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penny the penguin

  • Game Designer:  Sandi Berg
  • Content Area: Math
  • Recommended Ages: Elementary
  • Ideal Group Size: Small Group
  • Suggested Time: 45 minutes

Penny the Penguin visited our classroom last night and left you a letter and a special present!  She loves books and she loves puzzles so she locked a new classroom book inside of a box but she left us some clues in order to get the new book out!

4-DIGIT LOCK = 9-5-0-4



1. General Information:

One box per class vs one box per group

This game is setup to use a ticket system so that you only need one box and one of each type of lock.  Just remove the tickets if you have multiple boxes.  Each group will be assigned a color at the beginning.  Make sure when compiling documents that you are matching up the colors.  For example, the red ticket with the key lock on it will go into Team Red’s “Key Lock Package”.  When students want to attempt a lock, ONE student brings you the appropriate ticket (Red WORD Lock ticket if attempting the WORD Lock).  That ONE student has 1 minute to attempt to unlock the box.  If they succeed, they put the open lock and their ticket on the parking lot.  The teacher can then relock the box and hold onto the ticket as proof that it was completed.  If the student does not open the lock, they take their ticket back to their group and keep working.  They can return again later.

Another option would be to have students complete all 4 locks and come see you when they have codes for all four.

Another option would be to give each group their own lockbox with locks.  

Each lock and its corresponding clue documents has been organized into baggies.  This was because this activity was originally designed as an intro to breakouts activity for grade 1 students.  You do not have to bag each lock clue separately.  You give all items to students unsorted to make it more challenging.

There are multiple levels for the DIRECTION lock and the KEY lock.  This allows you to build in differentiation.  For example, if you are working with grade 1 students, for the Direction Lock and the Key Lock, you might choose the files “Addition/Subtraction to 20”.  However, you might have a really strong group within that class that you would like to give more challenging questions so for that group, you choose to give them “Double Digit Addition”.  

Regardless of what level of clue you choose for the Direction Lock, all resulting codes will be the same.  Regardless of what level of clue you choose for the Key Lock, all resulting codes will be the same.  This way, you can differentiate but still use only ONE class box if needed.

2. Set Locks

  • Directional Lock:  Right, Right, Left, Down

  • Word Lock:  STORY

  • 4 Digit Number Lock:  9504

  • Key:  Teacher holds on to this

3. Setup the Ticket System:

  • Print 1 copy of “Lock Parking Lot” https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BwgUOiezCq7pMWtsWUk1YzFnRVk

  • Print one copy of the “Tickets” in color https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BwgUOiezCq7pQTUxdGpRNVFqVEU

    • Page 2 [Group Tickets]  on paper or cardstock:  

      • Cut apart the tickets and place in the appropriate bag when needed.  For example, the red ticket with the key lock on it will go into Team Red’s “Key Lock Package”.  Note, there is deliberately no ticket included for the “Word Lock”.

    • Page 3 [Locks Unlocked] on cardstock:

      • Whenever students complete a lock, place their ticket on this page to remind you that it’s finished and so that you know when a lock has been completed by all students.

    • Optional

      • Attach small pieces of velcro to the back of each cut apart ticket and to each of the tickets on the [Locks Unlocked] board.  Before doing this, you may want to place tape on the backs of each of the individual tickets to help make them sturdier or laminate everything.

4. Setup the box:

  • Place a special new class book inside the box

  • Lock using all 4 locks.

5. Prepare Miscellaneous items students need:

6. Prepare the  4 Digit Lock Package


  • Place one letter/clue and “4 Digit Lock” ticket in each bag.

7. Prepare the Direction Lock Package


  • Place all pieces and “Direction Lock” ticket in each bag.

8. Prepare the Key Lock Package

    • Cut apart

    • Put together so that you can see both the letters and numbers.

    • Use the gold fastener/brad to join together.

  • Choose the “Key Lock - Cipher Clue” you’re going to use.  See notes for how to print.

  • How to Print:

    • Print in color.  There are 5 pages - 1 per group.  Each group will get the appropriately colored page.  If you have more than 5 groups, you can give two groups the same page but space these two groups out within the classroom.

    • Cut this apart so that the number of pieces equals the number of students in the group.  This way, they can all work on their own set of questions.  They will have to reassemble the pieces like a puzzle.  You may want to number the slips for very young students so they know which order to put it in.

  • Each group will receive a different secret word.  When they use their ticket to tell you the secret word, give them the key if they are right.  If you only have one key, or if you don’t want keys floating around, you could just keep it and at the end of the game, have the first group who figured out the key clue (or anyone you choose) unlock the lock or you could give it to the first group who figured it out but they unlock it at the end of the game.

  • Place the following pieces in each group’s bag.

    • “Key Lock - Cipher Wheel” (assembled)

    • “Key Lock - Cipher Clue” pieces

    • “Key Lock” ticket

9. Prepare the Word Lock Package

  • Place all pieces and “Word Lock” ticket in each bag.

10. Prepare the “Big Bag of Bags”

You could just place everything on their desk but if you pre-bag all the bags and other supplies, it will be much faster to hand out.  This is a nice option for young students who have not done a breakout before.

  • In a large bag or bucket, place

    • “Key Lock” bag

    • “Directional Lock” Bag

    • “4 digit Code” bag

    • “Word Lock” bag

    • “Lock Recording Sheet”

    • Pencils (optional)

    • 2 Hint Cards

Alternative one:  Find/create color coded baskets and place each group’s bags inside of the basket, except for one.  The teacher keeps these baskets.  When a group solves a lock, they bring you the bag and show you the answer.  If they are correct, they receive the next bag.

Alternative two:  Place all items on their desk and they have to decide what items go with each lock.

11. Introducing the game:

    • Work through the PowerPoint

  • Tell them that they’ll also receive a copy of this letter.

  • Hand out all “Big Bag of Bags” (or alternative – see Step 10) with a warning not to open any until you say go.

  • Tell them they can do the bags in any order.

  • Remind them that they have 2 hints and should use them when needed.

  • Start timer.  “Go”.  

12. Need Hints for students:




Email info@breakoutedu.com if you have any questions.