How I did Martina Bex’s free “Escape con abuela” Breakout EDU activity

A bit of background:

  • I teach Spanish 1 at a rural high school in southwestern Ohio.
  • I have large class sizes (between 30-33)
  • 48 minutes class periods
  • I teach in a deskless classroom.
  • We use Martina Bex’s CI-based Somos curriculum

This was my first attempt at a breakout box activity. I used Martina Bex’s free Escape con abuela activity. This blog post is more or a less a review of how it went and what I might do differently next time.

Martina mentions that the activity can be done with students who have had Units 1-5 of the level 1 Somos curriculum. This may be true but my students have not yet acquired structures like “yo soy”, other forms of ir like “vas”, for example. Some teachers may be able to count on students acquiring some of these things but in my classes, if it isn’t targeted and used frequently, the majority of my students haven’t acquired it.

I did use it directly after teaching Martina’s Bolivia Unit which is designed to target the possessive adjectives (but I just focused on nuestro país as a target structure for my classes). I do think it is helpful to use this particular breakout activity after teaching this Bolivia Unit. It just flows better and makes more sense as a culminating activity for the unit.

I taught Units 1-8 before doing Bolivia. In the future, I will wait until after Unit 11 to do the Bolivia Unit and this Breakout activity so students are exposed to eres as a target structure and have more exposure to yo soy, which I’m discovering should be introduced earlier in my classes.

Bottom line is my students struggled with some of the readings in the breakout box activity and I even edited some of them for my classes.

Now for the logistics:

First, I only had one box for 30-33 students so I used this information for how to make that work. It will make your brain hurt making sense of it the first time but take your time because it is helpful information.

I divided my students into groups of 4-6 (update 3/9/18 – I have since done many breakout boxes and keep groups no bigger than 4-5) and each group had a table (I have access to folding tables when the class activities call for it). Tables are crucial for this activity as there are a lot of materials to spread out and analyze in each group.


Each group received a big manila envelope with all the readings and clues. Each envelope was color coded so there was no confusion.

I made copies of all the readings so each student had a copy. They were instructed not to write on anything so I could reuse the copies for each class.

The tickets are key! Decide how many attempts you want to give groups to open locks. 1 ticket = 1 attempt. I like to give students 3-4 extra tickets than there are locks. With extra tickets they can “buy” a hint. It’s fun to see students’ faces when they ask a question and you ask for a ticket. They quickly realize they’ll save it and try to figure it out themselves (which they usually do).

I also created this chart so each group could keep track of their attempts. This was very important. They brought it up each time they wanted to attempt opening a lock. I had students come up when they thought they had a combination and actually open the lock. Then I had them re-lock it once they had opened it and I marked on my master tally sheet which teams had opened which locks. In the future, I won’t have each group actually open the locks but rather I will just visually check the code on their team chart and mark it down if correct. Duh!


The master tally sheet (referenced just above) I put in a plastic sheet that I could write on with a whiteboard marker to keep track of which groups had successfully opened which locks. I colored in the boxes at the top for quick reference. Also crucial!

I used a youtube timer set to 35 minutes as the overall activity timer.

In the end, it was a great learning experience for me and (most) groups had a good experience and wanted to do another Breakout type activity.

Fair warning: even when you do one of these that someone else has prepared for you (in this case, Martina Bex) plan on 2x as much prep time than you think. It takes A LOT of work to set these up and you’ll be exhausted at the end of the day. Also, if you think you will do any other activity, warm-up or exit activity in a 48 minute period, you’re nuts. You will ONLY have time to explain it and for them to complete it, especially if it’s your first breakout box experience.

Some things for me (and maybe you) to think about/improve for next time:

  • Giving group members roles (who puts readings back together with paper clips?, who turns in slips?, who is in charge of making sure all are involved and have access to materials? etc.)
  • A debrief-type exit slip to get some feedback
  • A bit clearer expectations on clean-up (materials got a bit messy by the end)
  • How to handle the few students who didn’t engage at their table
  • Make sure there is something in the box for winners!!! I had candy and a poster for them to hold. The more it connects with the story, the better.




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