Breakout Box

Want students to exercise 21st century skills while engaging in group problem-solving? Try physical or digital Breakout activities!
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About This Strategy

Breakout Box, like Escape Rooms, focuses on supporting students to develop and exercise 21st-century skills during a collaborative game-based activity. With the use of pre-made face-to-face or digital games, this strategy can be used with students at all levels and across content areas. To begin the strategy, the teacher chooses or designs a BreakoutEDU for students to complete. Each game has a series of puzzles accessed via clues placed throughout the room, digitally via QR codes, or within locked boxes. Games can be chosen based on content, skill development, and age level. This strategy can be used as the sole activity in a lesson. Through this strategy, students are empowered to collaboratively problem-solve, and teachers become facilitators of learning while encouraging students to take ownership of their learning even when challenges arise.  This strategy can be used as a great step towards shifting to a learner-centered classroom.

Implementation Steps

90 minutes
  1. Choose or design a physical or digital BreakoutEDU game based on content, skill development, or the age level of your students. You can find pre-created games on the BreakoutEDU site or design your own game using their digital templates (see resources below). Please note, if you do not have a physical BreakoutEDU kit you'll want to purchase one of these boxes or design your own for the games requiring a physical box. If you are doing a digital game, you'll need to make sure students have access to computers or tablets.

  2. Set-up the games for students.

    • Face-to-Face Games: Print the game requirements, preferably using a colored printer, for all face-to-face games. You'll also want to set all of your locks according to the game directions. If you need help with the locks, view the videos provided in the resources. The game clues should be placed in the boxes or somewhere in the room. Where you place these clues will depend on the game you are setting up for your students. Be sure to read the directions of the game for the correct placement of the clues.  

    • Digital Games: Make sure students have access to a digital device. Provide students with the link to the game to begin.

    • Please note that if you teach in a middle school or high school classroom that you may want to alternate days you do this with your classes or have multiple BreakoutEDU boxes prepared, as you'll need to reset the clues for each class.

    • Or, students can create their own breakout box. See resource below to learn more.

  3. Read the scenario to students or play the beginning of the video that accompanies the BreakoutEDU game.

  4. Begin the game by displaying the game timer for students to see. It's best to display this via a projector so that students can see the timer at all times.

  5. Use the reflection cards associated with your BreakoutEDU box or make up your own questions to debrief the activity with your students.

BreakoutEDU: Communication Skills

Students focus on communication skills while engaging in a BreakoutEDU game.

If you're interested in using the BreakoutEDU games to focus on classroom communication, you can modify games by:

  • Giving students roles. For example, the communication officers are the only ones allowed to give directive steps, to communicate with the whole group about clues, etc.

  • Giving students levels of communication. For example, you can mute particularl students, require only digital communication, etc.

BreakoutEDU: Introducing a Topic

Students can be introduced to a topic using a BreakoutEDU game which supports exploratory and inquiry-based learning.

  1. Choose or design a BreakoutEDU game that will allow your students to explore a topic at the beginning of your unit.
  2. After students have participated in the game, reference the game during the remainder of the unit.

Coach Tips

The BreakoutEDU games are an excellent way to engage students in the development and practice of 21st-century skills. The most important thing to remember about this strategy is to encourage students to focus on the process and not the end result. There will be moments when you will want to give your students the answers in order to see them succeed; Don't! The struggle and challenge of the game are where learning happens. Be sure to take a facilitative role and put the ownership of the learning process on your students. You'll be able to help students reflect on and address challenges during the reflection phase of the game. This is an important step and shouldn't be skipped. Reflective learners set goals for themselves and are able to articulate their learning strengths and weaknesses, which, when done consistently in the classroom, leads to students taking ownership over their learning.

Tech Tool


  • How the tool supports this strategy:

    • If creating your own game, Edpuzzle can be used as a flipped video clue. The teacher would need to create their own video or have access to a video to be used in the game.

  • What role could the tool play and why?

    • Edpuzzle is a simple way to give students access to flipped material and to give them access to clues during or upon completion of the video.