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Surgery Transformation for First Grade

If you are looking for a way to spice up your lessons and provide your students with an experience they will never forget, you HAVE to try a classroom transformation! 

Knowing that transformations can take time and  money (that teachers do not have), I convinced my principal to let me run the transformation through the library. 

So, we closed the library down for one week and 30 classes of 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders rotated through for our “surgery” lessons. 

Each grade performed a different type of surgery. First grade completed a contraction surgery. Second grade performed a character autopsy. Third grade did a text features surgery (which is not included in this post).

The biggest benefit of running it through one centralized locations was that it didn't disrupt the students regular learning environment. They had a really fun activity for about 30 minutes, then the rest of their day went on as normal. It also took a lot of stress away from the teachers being able to return to a normal classroom for the rest of the day!



How to Set up a Surgery Transformation for First Grade

I created a surgical area using photo/backdrop stands and rolls of blue tablecloth. 

I wanted students to feel like they were truly in a different space, so this is one area that I put a lot of work into. 

I say a lot of work, but honestly, hanging the blue tablecloths only took me about 45 minutes to an hour. 

I arranged the tables in rows to mimic operating tables and covered them in rolls of white tablecloth. 

I purposely did not set out chairs so that students would have to remain standing like real surgeons. 

Each table had a metal tray of “medical tools” that I got from Dollar Tree. 

I also put a “medical waste” bucket on each table for the students to put their trash in. 

Lastly, we put out clipboards, pencils and the students' “surgical gear”.

Each student got to use and keep: 

  • 2 rubber gloves
  • mask
  • hospital stretchy hat

I do have to add that giving the students “surgical gear” (hat, gloves, mask) was probably their favorite part! 

It really made the experience one they will never forget AND we let the students take their medical gear home.

I also have to add that some students did NOT want to put on their surgical gear, and that's okay, too!

Surgery Transformation Activity #1: Contraction Surgery

The first grade students did a contractions activity where they had to physically cut apart the word and patch it back together with a Band-Aid and a quotation sticker.

Students had to write the two original words. 

Cut out the letters they no longer needed and throw them away.

Glue down the remaining pieces of words. 

Place a Band-Aid with a quotation mark sticker between the letters to form the contraction. 

The final step was for students to write a sentence with their new word. 

Benefit of this Activity

First and foremost, students really had fun! 

But I think students also really benefited from the physical act  of cutting apart the words and putting them back together with a contraction. 

For tactile learners, this activity is so great because the hands on experience helps them understand the concept better!

Turn it into a Word Work Station

After the transformation, I gave this activities to teachers and they put it in their stations. 

Since we had already done the activity together, students didn't need any instructions. 

And since contraction words are plentiful, this contraction word work station became self-sustaining and very little work for the teachers!

Surgery Transformation Activity #2: Character Autopsy

Second grade students did a character autopsy where they had to “diagnose” the patient's internal and external characteristics.

I read the students a short story about a character named Catfish Carlos and made sure there was a copy of the story on each table. 

Students then worked in surgical teams of 3 or 4 to identify three internal traits: something he felt, something he said and one of his actions. 

The students had to cut these out and glue them onto the “patient”. 

Then, students had to color the patient to show the external characteristics of the character. 

Turn it into a Reading Station

This is another activity that teachers were able to put into their stations.

Because students were already given the instructions, they could use the same worksheet for any book they read. 

We printed the character autopsy worksheet on regular 8.5×11 paper and students were able to cut and paste it into a journal!

Surgery TransformationTip #1 Prep Ahead of Time

One of the things that made this week of surgeries so successful was how much prep work I did ahead of time. 

I did as much as possible in the weeks leading up to our transformation. So much so, that the day of set up, all we had to do was hang the blue tablecloths and set things out on tables. 

Tip: Make sure you take EVERYTHING out of its package. The “surgical gear” for the students (masks, hats and gloves) all came in boxes, but they were inside plastic bags also. We unwrapped everything ahead of time and had them in the buckets seen on the left so that it was super easy to set out materials between classes.

Surgery Transformation Tip #2: Backup Table

Another very helpful area was this backup table. I kept extras of everything in case we ran out something I could easily grab it. 

I even kept extra tubs and baskets of different sizes in case I needed to grab them for some reason.

You just never know what you are going to need!

Surgery Transformation Tip #3: Trash Bins on Every Table

I've always used “table trash cans” with my first and second graders anytime that we do a cut and paste activity. 

This made sure that the tables stayed clean and I didn't have students walking all over the library, they stayed at their tables. Because you know they just can't help but walk with their scissors! 

Surgery Transformation Tip #4 Have an Example

I think one of the biggest things that made the activity itself run smoothly was having an example for students to look at. 

I had an example on each table so it was very clear what my expectations were for the activity and what the finished product should look like!

Surgery Transformation Activities for First Grade

Every activity seen in this post can be found in my Surgical Transformation product here: 

Amazon Purchases for a Surgery Transformation

Here are the links to everything I used in the surgical transformation. *Disclaimer: this post includes affiliate links. 

Four photo/backdrop stands. Shop here. 

Three rolls of Blue Tablecloths. Shop here.

One roll of White Tablecloths. Shop here.

One hospital hat for each student. Shop here.

One surgical mask for each student. Shop here.

Two gloves for each student (size XS-S). Shop here.

Doctor's Jacket & Stethoscope for myself. Shop here.

Surgical Trays were purchased at Dollar Tree for $1.25 each.

Posters were printed on our school's poster machine. 

More Transformation Ideas for First Grade

Surgical Transformation-Blog Post

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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!