Written by Casey Jeffers, Owner of Fair Winds Teaching & MSEA Second Grade Teacher
Check out how I morph my classroom into an engaging learning lab for any subject! Anytime you can change up your student’s routine to engage them in a new learning experience is well WORTH IT! A classroom transformation creates an immersive experience for our students without having to leave the classroom.
I know that pulling off a classroom transformation can be stressful and overwhelming, however, if you follow these guiding points, you will be able to better understand what your day or week will look like beforehand.
First things first… ALWAYS START with the instructional goal/problem when planning a classroom transformation. You must have a standard or group of standards in mind to successfully complete a transformation. This is NOT about a theme or turning your classroom into an underwater shark tank, just because. You need to have a purpose…
My suggestion is to start by laying out the content you have been teaching and figure out what you are assessing your students on. This process will start about 2 weeks beforehand. Most subjects and content have the potential to lead to a classroom transformation idea. You just need to create those creative juices flowing!
For example, my class and I spent weeks learning how to measure distances and comparing lengths. We asked a lot of questions about diving into the water and compared two divers. This helped with the idea of having a Shark Diving day to help measure and compare sharks and divers. I started with the content and let the idea come to me. I would not suggest scrolling through Pinterest and just selecting a circus theme because you think the kids will like the circus.
If you are teaching elementary measurement standards this school year, check out this Shark Classroom Transformation here!
Next up, here are 5 questions you should ask yourself when planning your own classroom transformation or buying someone else online.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning a Classroom Transformation
- What time frame will you have available to complete your classroom transformation? Is it a one-day or a week-long unit? Plan so you know how many centers, activities, or lessons you will need.
- What decoration resources/materials do you already have available to you that connect with your standards? Selecting the theme is the fun part! Think about – (kids’ birthday parties you have leftover decorations from, companies that can partner with to provide materials (Crumbl Cookie, Starbucks), or what is currently available at the dollar store) If you don’t have anything to start with, ask yourself… What are your students interested in? Poll them and see what is fresh and new! This might help spark an idea that connects with your standards.
- Can this theme/topic be connected over multiple content areas? Math, reading, and writing? Can you extend a restaurant theme over the science content you are currently working on? Can you add a STEAM or physical education component to your day?
- What expectations do I have for my students on an “out of the box” day like this? Make this clear to them beforehand. This will help plan your centers/activities accordingly.
- How many center/rotations or groups can they handle? Do you run a teacher-led group? Do you have other adults to help you on that day? Is a worksheet their best use of time or does every station need a recording sheet?
If you ask yourself these questions while designing or buying a classroom transformation, you have already set your students up for success. The day will go amazing and the kids are sure to remember the experience and content learned for years to come.
Let’s dive into some of the classroom transformations I have created for my 2nd and 3rd graders. We have transformed our room into a backyard BBQ and restaurant to have a book tasting or barbeque.
We have dressed up for the 101st day of school and transformed into the 101 Dalmation movie for the entire day!
We’ve taken on the world of road construction to assess area and perimeter for our all-week classroom transformation. Hard hats included!
My favorite of all time was our sweet-smelling bakery for our Crumbl Cookie day to learn about shapes and fractions! They had a blast and it also tasted amazing!
Whether you are ready to start designing your own classroom transformations or using someone else’s idea, here are some tips and tricks I have learned along the way!
10 Tips and Tricks for a GREAT Classroom Transformation:
- Showing your work is a must
- Label all of their supplies and papers BEFORE you start (things will get left around the room)
- Have a visual timer to show rotations
- Have a checking-in process (team leaders or individual students)
- Review expectations before the day starts
- Set up the room beforehand (but not too far in advance (they will move and ruin your stuff) – Here is a FREEBIE to show you are working on the process
- Fun background music is a must! It is fun and keeps everyone quiet (Spotify – Follow me here)
- Decide what you are keeping (to use again) and what the students are able to keep (let them know ahead of time)
- Have a clean-up crew ready at hand
- HAVE FUN – take a step back and spend some time listening to them work in groups, you will be amazed at how engaged they are! (take lots of pictures to remember it by)
Casey Jeffers is a second-grade teacher at Butterfly Ridge Elementary in Frederick County, Maryland. She was recently recognized as the national winner of the NEA Foundation’s 2021 Teaching in Excellence Award. Casey is the proud owner of the Education Resource Blog, Fair Winds Teaching, and loves to connect with her education community through her TeacherPayTeacher’s business.
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