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February 6, 2012 Organizing a Student Lock-In By Brent Vasicek
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    One of my students' most memorable activities is a lock-in. This is essentially a giant sleepover in which students get to spend the night in the school with all of their friends. I know some of you reading this do not have an abundance of resources, but a lock-in is possible even for a school with minimal resources. Below you will find strategies and tips for planning a successful lock-in for your students.


    Get Your Colleagues on Board

    If you were to have 60 to 80 students at your lock-in, then assistance from about eight or more adults would be ideal during the active part of the evening. During the calmer hours, after midnight, four adults (two male and two female) will suffice. Ask some of the students’ former teachers to help out for a few hours. Many of them would love to interact with their old students in a fun environment. This night is not only a great memory for the students, but a chance for them to bond with their current or former teachers.



    Depending on the number of students attending, I can usually get the cost down to $15–$25. Many parents think this is a great deal, as a babysitter on a Friday night would undoubtedly cost more.

    Building: Keeping the building open after hours may require paying for the custodial staff to work overtime and for the electricity and heat/AC. Be sure to check into that. This is by far the most expensive component of the evening.

    Food: The lock-in is usually from 6:30 p.m. on a Friday night to 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. Students are instructed to go home, pack their belongings, and eat a good dinner before coming back to school. Around 9:30 p.m. we have some pizza, pop, and dessert. Around 9:00 a.m. we have donuts, bagels, and muffins. Preparing food in the school kitchen can raise health department issues, so it is best to buy pre-made food like pizza and donuts.

    Crafts/Memories: I usually plan a craft that doubles as a momento of the evening. Designing frames for their favorite photo from the night or customizing pillowcases with puffy paints and signatures from their friends tend to be favorite craft activities.

    Games/Prizes: In addition to using the gym for some late-night basketball games, I design team-building games for the group to play. Relay races, mummy wrapping with toilet paper followed by a huge t.p. war, and tag games using neon glow sticks are some of the class favorites. To make it educational, I also design a schoolwide scavenger hunt in which the answers to the clues come from classroom lessons.

    Thank You: A token gift for those colleagues that helped make the night a success might be in order. Options include office supplies (e.g., sticky tack, binder clips, a fancy pen), a gift certificate, an inspirational book, or a book signed by the students for their classroom library.

    <p>Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book</p>                


    Typical Schedule

    5:00–6:30 p.m.        Set up rooms in the school for the art project, ball games, and video games.

    6:30–7:00 p.m.        Check-in. Boys put their overnight supplies in one room. Girls in another. Rooms are locked at 7:00 p.m. No admittance to the supply rooms without adult supervision.

    7:00–7:45 p.m.         Rules of the evening, team building games, and relays in the gym.

    7:45–9:00 p.m.         Open activities. Be sure at least one adult monitors each area. Open activities include:

    • Art Projects: Frames, pillowcases, drawing with art supplies, body outlines.
    • Gym Time: Basketball, hula-hoops, jump ropes, climbing wall.
    • Board Games/Video Games: Dance Dance Revolution, Wii, Xbox, karaoke, Twister, checkers, and other board games. We project video games from the Wii and Xbox on a large sheet or blank wall for extreme-sized video gaming. Usually a few students are willing to donate their video game systems for the evening, so just ask in advance.

    9:00–9:30 p.m.            Schoolwide scavenger hunt.

    9:30–9:45 p.m.            Pudding Snarf: Students in classroom teams eat pudding off a plate using only their mouths. Chocolate pudding provides the best photo opportunities, but some students do prefer vanilla.

    9:45–10:15 p.m.          Pizza time.

    10:15–11:15 p.m.        Open activities and checkout for those not spending the night.

    11:15–11:30 p.m.        Prep for bed.

    11:30 p.m.–1:30 a.m.  Telling stories around a fake campfire, painting nails and doing hair, or movie time.

    8:45–9:30 a.m.            Wake up. Breakfast. Cleanup.

    9:30–10:00 a.m.          Checkout.


    Other Things to Consider

    Health Forms: Some students may require medications that are not dispensed during school hours. Be sure to ask the parents about this in advance and have the proper paperwork filled out. If you or your district is not comfortable dispensing the meds, then invite the parents to come up to the school at a designated time to give the medications.

    Walkie-Talkies: Be sure to have a way to communicate with your colleagues throughout the night. During each hour of the event, one colleague should be available to handle unforeseen situations. You never know when you will need a Band-Aid, ice pack, or a broom.

    Fear of Spending the Night: Some students want to join in the fun, but do not want to spend the night. Maybe they have some fears, or perhaps they have commitments early the next morning. For those situations I have built in two pick-up times. One is 11:00–11:30 p.m. and the other is 9:30–10:00 a.m.  I have found that these two times meet the needs of all students, and we don't have to devote a teacher to monitoring the front door for parents that want to pick up their children at a variety of times.

    What special events rank in your students' minds as their best memory?

    Pleasant dreams,


    2i2 is a trademark of Mr. Vasicek's classroom.


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