How to Set Up a Classroom Transformation for the First Time

how to set up a classroom transformation

Have you heard of room transformations, but aren’t sure where to start? Believe it or not, I do a classroom transformation EVERY WEEK in my classroom. Let me show you step-by-step how to set up a classroom transformation. It’s a lot easier than you think!

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classroom set up like a pet hospital

Classroom transformations can look like so much fun when you walk in the door with all of the decorations set up. But that doesn’t mean that students aren’t working hard! Don’t forget that the objective of a room transformation is to engage students in their learning–NOT seeing how many decorations you can pack inside one room.

How to Set up a Classroom Transformation: The Basics

I like to use a familiar format that my students are used to when we complete our classroom transformation each week. Because my classroom transformations all follow the same format, I do not have to go over directions week after week. This saves us a lot of time and my students are able to get to work quickly once they understand my initial expectations. For my classroom, it looks like this:

  • stations around the room
  • a recording sheet for each student to get marked off each time they complete an academic challenge
  • a small prize at the end for students who finish
  • some decorations around the room to excite students
  • clear expectations to keep students on task

Let’s chat about each of these items.

How to Set Up Decorations Around the Classroom

Students really enjoy classroom transformation days because it’s something different from the norm. But, that doesn’t mean you need to spend 5 hours after school getting ready for your classroom transformation the next day. Grab a few decorations, set a time limit for yourself, and decorate!

dinosaur classroom transformation with few decorations

There is no right or wrong way to set up your classroom. Here’s when I gave myself an hour to decorate for dinosaur day. I got some cheap green tablecloths from Dollar Tree, some leaves from Amazon, and gave each student a safari hat to wear too. It came out super cute!

Here’s my classroom for dinosaur day last year. I was stressed out, we were preparing for end-of-grade testing, and I only had about 15 minutes to set-up because I had a meeting that morning. I put a few dinosaur balloons out with a banner. My kiddos oohed and aahed over that set-up when they came in because it was something new and different. 

dinosaur door decor

Do you think one class had more fun than the other? NOPE! Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself! If you love decorating, set a timer for an hour and when that timer goes off, go home! I’m sure your room looks GREAT! And if you’re all about saving time, give yourself 15 minutes to add a few decorations and your class will be thrilled!

Decide What Skills You Want to Focus On

Since I do a classroom transformation every week, it’s pretty easy for me to decide which skill we’re going to focus on. I focus on whatever skill we learned that week! I like to do a classroom transformation the day before our assessment. I’ll introduce a new skill on Monday, we’ll practice it Tuesday/Wednesday, do a classroom transformation on Thursday, and take our unit assessment on Fridays.

students working dinosaur classroom transformation

Classroom transformations are really great at letting you see which students are excelling with a certain skill and which students need more practice. Completing a room transformation tells me which students I need to remediate with the following week and which students will need enrichment activities.

Think About How Students Will Complete Activities

Another benefit of a classroom transformation can be letting you group students together the best way you see fit. Do you know certain students are struggling with multiplication strategies? Pair them up during the room transformation with students who are doing well with that skill. Or, let your higher ability students work independently and pull your students who need extra help to the back table to work with you during the room transformation. Classroom transformations are meant to be flexible so you can group students however you need.

student working

Give each Student a Recording Sheet

A recording sheet really helps keep students accountable for their work. Each week, I choose how to set up a classroom transformation the same way. I have ten academic challenges around the room that students need to complete by the end of the day. After students complete each challenge, they come see me to be checked before moving on to another challenge.

students holding recording sheets

This picture shows students with a dinosaur recording sheet. They got to cut out a dinosaur fossil and glue it on their recording sheet each time they finished an academic challenge paper. The picture below shows an example of an academic challenge paper and the recording sheet being signed by me after each challenge.

dinosaur worksheets

I like using a recording sheet for each child because it’s a visual reminder for each student how much work they still have left. I will call out reminders during the class period like “You should have 2/10 challenges done by now. Use your time wisely!” or “You should be halfway done at this point. If you do not have half of your challenges completed by this point, you may no longer work with a partner. Please return to your seat and work individually until you have caught up.”

By using this familiar format each week, students know exactly what’s expected of them and learn time management skills as the year progresses.

Set Behavior Expectations and Stick To Them

The first few times I do a classroom transformation, we spend a good chunk of time going over behavior expectations so that students understand that the activity is not just about having fun. Our objective is to learn and anyone who isn’t doing that will not participate.

student safari hats with recording sheets

I let my students decide if they would like to work in partners or independently (whatever suits their learning style best). However, I warn them that if they do get off-task, they will not participate and will do the activities independently at their desk without the ability to earn a small prize at the end. This way, I do not have to plan an alternative activity for students who are misbehaving and they are motivated to stay on task (because they do not want to lose the privileges of moving around the room, working with friends, and the ability to earn a prize).

Let Your Class Help You

When our classroom transformation is over for the day, I let students help clean up the mess. I will assign each table group a different task. Because of this, we are able to clean-up the entire room transformation in about 5 minutes. I may have one group collect all of the tablecloths and fold them neatly so we can re-use them. Another table will go around and clean up scraps. There may also be a table going around collecting extra worksheets on the floor that haven’t been completed.

worksheets and leaves on the floor

For the dinosaur day classroom transformation, I had groups:

  • folding up green tablecloths and putting them in a reusable bin for next year
  •  taking decorations off the door
  • collecting leaves and putting them in a zip-loc bag for next year
  • picking up the dinosaur posters I laminated so we can use them next year
  • organizing the blank worksheets that weren’t completed in my copy bin so next year’s class can use them

I promise that classroom transformations can be easy and fun to do! You don’t have to save them for once or twice a year if you find a routine that works for your class. In summary, my best tips for how to set up a classroom transformation are to save what you print/buy so you can re-use it for the next year, use a familiar format so students know what to do, set clear expectations for student behavior, and let students help you put-up/take-down decorations.

kid dressed up for dinosaur day

Do you have questions about how to set up a classroom transformation? I’m always happy to chat about classroom transformations! Email me at if you have any questions!

Are you looking for pre-made classroom transformations you can simply print-and-go? Check these out!

What Grade Level Are You Looking For?

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You may also enjoy this article called “10 Tips for Easy 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!

Looking to try out a room transformation but not sure where to start? Come join us in the Classroom Transformations with the Lifetime Learner Facebook Group to grab a free video game-themed room transformation for K-5!