Friday , 15 December 2017
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Doing a Breakout on a Dollar Tree Budget!

Using Breakouts are all the rage right now with teachers and students. A Breakout kit allows students to use teamwork and critical thinking skills to solve challenging puzzles in order to open a locked box. Teachers are coming up with all sorts of creative ways to use this engaging resource in the classroom.

The problem is that one Breakout EDU kits costs over $100 so to have enough for small groups in the classroom, the cost would be over $500! Our first grade team of teachers set out to create our own and succeeded in creating FOUR Breakout kits for around $20, using nothing other than Dollar Tree items!

Here is a look at one of the four completed Breakout boxes. We were able to purchase toolboxes, master locks, and rope locks from the Dollar Tree. Also purchased were puzzles, cloth bags, and seeds. We were able to create the rest of the kit on our own, using our classroom resources.

breakout box

Here’s a look at our first Breakout! We start out with a hook to capture our students’ attention. We read Dr. Seuss’s, The Lorax, to tell a story about what happens to the environment when humans fail to take care of plants and animals. Our story line is created from this fictional story when students receive a message the next day that the Lorax needs THEIR help!

google slide

Students are reminded that they may receive two hints throughout the game and the timer is set! Students get to work. They have two clues on the outside of the box. One is a QR code on the top. It gives them a newspaper article telling them more information about what’s happening in the town of Thneedville. The bottom has an envelope with a puzzle that they must crack in order to open the lock.

envelope with code that needs to be crackedspecial code for students to crack

Once they discover the answers to the code, they race to “Headquarters” (the teacher) to receive two envelopes. One has the answers to the code, with the key to the master lock inside, and the other has wrong answers to the code with paper clips inside.

envelopes with key and paper clips

Once they receive the key, they are able to open the lock and see the contents of the box.

opened box

They realize the rope lock around the bag cannot be opened without a 3 digit code. They have three other items in the box: a marker, a news article, and a white piece of paper. Once they open the news article, there are circled words inside.

news article with circled wordswhite paper with marker

They have a clue about those circled words on the white paper. They must figure out that they can use the marker to color the white paper to reveal a hint or use a hint card with a song that goes, “Use the marker to make the white paper a new color.” We used an app called Ditty to create the cute song. Students realize that the white paper says in white crayon, “Make a sentence out of the circled words.” Once they figure out the sentence is a special message in the news article, they again report to “Headquarters.”


They hand over the correctly written sentence and receive another code.

Nearpod code

Students in first grade frequently use an app called Nearpod. They must problem solve to recognize this is a Nearpod code and go to Nearpod to put in the code. When they do that, this message pops up.

code with 3 numbers

Students must look carefully to see the 3 blue numbers mixed into the jumbled up numbers and letters. We used the “Hide ‘n See” app to create this code.

Once they put in the three numbers into the lock, they open the bag to find a puzzle. They must work as a team to put together the puzzle and figure out there’s a hidden message on the back.


When they go to the office, there’s a Lorax waiting there with a basket full of goodies!

basket of goodies

Students must give the Lorax ways to repair his town so that he can return. They learned the basic needs of plants and animals along the way during their Breakout and can share these facts with the Lorax. They break out the Lorax and he is able to return to his town and create a better life for the plants and animals there. They also receive seeds of their own to take home to grow their own plant.

Breakouts are a great way to integrate all subject areas. Our first graders use their knowledge of addition and subtraction within 20, Letterland characters to build words, and the basic needs of plants and animals in order to crack the codes.

We will be able to use these kits next year and have color coded them so the locks, toolboxes, and other materials don’t get mixed up next year. We had a great time making this fun Breakout and hope it inspires others to get creative in their classrooms as well!

Apps and online resources used to create this Breakout:


-Hide n See


– Google Slides

-QR codes

About Lynette Ryhal

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