Breaking Out with Voice & Choice

Today’s Contributors: Christy Cochran & Theresa Lê

Christy Cochran is the CIC and National Board Certified librarian at Murchison Middle School, and Theresa Lê is Murchison’s Vietnamese teacher. 

Are you familiar with scavenger hunts? Do you enjoy participating in Escape Rooms?

A Breakout is a scavenger hunt-like game where players use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open a locked box. Instead of having your room be transformed for the activity as seen in escape rooms, you use a series of boxes or digital locks to contain the clues. Breakouts can be completed as a hands-on activity with physical locked boxes or digitally using BreakoutEDU, the Google Suite, or BLEND/Canvas. 

At Murchison MS, we’ve taken the Breakout a step further by having students create their own Breakout sessions for other students to try! Several groups of students have created Breakout sessions based on curriculum they have been studying:

  • Our creative writing students did biographical research about people who persevered. Each person then created a set of clues based on their person, with all of the sets culminating in one last clue for the entire group to solve. Once they put the sets together, we invited our Global Issues class to Breakout of their session.
  • At the end of the semester in Logic, pairs of students chose a logical fallacy and created a set of clues using that fallacy. We then put all the clues together for one final clue and invited a different class to solve the Breakout session.
  • Another two classes of Vietnamese students were charged with writing clues for a Breakout session the other class would have to solve. Students also integrated audio snippets within BLEND as part of their path to breaking out.

These activities for students to apply their knowledge to create learning opportunities for others is a great way to build a culture of student voice and choice.  

Before jumping in and creating a Breakout session, there are several things you need to consider:

  • What topic do you want students to learn about?
  • What skills would you like them to practice?

Once you have some idea of what you want students to do, you can start thinking about how you will lead students to those pieces of information and/or tasks.

  • Plan out how to set up the Breakout. Will it be only the physical box? Will it be all digital? Or will it be a combination of both?
  • Prepare all physical and digital locks, boxes, and supplies that will be needed.
  • Create an opening story to get students excited to solve the puzzle.
  • Decide if each lock should correspond to a “chapter” of the story and solved in sequence going from easy to more challenging, or if students can solve the puzzle in any order.
  • Make all clues needed for the activity (images, materials, pictures, etc.).
  • Prepare any hidden messages using the invisible ink and decide how students gain access to the UV light to solve the hidden message.
  • Develop a map where all clues are hidden and where they lead to.

In a digital breakout, decide where to lead students for clues.

  1. Lead them directly to a code that will open a lock.
  2. Lead them directly to a puzzle that will help them figure out the code to open a lock.
  3. Lead them to a URL that will give them information to get to the solution.

There are several tools in BLEND/CANVAS to use with a Breakout:

  • Google LTI within BLEND to have access to Google docs, sheets, slides, drawing, or forms
    • Google Form/Quiz that gives URLs of a clue or coded feedback when they view their scores
    • Series of Multiple Choice Questions in Google Doc with the answers spelling out the code
  • BLEND’s Quiz feature where a digital lock can be created for
    • questions with answer choices that provide letters, numbers, directions, or colors to help open a lock
  • Plain text with information to solve a lock
  • Uploaded/linked URLs, articles, videos, or songs/audio bites
  • Visuals/images with hints embedded within them
  • Student/Teacher created materials for clues, props, etc.

*Always be prepared to troubleshoot technology issues. Expect the worst, pray for the best!

BreakoutEDU is a fun way for students to apply their learning and create an environment of student voice and choice.


  1. I think this is a great way to keep the kids engaged. My group of kids this year really liked puzzles and solving things. They also worked really well together so I think this strategy would enhance their team work by working together to solve problems.

  2. Great ways to motivate students and to build the culture of their voice and choice. Thank you!

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