When it’s test-taking season and the kids have worked so hard, they need a day to use that knowledge for fun! Rather than more practice with multiple choice questions, try a BreakoutEDU session.

What is a BreakoutEDU?

The best way to describe it is to compare it to an Escape Room activity. In a similar fashion, students are working to determine the code that will help them unlock the box. Creativity is the name of this game! The purchased kits come with a box, multiple kinds of locks, a hasp (for adding multiple locks to one box), Hint cards, a deck of reflection cards, invisible ink pen, UV flashlight, red lens viewer, and a blank USB. With all of those options, there are a bazillion ways to create tasks for students to discover a code to unlock a lock. For the ELA teachers, this would go great in a mystery unit, for Science teachers may be a forensic unit. Honestly, there are endless possibilities here.

How did I do this?

After posting a series of photos and videos to Instagram, a number of teachers contacted me about how to do this. My first suggestion is to take a look at their website. If you’re completely new to this idea their website is the place to start. Fortunately for me, our librarian had all the tools and knowledge I needed to get started. She was able to provide me with the tools and some ideas for creating the session.

If you are choosing to create your own, start with the material. Decide what knowledge the students will need to know in order to complete a task. This works best for the end of unit review or test preparation. I had shared a test prep slideshow at the start of the week, which you can find in my Teachers Pay Teachers store bundled with a Jeopardy game.

Next, you will need to create the tasks associated with each lock. I chose to make this pretty challenging, so I had 6 total locks on each box. This is where you can get creative! Choose if you’d prefer tasks to open locks or have them moving around the room to find clues that will lead to opening a lock. If trying to figure this all out sounds daunting, it did to me at first, be sure to check out the website for complete session ideas. To organize myself, I laid out each lock and gave it a sheet of paper. We used 2 key locks, a 3 digit number lock, a 4 digit number lock, a 4 letter word lock, and a directional lock. I started with the number locks. Looking at my materials there were a few questions I could ask that created a number series. You can also use ciphers to translate letters into numbers. The key locks were made from the most complex material. I asked students to complete a task that needed to be checked by a teacher and if correct they were awarded the key. To add a little more fun to this you could also include a riddle that would lead them to a hidden key. The letter lock can be used as a four letter word answer or you can use multiple choice questions. Tackling the directional locks took some thinking, thankfully my co-teacher came up with a great idea.

Using BreakoutEDU in the middle school classroom

In order to make the directional locks work we had to create a series of directions by color coding answers. On the board, I had the directions written in the color that answers were highlighted with on a slide show. Students matched the right answer to the color and direction to create the correct series. For example, if the correct answer was highlighted with blue then students had to match that to the blue word UP that I had written on the board. I didn’t tell students what the words were for, they discovered this on their own. This is part of the critical thinking that students will need to use. Ask them to pay attention to their surroundings for finding answers.

Once they had all the locks opened the small box held a riddle that leads them to a key hidden behind one of my anchor charts. I did this so that there would be only one group to win the treasure chest of candy. My classes this year are very competitive, so it worked to my advantage to make only one winning group. Each of the small boxes could easily contain a “prize.”

Can I make my own?

Now, you may have already visited the website and noticed the price of one kit ($150). Most teachers don’t have the money to spend on one kit so let me suggest a few ideas for making this happen. First, you could always ask the team or grade level to split the cost. In our district, we are given a supply fund, but I know this is not the case for all districts. Our librarian used her book fair funds to purchase a school kit for our building to use. Then a second kit was purchased through Title I funding that we receive. If none of these are options for you, consider writing a grant. The uses of a kit such as this are endless and adaptable for any grade or subject. If you still aren’t able to purchase a name brand kit, I’m certain you could find locks and a box at any dollar store. The quality may not be that great, which makes the possibility of cheating greater. Start with a discussion on integrity and it should work well.

Whether you purchase a name brand BreakoutEDU kit or choose to create your own, you won’t regret bringing this fun activity into your classroom. Comment below and let us know how your Breakout session goes!

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