Organize Breakout Boxes for Easy Use

No doubt that a breakout box engages students in learning.  Students enjoy using the provided clues to open a lock – 3 digit lock, word lock, color lock or a key lock.  Once all the locks are open, the box may contain a prize – candy, certificate and other congratulatory items.  The breakout boxes can be homemade or purchased through a kit. 

With a breakout activity, students work together in teams, problem-solve using clues, learn to fail and try again, and reflect on the process.  The breakout clues can cover class content or a fun team building activity.  A quick online search will locate many ideas from educators.

While the breakouts are fun and engaging, the management of the materials can be time-consuming. Over the years, it has taken creativity and problem solving to set up a system that creates a smooth set up process.

Management Tips

We developed a system to help manage the process. 

  1. Number each box and corresponding locks.  Box 1 locks all have a #1 label written on them.

    Example of Labeled Box

  2. Organize the boxes when not in use with all corresponding locks inside.

    Example of a box with all locks labeled

  3. For all key locks, label the lock and key the same.  (The extras key are hidden.)

    Example of Key Label

  4. If you have Breakout Edu multilocks, organize the pieces in separate bags.

    Multilock – All red nodes need to align to open.

    All color pieces put into a bag.


  5. Create a bag for the multilock “prong” pieces.  One prong piece goes on the lock before adding the other pieces.

    Prong pieces are placed on the lock first. Keep a bag of prongs separate and easily find.

    Additional Tips:

    When short on time, we often create digital breakout locks.  Click here fore more information about how to create a digital breakout.

    Students often like to use the locks like fidget toys once opened.  We provide pipe cleaners for learners to use.  Some teachers use a basket or a “lock garage location” when the locks are opened.

    To create accountability, we use a handout for students to list the group participants and the box number. This can be helpful if a lock is changed. Click here to view handout.


Breakout Boxes DIY: Learn how to make a DIY breakout box and save money.

Digital Breakouts Made Easy:  Great ideas and resources for creating a digital breakout.

Breakout Edu: A subscription site that provides tools and breakout activities.

Author: Becca Munson

Becca Munson, Librarian, is a National Board Certified Teacher with over 24 years of experience in education. Becca is the Coordinator for Library Systems in the Blue Valley School District. Previously, she was school librarian at Blue Valley West High School. She opened two buildings in Blue Valley and spent some time as an Ed Tech Specialist before returning to libraries. Becca supports over 45 librarians and support staff as they work to fulfill the mission of flexible scheduling, collaboration, and literacy.

Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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1 reply

  1. Yes to all of this!

    I am in a small K-8 library and frequently offer seasonal Breakout boxes during choice time in the library. I often have 3 going simultaneously at various levels.

    I opted to use paint markers to color code all my boxes and locks and then use large envelopes that I color code to contain all of the clues and any additional items (cipher wheel, flashlight, etc.). This has made it much easier for students to keep things together.

    I also keep a chart on the wall with the name and grade levels of the Breakout game contained in each color box so that I can match students to games and I keep a printout of each game overview at my desk so that I can reset easily (and occasionally ask a guiding question to help students get back on track if they get lost!).

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