A Step by Step Guide for a Classroom Transformation

Sunday, May 12, 2019
A classroom transformation is a unique way to engage your students in learning. Over the past few years, many teachers across the world have adopted the idea of transforming their spaces into unique places where they can teach and engage their students to learn creatively.

When I first started transforming my classroom, I had no idea what I was doing. That's usually how it begins with me, total confusion! I soon figured out what worked for me and I'd love to share my strategy with anyone who is considering it in the near future but aren't sure where to begin. Why not start to transform your classroom today?

You might be asking yourself, "Why would I want to spend money on transforming my classroom when I know I'm not going to get reimbursed?"

Here are some tips and tricks for keeping costs low.

1. Start Simple. 

You don't need to go wild. Begin with simple signs on butcher paper for the walls and some table cloths from The Dollar Tree for tables and desks. If the room looks even a little different, your kids will buy into it.

This was a tablecloth I got from Walmart that I reuse every year for skip counting!

The tablecloth on the table and the ones hanging in the background I got from The Dollar Tree. The football banner I picked up at Walmart. These are all cheap and reusable. 
This aisle runner was made from red butcher paper my school had in the stock room. I also created the train out of black butcher paper. The lights are from my attic! Totally FREE room transformation! Can't beat it.

I created this Ticket Booth from my school's butcher paper stock. Again, FREE!

2. Use Items You Already Have.

Look around your house or in your attic. Do you have decorations or costumes from an old party you had before? Use those!

My family goes camping a lot so we have tons of camping gear. That was my first transformation because I didn't need to buy ANYTHING! I used what I had.

All these items I had at my house. The only item I bought was the backdrop which I also use for my Polar Express transformation during the holidays.  

3. Shop Sales.

My favorite places to buy classroom transformation supplies are The Dollar Tree, Oriental Trading, Walmart and yard/garage sales. Why? Because I find them to be the cheapest around. I also tend to shop at Amazon.com if the items I need are not in any of these other stores at a cheaper price.

The decor for my Coffee Shop (Starbucks) classroom transformation was from my school (butcher paper), Dollar Tree and Starbucks. The Starbucks cups hanging from the ceiling and on the tables were donated by my local Starbucks. The flowers, puffs on the ceiling, and tablecloths were from The Dollar Tree. 

4. Invest in Items You Can Reuse Each Year.

I tend to buy items I can reuse each year and items I can use in various transformations such as backdrops and tablecloths. 
The backdrop in this Harry Potter transformation I reuse in my King's Dungeon transformation as well. 
If you find that you need to keep throwing things out over and over again, you will be spending more and more money. Invest in items you think you can keep neat, clean and looking in top shape for the following year. 

5. Buy a Few Items Each Year.

This is so important. To transform your classroom make a wish list for each transformation you want to do. I only buy the items I deem necessary to make the transformation successful for high engagement. Then each year I buy one more item I think would be beneficial. This way, the cost stays low, I reuse the items from the year before and the transformation gets more elaborate as the years go on. Remember that the class you had the year before will never know you added to the decor. They only know and enjoyed what they had at the time. 

I like to add costumes as I repeat transformations. Again, keeping it super simple and using what I already have keeps it cheap. 

6. Share with Your Colleagues!

This is the best! If you and your colleagues share items, you will have to buy a lot less. I have even heard of schools that have a "Classroom Transformation Closet" in their building where they have everything labeled in tubs. Any teacher can borrow any transformation at any time. They also add to the tubs as they go and the whole school can borrow and share everything. What an idea!

How do I decide what classroom transformation I want to do? 

There are a few things I like to take into consideration when trying to transform my classroom. Here are some things I think about.

  • What are my students interested in? What motivates them? 
Each year my students have very different interests and motivators. Some years I skip transformations with one class that I might have done in previous years with other classes. It is totally fine! Each group of youngsters change and have different interests. 

  • What is going on in the world? 
I have a Winter Olympics classroom transformation I simply cannot do each year. It just doesn't fit my current events schedule. Can I adapt it? Sure! Some years I use it as "Winter Sports." 

  • Academics. How are we doing with our curriculum pace? 

You can choose a transformation based on your curriculum. If you are learning about fossils and dinosaurs in science, why not do a Jurassic Park themed transformation? What about a writing celebration as a "Writing Cafe?" After my students and I finished our continents unit, I did an Amazing Race transformation. (Reusing my flags from the Olympic Games....of course!) 

Amazing Race Continent Review

  • What do I already have? 

Is there anything I have already that I can use to make the transformation that I've been yearning to create? I am a huge Harry Potter fan so I utilized many things I had in the attic from Halloween to create my Harry Potter classroom transformation. I know second grade is a bit young for Harry but by the end of the week, my students made their parents get all the books for them. Talk about motivating!

Keeping the Rigor High

The most important part of a classroom transformation is the rigorous academics. That is the portion that is usually lost. Be mindful that a classroom transformation is to help keep your students engaged in your lessons.

You can transform your classroom to teach new material or you can use your transformations to review what was already learned. Personally, I have done both. I have created materials for my students so I could customize what I wanted to teach, and I have also bought products from others to use within my classroom transformations that reviewed concepts I already taught. 

Here are some examples of how to keep the rigor high within your transformation. 

  For this station in my Coffee Shop Transformation  I was teaching my students how to multiply. We were investigating different ways to use multiplication and/or repeated addition to solve the problems while using little coffee erasers as manipulatives. This was a great way to give them hands on practice with a new math concept. These coffee erasers are from Oriental Trading Co. 
In my Harry Potter transformation I gave my students the chance to investigate with tangrams. My students had never seen these before but when I explained how they were used, they were able to manipulate them for practice. I tied it into the Harry Potter theme and off they went! 
This product was not an original creation of mine. I adapted a Halloween Tangram product from Z is for Zebra on Teachers Pay Teachers to fit the Harry Potter theme in my transformation. I added a photo from Harry Potter to the back of each tangram card to make the connection. The back of this card is a photo of a dementor. 
During our reading block for my Coffee Shop Transformation I had a book raffle where the children weren't allowed to see the covers of the books they were viewing. I like to call it, "Don't Judge a Book by its Cover." There was a catch to winning a book. The children needed to earn it. For each of the ballots my students received, they needed to tell me on the back if the book was fiction or nonfiction and how they knew. I needed some text evidence to make their ballot valid in the raffle. It was a great way to assess if they could identify story elements and nonfiction text features. 

Get creative with the academic rigor when you transform your classroom. Chances are, if your students are enjoying what they are doing and atmosphere they are doing it in, they will totally forget it's school! 

As always, if you have any questions as all please feel free to reach out to me at Kellycahill03@gmail.com Thanks again for stopping by Kaylynn's Place! 

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