Breakout games for the classroom: where learning meets play

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Natalia De la Peña Frade

Tiempo de lectura

8 minutes


September 19, 2023


If I had to choose between reviewing my math notes or playing with a team to solve an educational breakout or escape game, I have no doubt: I would choose the latter. You too, right?

In case you don’t know, breakout activities for elementary students are not only more fun, but also more effective. Although the most innovative methodologies still cause some skepticism, there is scientific evidence that gamification in education works.

Playing games in the classroom is not only more effective for learning, but it also helps improve skills and abilities beyond theoretical knowledge. If you think that, as a teacher, you have a responsibility to instill more than theory in your students’ minds, you have come to the right place.

What does my friend Lola have to do with educational breakout games?

Thanks to the internet, there are millions of ways to apply gamification, and they’re easier than ever. Creating fun breakout room activities is a major one.

You may think that all of this is fine, but you just don’t have time for all the frills. I’ll tell you something about my friend Lola:

Lola always tells me things like: ‘I don’t know how to use online banking. I don’t have time to learn, you know the stress I’m dealing with. But of course, you are so in it…’ .

The other day I called her on the phone and she said to me: ‘I am in line at the bank. I have been here for twenty minutes’. And I was thinking: ‘When was the last time I even went to the bank?’ All the time I’ve saved by avoiding the drive back and forth is enough time to learn how to use the bank app and to develop my own app.

Sometimes stopping to evaluate how you do things is the best way to accelerate. Have you ever thought about that?

That’s what I realized with my friend Lola, and it also holds true for educational breakouts. It’s true that to design fun breakout room activities you need to spend some time on it, but it’s an investment that you’ll make up for quickly, believe me! Plus, you can do it in way less time than you think. In this post you’ll learn how to make one, and will also glean interesting helpful knowledge about breakouts.


What are breakout games for the classroom?

A breakout game for the classroom is a gamification activity in which students have to overcome a series of challenges or missions to open locks or a closed box, either physically (in the real world) or simulated (in the online world). It often arises as a dynamic for team play and there is a limited amount of time allotted to solve the challenges, although this doesn’t always have to be the case.

What kinds of challenges are usually posed in breakout activities for elementary students? It depends on your academic objectives, but in general, they are dynamics that, as a teacher, you’re already familiar with. Here are some typical educational breakout activities:

  • Question and answer
  • Math problems
  • Organizing letters to make words or organizing words to make phrases
  • Translating words or phrases
  • Sorting facts chronologically
  • Choosing the correct image, etc.

The trick is in the story

As you see, there is nothing new here. What’s innovative isn’t the questions; it’s how you ask them. What is the trick to this kind of learning? Storytelling, or the story you use to pose the questions.
Let’s take a look with an example of a fun breakout room activity:


Dragon’s Dungeon Breakout

From a strictly academic point of view, what you have just seen is a question and answer game. But we’re sure you’ve noticed that it’s much more than that.

There’s a story with characters, resources, sound effects, and a reward system that will  help you get your students engaged in playing. It’s the result of combining storytelling and gamification.

Do you think a blank document filled with questions would have the same effect? Clearly not! If you still have questions, we encourage you to go through the breakout again. When you propose challenges or games, the students have fun and get excited. And that state of excitement is where significant learning happens.

Benefits of applying breakout games for the classroom

Gamification is an active learning methodology, a system that fits with the most innovative approaches to education. Using gamification resources such as educational breakouts, we move from the traditional teaching-centered model to a learning and student-centered model.

Thanks to this approach, learning becomes a constructive process and becomes much more effective. According to neuroscience theory, we retain information much better when we are actively involved in the process. Or as Einstein said: ‘Learning is experience. Everything else is information.’

Gamification makes learning fun, and a reward system helps motivate and engage students. All of this contributes to more successful child education.

This does not mean that a breakout is the most appropriate resource for every aspect of learning. For example, it won’t be the best way to explain a new concept, but it’s perfect both to activate the students’ previous knowledge of a topic and to review it once it has been explained. This will enable us to strengthen that knowledge and make it possible for them to retain it later.

Educational breakouts can be adapted from any teaching content, and you can even use them to test the knowledge of different subjects through a combination of challenges.

In addition to curricular content, breakouts are very effective in developing other abilities. When a breakout is played as a team and a time limit is set, students learn to work under pressure, improve collaboration skills, and enhance their communication capabilities.

Using these dynamics, students learn to be more independent: If you get them into the game, they’ll interact with each other to solve the challenges and may even forget you’re there. Fostering group interdependence will also improve the classroom climate.

Online vs. offline educational breakouts

Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: Online activities may not be as exciting as face-to-face activities… but they do have certain advantages.

In the case of educational breakouts, the ideal scenario has the whole class interacting in person, working as a team with common objectives, enjoying the jitters of excitement, and the whole experience. But when it’s not possible, an online educational breakout is a great alternative. It’s much easier to organize and less expensive. And once you’ve created the resource, you can reuse it as many times as you like.

That said, you don’t have to choose. We can use both, switching according to the needs of our class. Try both with your students and find out what they like, what they are excited about, and what you need to change or improve. Collect your feedback and apply it, and your next one will be even better!


The haunted house

How to create breakout activities for elementary students

Before you begin to figure out the steps necessary to create your breakout, ask yourself a question or two: How much time do you want to spend on it? How ambitious are your goals?

The more effective the gamification is, the more complete the experience. This means that to apply it, it’s ideal to create an entire gamified environment. But if it’s your first gamified activity, you can start little by little. Start by testing a single resource before taking on a bigger project.

You don’t need to start from scratch to create your breakout. With Genially, you can create it using any of the templates found in the ‘Gamification’ section. In addition, in the ‘Inspiration’ section, you will find many other resources that the education community shares and that you can edit or simply use as they are. At the end of this post, you’ll see some examples.

If you want to save time, choose a template. You only need to change the text to suit your teaching objectives. Create your question list, edit the breakout template you like most, and you’re ready! In a few minutes, you’ll have a genially to share with your students.

Take a look at this Genially Academy course if you’re familiar with the tool yet. It will guide you with clear activities and directions.

Remember that Genially integrates with leading LMS like Moodle or Canvas, as well as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams – sharing your gamified activities or inserting them into other platforms will only take a few seconds.

How to make an educational breakout from scratch, step by step

Looking forward to creating your own resources? Great! No one knows what you need and what works best for your class better than you do. Follow these steps to make it a success, and use the examples at the end of the post to inspire you.

  1. Define your goals: This requires taking into account both the curricular content you want to review and the skills and abilities you want your game to contribute to developing. This will help you choose the most appropriate questions.
  2. Create the breakout’s structure with its questions, time, and dynamics: Are they going to play individually or in a group? Will the time be limited? One of the complexities is to calculate the level of difficulty. The balance must be struck between what’s too easy to motivate students and what’s too difficult and will discourage them.
  3. Think about storytelling: This is the most powerful weapon you have for connecting with your students: a story. What do they talk about when they have free time? What are their favorite characters or games? Do they like mystery or aliens better? Among Us or Pokémon?

Choose well to make your resource attractive to your students. If you create your educational breakout with Genially, you’ll find designs that fit all these themes and more.

  1. Choose your template and start editing it: When you are clear about what you want, the process of creating your breakout will be much faster.

Examples of educational breakouts


Mystery Breakout


Videogame Breakout


History Breakout


Witchcraft Escape Room


Chaotic Kitchen Escape Room

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Natalia De la Peña Frade
Content creator: I try to write things you like to read

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