Like any other lesson, I found that starting with the end in mind was really helpful. I set up a scenario that relates to the content we are studying and gives a hint as to what they should be prepared for. For my 4th grade animals unit, it seems as though some animals were stolen from the zoo and locked up in our school while the 5th grade students needed to unlock a petition to stop the use of plastic straws in the school.
Selecting the right part of the unit to do this is also essential. At the start of a unit, students don’t tend to have enough related vocabulary to accomplish the task, but at the end of the unit they are ready to move on to the next topic. Breakout activities are great for re-invigorating the learning and reignites excitement about the topic. Another benefit of doing the breakout mid-unit is that I can recycle material from class to create clues. Whether clips from a movie or an infographic, making a clue of something familiar can keep the clue from being too difficult or frustrating.
One last thing to consider is the amount of time you have to complete the breakout. My classes are 30 minutes long, which really becomes 25 by the time we get settled, I explain the activity and we clean up. I found that splitting the class into teams and having each team complete only one clue. If a team finished early, they were to split up and help the other groups (who were also told to accept the help!)