The Complete Guide to First Grade Classroom Transformations

If you are looking for tips and ideas for using classroom transformations in your first grade classroom, this is the guide for you! With this step-by-step guide to first grade classroom transformations, you can make math memorable and meaningful as students learn to relate math to the real world! 

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The Complete Guide to 1st Grade Classroom Transformations

What Are Classroom Transformations?

Does the thought of using classroom transformations with your first graders completely overwhelm you? It shouldn’t!

A classroom transformation might sound complicated and time consuming, but it is simply a temporary change in room decor and learning activities. These decorations and activities are designed to revolve around a certain theme or setting.

circus classroom transformation

Classroom transformations provide first graders with the opportunity to apply rigorous content standards to real-world situations in an engaging way.

How Do Classroom Transformations Work in first grade?

Some first grade teachers might be hesitant to use classroom transformations with their young students, thinking that it might result in a chaotic classroom environment that is not conducive to learning. However, students benefit from the engaging, hands-on learning activities AND they are easily aligned to grade-level content standards.

Do you need to see it to believe it? I’ll walk you through a typical classroom transformation for first grade:

Step One: Planning & Preparation

It might surprise you to hear that the most important preparations for a classroom transformation are NOT the classroom decorations. The first, and most necessary, preparations to make for a classroom transformation are actually to consider the following:

Theme and Activities – What is your theme and what activities will your students be completing? FYI: Later in this guide I’ll be sharing 40 classroom transformation ideas with activities that align with first grade standards.

Time Frame – Once you have chosen the theme and learning activities, you will want to set the time frame so that you can ensure the students have enough time to accomplish the learning tasks. Will this be an all-afternoon activity? Will they have one hour?

Method of Completion – Finally, take time to consider how your first grade students will complete the activities. Will they work individually? With partners? In table groups? Have this plan in place before starting so that the expectations are clear from the beginning.

Classroom transformations don’t have to be stressful if you’re prepared ahead of time. When it’s time to prepare your classroom for a transformation, give yourself a reasonably short period of time to get the room ready and stick to it! What you accomplish in that allotted time is enough. There is no need to spend hours outside of school hours to set up something that your class is going to enjoy for such a short period of time.

FYI: The themes that you will find later in this guide have everything you need to quickly set up first grade classroom transformations!

Step Two: Activity Introduction

Your students will be very excited when they first see the classroom. Before getting started, you will want to sit down with the class and explain the learning activities. Young first grade students benefit greatly from visual cues and examples, so be sure to physically demonstrate to the students what they will be doing.

You will also want to discuss the expectations for how they should act and what will happen if they behave otherwise. This communicates to the students that just because the room has changed, your expectations of them have NOT changed.

Step Three: Activity Completion

Complete the learning activities that you had prepared in step one. If you use one of my themes shared below, the activities are set up as stations that the students can visit. It is a good idea to have the first graders check in with you after each task to make sure they are staying on track and accomplishing the objectives.

students sorting geometric shapes

Once students complete all of the challenges and mark them off on their individual recording sheets, they win!

Flexible learning activities such as this often means that some students will finish early. This is a great opportunity for students to learn more about the theme of the day!

Step Four: Clean Up

Next to preparation time, clean-up time is another major concern for first grade teachers who are considering classroom transformations. When looking at pictures of transformed classrooms, it might look like they take a long time to clean up.

That’s not the case!

Remember that you are surrounded by over twenty helpers! Take the last few minutes of the day to clean up as a class. Review with the children what needs to be thrown away, what needs to be brought back to the teacher for reuse, and what needs to be put back in its regular place. Then let them get to work!

I think you’ll be surprised by how willing the students are to help AND how quickly the classroom transformation is cleaned up.

FIRST GRADE Classroom Transformation Ideas

Are you ready to try classroom transformations in your first grade class, but you’re feeling stuck when it comes to finding a theme with activities that align with Common Core standards? Or maybe you feel like classroom transformations are just too much work?

It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to make a classroom transformation SO MUCH FUN for your first graders! To make it easy for you to find a classroom transformation that works for your class, I have divided 40 transformation theme ideas into the different math content areas (use the links below to jump to your desired section, or just scroll through them all):

Number & Operations in Base Ten

Operations & Algebraic Thinking

Measurement & Data

Geometry

Other First Grade Skills

Seasonal & Review

Jump to Frequently Asked Questions

Number & Operations in Base Ten

Pilot Day

Get ready for takeoff! Students become pilots in this real-world activity and get to practice counting within 120. 

Click here for more information about the pilot day first grade classroom transformation.

Doctor Day

Your first graders should grab their stethoscopes because it’s time for math surgery! Students become doctors in this engaging activity as they practice place value.

Click here for more information about the doctor first grade classroom transformation.

Grocery Store Day

Are you ready to go grocery shopping?! Students become shoppers in this real-world activity as they compare two digit numbers

Click here for more information about the grocery store first grade classroom transformation.

Party Planner Day

Your students will plan the ultimate party and make sure it’s perfect! Students become party planners in this real-world activity and will practice adding two digit numbers.

Click here for more information about the party planner first grade classroom transformation.

Zoo Day

Students become zookeepers for the day! Kindergartners will take care of zoo animals in this activity as they add ten more and ten less.

Click here for more information about the zoo first grade classroom transformation.

Firefighter Day

Welcome to firefighter trainingStudents become firefighters as they to practice subtracting multiples of ten.

Click here for more information about the firefighter first grade classroom transformation.

Detective Day

Do you have your magnifying glass ready? In this transformation, students become detectives and will review base ten concepts.

Click here for more information about the detective first grade classroom transformation.

Operations & Algebraic Thinking

Veterinarian Day

Your students will need to put on their scrub caps as they become veterinarians in a pet hospital! As students help sick animals, they will practice solving addition and subtraction word problems.

Click here for more information about the veterinarian first grade classroom transformation.

Candy Shop Day

Get ready to eat some candy because it’s time to hit the candy shop! Students become candy shop owners in this engaging transformation and get to addition and subtraction word problems.

Click here for more information about the candy shop first grade classroom transformation.

Bowling Day

Put on your bowling shoes because it’s time to hit the bowling alley! Students become bowlers for this classroom transformation and will practice adding three numbers

Click here for more information about the bowling first grade classroom transformation.

Magician Day

Students become magicians in this fun and engaging activity where they can practice addition and subtraction properties

Click here for more information about the magician first grade classroom transformation.

Camping Day

It’s time to grab a sleeping bag and go camping! Students become campers in this transformation and will practice relating addition and subtraction.

Click here for more information about the camping first grade classroom transformation.

Space Day

This classroom transformation is out of this world! Students become astronauts as they practice counting on from a given number. 

Click here for more information about the space first grade classroom transformation.

Chef Day

Heat up the oven because it’s time to hit the kitchen! Students become chefs in this restaurant-themed transformation that helps them practice adding within 20.

Click here for more information about the chef first grade classroom transformation.

Weather Day

Your students will have the chance to put on their raincoats and become meteorologists!  Students will practice subtraction within 20 as they become newscasters for this activity.

Click here for more information about the weather first grade classroom transformation.

Coffee Shop Day

 Students become coffee shop owners in this fun and engaging activity that will help them practice addition and subtraction within 20.

Click here for more information about the coffee shop first grade classroom transformation.

Boot Camp Day

Hup-2-3-4! Students become recruits in this activity as they practice addition and subtraction fluency.

Click here for more information about the boot camp first grade classroom transformation.

Ice Cream Day

Get ready to scoop some ice cream! Students become ice cream shop owners and will practice true and false addition and subtraction equations

Click here for more information about the ice cream shop first grade classroom transformation.

Safari Day

Students will embark on an African Safari in this fun classroom transformation! Students will practice determining unknown numbers.

Click here for more information about the safari first grade classroom transformation.

Pirate Day

Arggggh! Ahoy, mates! Students become pirates in this activity that allows them to practice a variety of operations and algebraic thinking skills.

Click here for more information about the pirate first grade classroom transformation.

Measurement & Data

Scientist Day

Put on your safety goggles because it’s time for some experiments! First graders become scientists in this real-world activity and will practice comparing object length.

Click here for more information about the scientist first grade classroom transformation.

Realtor Day

The whole neighborhood is for sale! Students become real estate agents in this real-world activity and get to practice nonstandard measurement.

Click here for more information about the realtor first grade classroom transformation.

Royalty Day

First graders become royal palace members in this fun transformation! In this activity, students will practice telling time to the hour and half hour.

Click here for more information about the royalty day first grade classroom transformation.

Donut Day

You donut have to stress with this fun transformation! Students become donut shop owners as they practice graphing data using bar graphs.

Click here for more information about the donut first grade classroom transformation.

Construction Day

Your students will put on their hard hats and get to work in this classroom transformation!  Students become construction workers and practice reviewing measurement.

Click here for more information about the construction first grade classroom transformation.

Geometry

Under the Sea Day

Grab your scuba gear because it’s time to go under the sea! Students become scuba divers in this real-world activity and will practice identifying and categorizing geometric shapes.

Click here for more information about the under the sea first grade classroom transformation.

Artist Day

Grab your apron! Students will become artists in this engaging activity as they draw and identify geometric shapes.

Click here for more information about the artist first grade classroom transformation.

Farm Day

It’s time to get to work on the farmStudents become farmers in this real-world activity as they practice partitioning shapes into halves and fourths.

Click here for more information about the farm first grade classroom transformation.

OTHER FIRST GRADE SKILLS

Sports Day

 This is the perfect classroom transformation for your students who love sports! Students become athletes and will practice addition and subtraction fact families

Click here for more information about the sports day first grade classroom transformation.

Race Car Day

It’s time to hit the race track! Students become race car drivers in this real-world activity as they practice adding and subtracting on a number line

Click here for more information about the race car first grade classroom transformation.

Circus Day

This activity will make your students feel like they’ve been transported to a true circusStudents become performers in this activity and get to practice identifying coins

Click here for more information about the circus first grade classroom transformation.

Seasonal & Review

Fall Themed Day

Fall is in the air during this classroom transformation! In this engaging activity, students become squirrels and will practice multiple first grade math skills.

Click here for more information about the fall first grade classroom transformation.

Halloween Haunted House Day

This activity will welcome your students into a haunted house filled with 10 spooky characters in this fun first grade classroom transformation! As they become guests at a Halloween party they will practice a variety of first grade math standards.

Click here for more information about the Halloween first grade classroom transformation.

Thanksgiving Parade

Get ready for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! Rigorous first grade Thanksgiving math activities like this are sure to keep everyone engaged during the holidays. This transformation is filled with Thanksgiving math activities!

Click here for more information about the Thanksgiving first grade classroom transformation.

Santa’s Workshop

It’s time to help Santa prepare for Christmas Eve in this fun Christmas classroom transformation! Students become elves and will practice multiple first grade math standards.

Click here for more information about the Christmas first grade classroom transformation.

St. Patrick’s Day

This St. Patrick’s Day math activity is a leprechaun family reunion! Your students will meet all of their “relatives” as they practice many first grade math standards.

Click here for more information about the St. Patrick’s Day first grade classroom transformation.

Dinosaur Day

Beware of dinosaurs!! Students become paleontologists for a day as they collect fossils and practice a variety of first grade math standards.

Click here for more information about the dinosaur first grade classroom transformation.

Hawaiian Vacation

Grab your suitcase for summer vacation! Students become vacationers and “go to Hawaii” as they practice a variety of math skills. This is a perfect year-end review!

Click here for more information about the Hawaii first grade classroom transformation.

Rock Star Day

Get ready to ROCK! Students will become rock stars as they practice a variety of first grade math skills. This is a great classroom transformation for year-end review!

Click here for more information about the rock star first grade classroom transformation.

The Floor is Lava

Oh no!! The floor is lava! SERIOUSLY! Students will become explorers and pretend that the floor is lava! They cannot touch the floor as they practice a variety of first grade math standards.

Click here for more information about the floor is lava first grade classroom transformation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Can/Should I Do Classroom Transformations?

The frequency of classroom transformations is completely up to you! Since I use the ready-made classroom transformation themes listed above, I am able to easily do one classroom transformation each week! I call my transformation days Monday Funday because it gives my students and I something to look forward to when we’re coming back to school after the weekend. If the idea of a WEEKLY classroom transformation seems unrealistic, you’ll definitely want to check out this post, where I show you how I’m able to do it!

Are Classroom Transformations Expensive?

Classroom transformations don’t have to be expensive! There are many ways to reduce the out-of-pocket cost for classroom transformations, including reusing certain items. I have an entire blog post devoted to cost-saving tips for classroom transformations!

Can first graders Do Classroom Transformation Activities Independently?

Any new learning activity requires scaffolding and support as the children learn how to work independently. Classroom transformations are no different. If your students are able to complete centers activities independently, they should have no problem completing classroom transformation activity rotations. However, they can easily be adapted for partners and small groups.

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Additional Resources for FIRST GRADE Classroom Transformations

Are you ready to get started with first grade classroom transformations? I’m here to help! Be sure to check out my additional posts with classroom transformation tips and follow me on Instagram where I share even more resources and tips for teachers.

I know that you and your students will love learning through the engaging activities of classroom transformations!

Want to add some fun decorations to your next room transformation? I’ve got you covered right here with my Classroom Transformation Decoration Lists!

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