré la misma ruta a Francia y los buscaré. Podemos ir a Francia con tu familia y cuando lleguemos podremos casarnos. Puedo ayudar a escapar a tu familia. Espérame, Emilia. Por favor perdóname.
                                            Siempre tuyo, Ignacio

Now for the clues!
Box 1

Clue #1: scrabble letters spell out "Lérida to Toulouse"
Problem solving: The distance from Lérida to Toulouse is 323.1 km
Code for lock: 3231

Clue #2: QR code that leads to a picture of a basement
Problem solving: Who spent so much time in the basement?
Code for lock: papá or sastre

Clue #3: Map with directional arrows of northern Spain/southern France
Problem solving: Why is this map important? Where are the arrow pointing?
Code for lock: left, up, right, up [west, north, east, north]

Box 2

Clue #1: Black light on Spain/France map, marking Lérida to Toulouse
Problem solving: The distance from Lérida to Toulouse is 323.1 km
Code for lock: 3231

Clue #2: QR code leading to wikipedia page about Franco
Problem solving: With all the statistics presented, which is most important? When did Franco die? Dates in Spanish are written "backwards"
Code for lock: 201175

Clue #3: Scrabble letters that spell out "mentira"
Problem solving: there are many lies presented in the book.
Code for lock: LIES

Playing the game
At first this seems rather easy to figure out. However it is very interesting to watch students problem-solve their way through the clues and codes. These are not nearly as obvious as they look. First, they need to find the clues around the room. One clue may lead to another clue, similar to a riddle. Understanding the context of the story helps them figure out what is important and how to open the locks. Typically it's the quiet kid in the back who is most creative in the problem-solving of the clues. The kid who is not as academic will rise to the occasion in this game.

Sometimes there is frustration over not being able to find clues or not being able to figure out the clues. Some groups need lots of encouragement to persevere. Some groups run with the clues and love the challenge to open all the locks, or even continue beyond the allotted time just to see if they can break into the box. No matter the groups or combination of learning styles or personalities, the excitement of opening the first lock provides more motivation than anything research-based strategy out there!

Having two boxes presents more of a challenge for students as the clues around the room may be for their box or their opponent's box. Sometimes one clue serves for both boxes. During a recent BreakoutEDU activity, students learned that if they found a clue, it was really important! They actually started "stealing" the clues and negotiations began to get clues back. WOW, I didn't see that one coming! It was a very unique make-up of students and learning styles in that class. In the end they decided it would be best to all work together to open both boxes so they did end up sharing the clues, trying passwords on both boxes.


So we broke out, now what?
¡Qué chido! ¡Enhorabuena!
Take a photo of the group(s) that broke out, post it on twitter with the school or class hashtag, post on other social media to give yourself and the students some positive PR and marketing.
Of course no game would be complete without a tasty prize. :)


This is an important part of the game. Having students understand why something was difficult or easy, who had good leadership skills and why, what helped get things moving, how they had to work together as a team and collaborate on their strengths are all important in the learning process.

I also help students process the clues at the end, giving us one more journey through the book. For example:
-Explain some of the lies that happened in the novel. Why did they have to have these lies to stay alive? What if they told the truth about that information?
-Who was Franco? What was his role in the novel? How did the fascistas view him? republicanos? his soldados?
- Why was the map important? Why did they have to get to France? What was the importance of Toulouse? Who was there?
- What was the importance of the basement? Who was there? Why? Why couldn't he escape? What happened in the basement?


  1. This is amazing! Have you considered doing any more? I would love to collaborate on one!

    1. Thanks Arianne. I sure do! I have completed a total of three BreakoutEDU Sessions now and will probably plan more in the future. What would like to focus on? Contact me and we can plan one!

  2. Would you share what books you did for your other breakout sessions?

    1. Hi Cherish,
      This one I created for Blaine Ray's book, ¡Viva el toro!
      I also have one for El viaje perdido. Let me know if you're interested in this one, too.

  3. So, where can I find more info? Do they do this after they read the novel?

  4. We have a Facebook Group that was created about a month ago: People have been posting lots of great ideas for other Breakouts in Spanish.

    Historically, I have used the Breakout boxes after novels that we read in class. The clues are connected to information from the book so they need to have knowledge of what's in the book to be able to figure out the clues to open the box.

  5. Hi Kim,
    Have you done a breakout for Guerra Sucia? I'm considering following your outline from Hija del Sastre to make one. Any tips for success?

    1. Hi Bethany, I have not created one for Guerra Sucia, but they are super easy to create.

      Some tips: I would first start with any numbers or short words that could fit into a lock. These will be dependent on the types of locks you have (number, letter, directional, key, etc.) If there is something in the book that you feel very strongly about, you can use another clue to get to that clue. Some of these may include: scrabble letters that include blanks that are ultimately the letters that they need to unlock, QR codes that lead to a google doc or map that directs them to a clue for a lock, codes in which each letter of the alphabet are connected to a number and students have to figure out the letter/number code to unlock the lock, among many others.
      What are the main events of the story that you can connect to a clue for the students to figure out. Think deeply to initiate discussion later about the clues during a debrief session.
      When "hiding" the clues in the room, think outside the box - under chairs, black light clues written on posters that have been hanging in the room, QR codes that have been sitting on a bulletin board for a week or more, clues that may direct students to non traditional locations in the room such as the telephone, classroom map, or a page in the novel.

      You can search my blog for other Breakout activities. There are really no rules and you are only limited by your own creativity. There is a Facebook page: BreakoutEDU en español: