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Classroom Transformations Made Easy!

Let me introduce you to the world of classroom transformations on a bigger scale.. The Library! 

We all have that one teacher or one school experience that will stick with us forever. As the librarian at Gatesville Elementary, my goal is to help our students make as many of those memories as possible!

A few years ago, I had a crazy idea for a “library transformation” that would allow me to  transform our library space to create a fun and memorable hands-on learning experience for all of the students at Gatesville Elementary. I approached my campus principal, Keegan Webb, with this idea and she immediately said “YES! Let’s do it. How can I help?”. 

Three years later, we are planning our sixth Library Transformation and they just keep getting better and better!

How do Transformations work in Elementary?

We close the library down for three days and 30 classes of 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders rotate through for our transformation lessons. I lead the lessons and the classroom teacher assists me. 

I design and create these lessons from scratch using the Texas Essential Knowledge and Standards (TEKS), so they are purposefully aligned with what students are learning in the classroom. 

We rotate the subject area of each transformation. We started with reading, but we’ve also focused on math, phonics, social studies and science. We currently have a district wide push to enrich our students’ writing abilities, so we are incorporating writing opportunities as much as possible. 

I want students to feel like they are truly in a different space, so I go all out when it comes to setting up. We use large backdrops to section off part of the library where the activities will be happening. Sometimes I buy backdrops and sometimes I paint the backdrop on butcher paper depending on the theme.

We cover the tables, add fun decorations and try to make it as much of an “immersive experience” as possible. Students also get a token/gift that they get to use and take home with them after each transformation. 

So what is the motivation behind these transformations?

First of all, a large activity such as this can take time and  money (that classroom teachers do not have). I set up the space and the materials are paid for by the school, so teachers are not paying anything out of pocket.

By running it through one centralized location, it doesn’t disrupt the students' regular learning environment. They get to have a really fun activity for about 30 minutes, then the rest of their day goes on as normal. It takes a lot of stress away from the teachers being able to return to a normal classroom for the rest of the day!

Past Transformations

Surgical Transformation

The surgical transformation focused around cutting something apart and putting it back together. 

Activities included a contraction surgery for first grade, where students took two words, cut out the unnecessary letters and re-connected the contraction with a bandaid and an apostrophe. Second grade students did a “character autopsy” where students identified internal and external traits of a character in a fiction story. Third grade students did a “text features surgery” where they “surgically” cut and matched different types of text features and their meanings/uses. 

Students loved performing their “surgeries” and teachers took these activities back to the classroom for students to do again during stations. Each student got to use and keep 2 rubber gloves, a mask and a stretchy hospital hat.

Flight School Transformation

The flight school transformation was all about building paper airplanes and practicing methods of measurement. First grade students measured the length of their paper airplanes using non-standard units such as blocks or cubes. Second grade students measured the length of their airplanes in inches and centimeters using a ruler. Third grade students measured the area and perimeter of their airplanes. 

I think students also really benefited from creating something and THEN measuring it. They were able to take more ownership over the activity. For tactile learners, this activity was so great because the hands-on experience helps them understand the concept better!

After completing the math activity, students got to take several “test flights” down the runway and every student also got to pick out, wear and take home a pair of sunglasses.

Construction Transformation

I knew I wanted to do a phonics activity where students were going to build words and I knew that legos would provide the PERFECT building material!

All three grade levels (first, second and third) did an activity where they built words using Legos (mega blocks).  Students had to draw a card, then write each SOUND (not letter) on a small mega block. Then students had to put the word back together on their big megablock that we called their “building block”. 

Once students built their word, they had to record it on the recording sheet. After they built 8 words, they had to choose one word to write a sentence with. First grade practiced CVC words, second grade practiced blends and third grade practiced vowel teams and suffixes. 

Every student got to wear a plastic hard hat and they received Lego rings and bracelets as a “prize” to take home after the transformation activities were complete.

Gingerbread Transformation

The gingerbread transformation was one of our December transformations. This was a great way to celebrate the holidays and I painted a giant gingerbread house as a backdrop. 

First grade students practiced gingerbread house fact families with addition and subtraction. Second grade students practiced identifying their 2D and 3D shapes. Third grade planned gingerbread house renovations and had to calculate the amount of materials needed and also the total cost of the transformation. 

At the end of the transformation, each student got a gingerbread cookie to eat or take home.

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Beach Transformation

The beach transformation has been one of my favorites so far. All grade levels did the same activity, but with different expectations of rigor when it came to their writing. 

For this activity, students drew a treasure map with three landforms or landmarks. Then students had to write an adventure (fiction) story of how they captained a ship to the “Island of Lost Treasure” and what landmarks they passed along the way.

What I loved most about this activity was seeing the students’ creativity really shine with their maps. Students of all ability levels had so much fun with it which made the writing portion of the activity so much more enjoyable.

To get in the island spirit, each student got to wear and take home a Hawaiian lei.

Why I Will Continue Library Transformations

I became a teacher because I love kids and I enjoy helping them learn and grow. After I became a teacher, I realized that I equally love the sense of community I found within my fellow teachers. For me, library transformations have become a way that I continue to support both students and teachers. 

Transformations make learning fun, engaging and memorable. 

At the end of the year (and ten years from now) students won't remember the worksheets, but they will remember THESE moments. And what’s more, teachers get to ENJOY these moments with their students in an easy and stress free way, which is why we all started teaching to begin with.

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Classroom Transformation - Kristen Sullins Teaching

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Kristen Sullins

Kristen Sullins

I am a current Elementary Librarian and
Enrichment Teacher, mother of two, follower of Christ and Texas native. In my own classroom, I love to save time by finding unique ways to integrate writing, social studies and science into all parts of my day. I also love all things organization!