It’s a Mystery!

“What’s in the box?”  “I wonder what’s in there this time!”  “Can I be first to figure it out?”

These are quotes from children who are anxious to find out what is inside the mystery box.  Many times I stand at the door and let the students put their hands inside for about 3 seconds before entering the room.  Other times I walk around the room and let students feel inside one by one and use a word to describe what is inside.  I’ve used the Mystery Box in many different ways, but one thing is the same every time: student engagement!

THE Mystery Box

THE Mystery Box

Principals always want to walk into our classrooms and see students “actively engaged” in their learning.  I’ve heard that phrase MANY times over my short career as a teacher.  The fact is: Not every lesson is engaging.  Sometimes we are forced to teach the “boring stuff” because it’s what the state mandates.

However, I have found a way to make some of those snoozers a lot more eye opening.  (Pardon the pun!)  The answer?  That Mystery Box you see in the picture.  Sometimes it takes just the simplest tweak of a lesson to make it more engaging for all involved.  And it’s one of those things that the kids continue to enjoy throughout the year.  It’s not something that they groan about–they get so excited when they see it come off the shelf.

How I made it:

I bought a hat box, a feather boa, black material, black foam sheet, and stickers at Hobby Lobby.  Before covering the box, I cut a 3.5″ x 3.5″  square in the center of the lid.  Then I covered the box and the lid with the material.  After that, I cut a circle to fit inside the bottom of the lid (for sturdiness) out of the foam and glued it in.  Once it dried, I took my exacto knife and cut an X in the lid where I had cut out the square.  You will be cutting the material and the foam at the same time.  This is where the students will be able to put their hands inside.  When I was finished with that, I cut the boa into smaller pieces and glued it around the edge of the lid and more around the X on the top.  The last step was to decorate it with stickers.

I’m sure many of you out there have used similar techniques in your classrooms.  How does it work for you?  Do you see that the students are more engaged?  I would love to hear your stories!  And if you haven’t tried it yet, let me suggest it!  You might just be surprised to see how much the level of interest increases in your room!!



  1. Can you give some examples of what you put in the box?

    • Sure. I’ve done many different lessons, but some things include objects from a book we read, solid shapes, Christmas tree clippings, word cards, toy cars, you name it. I’ve used it with ages 3 – 11 years old in different ways. My student teacher last year glued a bunch of things together that had many different textures to get the students thinking about adjectives and charted their words on an anchor chart. I have used it a lot to reinforce active listening–students have to remember how other students described the object so that they don’t add the same word and can identify the object first–like a small competition. I’ve even put prizes in it and let the students pull one out on the way out the door (makes choosing prizes much quicker than when they can see them and rummage through EACH one). That is what I love about it: it has limitless possibilities!! :)

      • Thanks! I work with six year olds and have been wanting to try something like this for awhile, but I keep forgetting. I could use toy animals and food that we have around school, and things with different textures to teach hard, soft, rough, smooth, etc. I think I’d also use some household items which could teach them the names of those items (I teach English in South Korea) and give them a chance to work on describing something. I think I’ll use a pillow case and put in a spatula, ladle, nail polish, picture frame, fork, candle, etc. I’m excited to try this now!

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