Classroom transformations can be a LOT of fun, but they can also be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan in place. I am so excited to share 10 Tips for Easy Classroom Transformations! These will make your next room transformation go smoothly and efficiently.
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Tip #1: Decide on a Time Frame
Are they going to have an hour to get this done? A whole afternoon? Or maybe even a whole week? It’s really up to you and what works best for your classroom.
And…do you want to focus on just math? Reading? Integrate all subjects into your room transformation? I personally like to choose one subject so I’m not overwhelmed having to do activity after activity after activity throughout the whole day.
Also, I like to keep my room transformation to a “half day” period of time so we have some “normal school time” to fit in other things we need to accomplish while also having that “fun room transformation” time too.
If you’re having trouble deciding how long you’re going to set up your classroom transformation, these are some things to consider:
Let’s say you’re trying to decide between a circus and a coffee shop theme. If you set up your room like a circus, you may want to keep that up longer than if you were doing a coffee shop day. When I set up coffee shop day, my students get a cup of hot chocolate at the end. That is not something that I can keep up for a whole week. A cup of hot chocolate isn’t going to stay fresh in my crockpot for more than a few hours.
But the circus classroom transformation may do really well staying set up for a whole day (or even a few days) in the classroom. A circus classroom transformation is probably going to have a lot more decorations and you may want to keep them up for a weeklong unit or longer based on the time you spent putting them all up.
Just make sure to try and balance your theme with the work you’re doing.
Tip #2: decide how students will work
This is very important because it’s going to affect the environment of your classroom transformation. Are your students going to work independently, in groups, in partners, in table groups? Are you going to the classroom transformation as a whole class?
This is something you need to decide ahead of time so your classroom transformation runs smoothly. I like to have my students work in partners or independently depending on the class I have. Sometimes, students will be able to work in partners, and sometimes, you have a class that you know needs to complete everything independently. So do what’s right for your classroom.
Another thing to consider is will your students be walking around the room to complete each activity? Or, will they grab an academic challenge and bring it back to their desk to complete? Make sure you know these answers ahead of time so your day runs smoothly!
tip #3: decide on a work load
Are they going to do worksheets, center activities, hands-on activities? That’s something that needs to be decided on ahead of time because students need to know exactly what’s expected of them.
I also like to give students a recording sheet when they come in the classroom so they’re able to see precisely what they need to get done and what they still have left while they are working. This shows what a recording sheet looks like for each student during restaurant chef day.
As the teacher, I have students bring their recording sheets over to me after each challenge or activity. This allows me to check their work frequently to ensure they are not making mistakes and holds them accountable for what they need to do.
Students can get feedback quickly from me on how they are doing and I can change who is working together if I see the work is not being completed in a timely manner.
tip #4: limit how long you set-up for
I promise you that if you give yourself an unlimited amount of time to set up your “easy” classroom transformation, you are going to stress yourself out! If you give yourself a limited amount of time, you’re going to have a wonderful day that is stress-free!
I set up my easy classroom transformation one of two ways. If I do it before school, I’ll come in 30 minutes before the bell rings to set up my decorations. And then when the bell rings, that’s what kids will see and get to enjoy. The bell is a perfect “stopper” for me because it prevents me from going past the goal I set for myself. If I didn’t manage to put up every single poster and tablecloth that I wanted to, that’s okay! The students are still going to enjoy the day! Do you think they’ll know that there are two tablecloths missing on your small group table? No!
And, if I set up my classroom after school, I will simply stay a little late when the day is over. But I won’t stay there for hours and hours. I’ll work on it for 30 minutes after school. I may say to myself, “Okay, it’s 4:00 now. I’m going to stay here till 4:30 and get whatever I can set up for my classroom transformation.” And then whatever is set up in that time period, that’s what the kids get to enjoy. I like to stay after school when I definitely have to be at a certain place at a certain time (example: have to pick up a child from band practice at 4:30). This forces me to leave at the original time I set for myself.
Let’s pretend you’re setting up for a camping classroom transformation. If you set a time limit, you may run out of time 30 minutes later before you’re completely done decorating. It’s okay if you didn’t have time to set up the tent, and the lanterns, and the bonfires, and the chairs. Your students will be perfectly fine with one or two extra elements that they don’t see on a daily basis.
As teachers, we feel we need to do it all. We don’t! You’re already going above and beyond by doing a room transformation! Don’t stress yourself out. One year, I bought 12 donuts from Five Below because they were on sale for a dollar each. And yes, they looked cute during my room transformation. But the following year, I only put two out. Guess what? The room looked just as cute!
Here’s another example. The first time I did a bowling classroom transformation, I saw bowling sets on sale at Target for $5 each. I thought to myself, “I’m going to do a room transformation with 10 challenges so I need 10 bowling sets!” I got all 10 and was so excited.
But, when I set that time limit, I only got 3 of the bowling sets blown up in that time frame. My students did all ten academic challenges and walked over to one of the 3 bowling sets each time they finished to take their turn bowling. Did my students know that 7 bowling sets were missing? No! Did they need those 7 extra bowling sets to have fun? No! It turned out that I didn’t actually need all of the bowling sets to make my vision work the way I wanted.
tip #5: use what you already have
You would not believe the amount of items you can use for a classroom transformation around your house. Look in your garage, your kids’ rooms, the spare bedroom, the attic, in holiday decorations, and more. You don’t need to spend extra money to do a fun and easy classroom transformation.
For example, for a Halloween classroom transformation, I let my students wear their Halloween costumes to school. That didn’t cost me anything. Also, I took some Halloween decorations out of my attic and set them up in my classroom.
The idea of reusing household materials will work for a lot of different classroom transformation themes. Any holiday classroom transformation usually lets you bring in decorations you can find in your attic. Doing a coffee shop classroom transformation? Bring in your coffee pot and give the kids some hot chocolate. Doing a firefighter classroom transformation? Bring in your garden hose to set the scene! Are you setting up a camping day? Bring in your beach chairs and a lantern. Walk around your house and see what ideas you come up with.
And if you do want to spend money? Go to the Dollar Tree! You wouldn’t believe some of the great decorations I’ve found for cheap. For example, during the summer, the dollar store has lots of beach decorations. I do a Hawaiian Classroom Transformation that students love for less than $10 total. Students bring in their beach towels. I buy a few blue tablecloths that look like ocean water and leis. Then, we’re ready for a great day!
tip #6: have an activity ready for students when they enter
When students first see your classroom on room transformation days, they will show you how much they love it. They may even go a little crazy at first with their excitement. How do you avoid the chaos? Have something ready for them to complete so they can focus that excitement on something themed.
If your school is anything like mine, there is an arrival period where students slowly trickle into the room over the course of 30 minutes. Instead of explaining why the room is decorated over and over again, I give my students an activity to complete so we can go over directions together as a class when everyone has arrived.
Some examples of ways to keep students engaged while they wait for everyone to arrive:
- put directions on the board that have a theme on them
- make a themed hat
- color a coloring page
- talk quietly with their table group about what they think will happen today
- have them read a book
There are so many options to choose from. Just make sure you have an activity in place so students are on task and not creating chaos around your classroom before the classroom transformation even begins.
tip #7: set your behavior expectations early
When students come in the morning, and they’re all excited, make sure you have a meeting to set up behavior expectations. This will set students up for a successful day right from the start. You want them to follow your behavior expectations that they follow every day during your classroom transformation too!
Make sure students know that they’re not allowed to get off task, they are not allowed to fool around. Tell them that you expect them to be engaged in the material and what the objective of the assignment is so there are no misunderstandings. This will curb a lot of problems down the road if you have this meeting right at the beginning.
You can also have a small prize in place at the end of your classroom transformation if you’d like. This is a great motivator for my students to work hard the entire time and dissuades students from engaging in poor behavior choices. It might be something as simple as a homework pass, a coloring page, or a certificate of completion.
For example, on detective day, students get to use an invisible ink pen to solve clues. If they solve the entire mystery, they get to keep that invisible ink pen. But, they may only keep it if they’ve met my expectations throughout the entire day.
Or, if you’re doing a classroom transformation like “The Floor is Lava”, you don’t want students o be dangerously jumping from chair to chair screaming at the top of their lungs. They can jump from chair to chair to escape the lava, but only in a safe way that you have shown them beforehand.
Students should know the expectations for the items you provide them to use or wear during a classroom transformation. They should know that those items aren’t meant to be broken, misused, or thrown around. The items are a privilege and will be taken away if the students cannot handle the responsibility.
tip #8: check in with students frequently
Make sure that students know that you are going to be circling the room as they complete their activities. Sometimes, I’ll sit at a central location to check activities, and sometimes I’ll roam the room. It depends on what the room transformation is that day and what works for my particular set of students that year.
All students have a recording sheet that I check each time that they complete a challenge. I’ll either sit at that central location and check each challenge they bring me. Or, I’ll circle the room and check challenges as I visit each group that is working. My class knows that they may not move onto another challenge until their current challenge has been checked. This helps ensure their understanding and lets me give them quick, effective feedback on each concept.
Classroom transformations are also a great time to get informal assessment data. You’re able to see which students are taking on a leadership role, which students are high-achievers, which students are struggling, which students are looking for others for guidance, and so much more. The informal data I receive from room transformations frequently tells me which students will need remediation on a concept the following week and which students will need enrichment activities.
tip #9: prepare for fast-finishers
No matter what class you have, and what room transformation you’re doing, there will be fast finishers. You want to make sure you have an activity pre-planned for those students so that they are not distracting others that are still working. This is also important so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to assist them and they can enjoy some enrichment.
Here are some ideas of what you could do if they finish early:
- coloring page
- make a themed hat
- fun facts around the room (students copy down fun facts about the theme you’re studying on posters around the room, QR codes, or Google Slides)
- read a book
- work on unfinished work
- help a student of your choosing who needs additional support
It’s really easy to implement a fast-finisher activity for students as long as you plan ahead of time. The few times I have not had an activity ready to go, I’ve regretted it! It’s very hard to come up with something in the middle of a classroom transformation for early finishers to do when you still have 20 other students working. Plan ahead of time and have something ready for them. That way, you can hand out that fast finisher activity and keep working with students who are not done yet.
tip #10: have students help you
Help students help you! It is not fun to have students leave school at the end of the day and you’re stuck taking down your entire room. Sometimes there are tablecloths and door decorations and posters and trash and worksheets everywhere. Classroom transformations can become messy when 30 kids are working all day long. Don’t let students leave you with the mess!
Take 5 or 10 minutes at the end of the day and let your class help you clean up. And guess what? Students LOVE to help! If you have tablecloths up all over your room, show students how to fold them for you and put them away. Have you inflated a donut pool float to set the scene? Show students how to deflate it and put it back in its original box.
I happen to have a bucket for each room transformation that everything goes into. That way, the following year I can grab the room transformation themed bucket that I need without any additional thought. When cleaning up each room transformation, I’ll say, “Table 1, you’re responsible for cleaning up the tablecloths and putting them in the box. Table 2, you’re responsible for taking all of the decor posters off the door and neatly putting them in the box. Table 3, please check for trash around the room and put it in the waste bin.” Every table group has a different task to complete so when the 5 minutes is over, you have your classroom back. And, you get to go home at a reasonable time when school’s over!
Another benefit of having your students help is that it makes the process very quick. This means that if you do your room transformation first thing in the morning, and want to switch to another activity after lunch, you can! Have students take 5 minutes before lunch to clean up the room and you’re ready for normal activities after lunch.
I hope you enjoyed these 10 tips for an easy classroom transformation that are just for you! To help make your next classroom transformation easier on you, I have made 40 free slides that can choose from! Choose any themed slide you’d like for your classroom and display it on your TV or smartboard.
If you have any questions, I’m always happy to chat about room transformations! Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also want a pre-made room transformation where all the work has been done for you. Check out my classroom transformations for grades K-5 below.
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Want to add some fun decorations to your next room transformation? I’ve got you covered right here with my Classroom Transformation Decoration Lists!