Increase Engagement with a Classroom Transformation

Tranform your classroom to engage your students and motivate end of the year reading
My students have crossed another day off the "Countdown to Summer" chart. The dismissal bell has rung and I stare at the countdown... 10...9...8...7...6...
I have to pack up my classroom. Time is running low, and summer is in sight. How do I take all of the bright and cheery decorations down, and still motivate my students to keep working hard on these last few days? How do I give myself enough time to thoughtfully pack things up with intention? 


Tranform your classroom to engage your students and motivate end of the year readingThis was the first time I have done a classroom transformation, and the first time I tore down my classroom before the students left for the summer. I certainly do not regret either decision.  It was a great experience for the kiddos and myself! I hope you will stick with me, while I share the physical classroom transformation and activities that made this last week of school a complete success!

If you have done a classroom transformation, I would love for you to share how it went in the comments below.

Tranform your classroom to engage your students and motivate end of the year reading
I quickly decided on doing a beach theme for the last week. Typically we take all students in grades K-6 to a local State Park to go swimming. This year, sadly, there were not enough life guards available, so we couldn't go. The beach theme was supposed to lead into us going to the beach, but instead it worked as a substitute for it all together. Sad, but not a bad alternative.
After I decided on doing a beach theme during the last week, I started to sketch a plan in my mind. What did I want the room to look like? What will I need to execute? Below is a picture of my shopping/planning list. Click below to open a file (shared in GoogleDoc). You will want to download the file and open the PDF to have editable capabilities. One file is an editable PDF for you to start your planning. The other file, when available, I linked up the the materials I used to execute my makeover.

I continue to work with students up until the last full week of school, so the week before I really started to gather my goodies. I went shopping, started planning the academic activities, and got creative. Before redecorating my classroom, I used my school's die cut machine to cut out paper fish and shells.  I gathered some left over brown construction paper and assembled a sandcastle. I also brought in my amazing beach chair (I can't say that I didn't sit in it throughout the last week of school to type final reports).
On the second to last Friday right after the final bell, I took down my bulletin boards, other decorations and anchor charts. That took some time, but I just piled it all on my desk. Then, I was able to staple the table cloths, tape the fish and seaweed and hang the blow up fish from the ceiling.  CLASSROOM TRANSFORMED, in under 20 minutes and for less than $20.00!

Tranform your classroom to engage your students and motivate end of the year reading
My classroom could not look like this for two weeks!
Tranform your classroom to engage your students and motivate end of the year reading
Instead we had fun learning at the beach! 

Tranform your classroom to engage your students and motivate end of the year reading
If you are looking to do your own classroom transformation, or if you have a beach theme week and you are looking for activities to do with your classroom, below are my lesson outlines:
I work with struggling readers and writers in grades 1-4, so these activities were differentiated to meet the complexity of the group.

On Monday, we read passages from We discussed the text using the beach balls from the dollar store, which I wrote general comprehension/discussion questions on. These questions could be used for any text, so I'll definitely be saving them for next year. These beach balls encouraged good discussion and great laughs!

Fiction Questions

Tranform your classroom to engage your students and motivate end of the year reading
  • Who was a character in the story?
  • What important events happened in the story?
  • When and where did the story take place?
  • What was the problem in the story?
  • How was the problem solved?
  • Would you recommend this story to a friend? Why?

Nonfiction Questions

  • What did you already know about this topic, that helped you understand this text better?
  • What is a new vocabulary word you learned? What does it mean? How do you know?
  • Does this text have text features? Name one (or two).
  • What is the main idea?
  • What are three facts you learned?
  • What are you still wondering about?

On Tuesday, we got in some opinion writing. I asked students if they would rather play in the water or on the beach.  They had to support their opinion with two-three reasons. Then they shared their opinions with the group.  With my older students, I sketched a quick graph of their choices, and when writing their final piece, they had to say if they agreed or disagreed with the majority. You can grab this activity by clicking HERE.

Tranform your classroom to engage your students and motivate end of the year readingOn Wednesday, my littles were all about the beach! We built sand castles with the brown cups from
Party City.  I wrote sight words on the cups, and they tried to build the biggest sand castle by reading all the words correctly.  They also practiced writing rhyming CVC words in sand.  As part of our daily routine, my students write in rice tubs, so this sand was just the switch up they needed.
My 2nd-4th grade students were all about the sea! They conducted mini research about a sea animal of their choice. They used National Geographic Kids to find out more about their animal. I found this idea on Pinterest, here.

On Thursday, we kicked up our feet, I turned on some sounds of the beach, and we READ! Throughout the week before, I searched Reading A-Z for any book that was related to water, beach, summer, ocean, pirates, etc. The previous school I worked at had a subscription to Reading A-Z, but my current school does not (this year!), so I signed up for the FREE two week trial. You do get a limited number of downloads, but it is a pretty significant number.  I printed off every "beachy" book I could find within my students' reading levels. A laid the books out and just let my students read at the beach. It is very possible that this was their favorite day of the week.  They were even exchanging books, and independently sharing why they liked the book they were giving to their friend! WHAT? Who are these kids?

Friday was our field day, so I didn't need to plan this day. But, if you are looking for more ideas to help you plan a beach themed week, I have linked to my beachy Pinterest board HERE. It is already filled with some beachy ideas and I am always pinning more.

So again, why did I decide to redecorate my room with only a few days left? 
It was a way to reinvigorate and motivate the kiddos to keep working through the last days of school. Each day they took a ride on ChristensenAIR, complete with flight attendant speech - they loved it!  Then they ASKED to read! Believe it or not, with just three half days left, they asked if they were coming to the beach this week. 
So, yes, it was motivating for the kids, but selfishly I got to pack exactly the way I wanted/needed to. I'm a little ashamed to admit that my husband and I moved 3 times in just about three years before we bought out first house. In all those moves, I learned a few things. The biggest was pack what you don't need first. Well in my classroom, I need the pens, post-its, scissors, etc. I don't NEED my bulletin board and anchor charts. So with the limited time I have to actually pack stuff up, they just needed to go. Rather than chaotically shove things in cabinets or closets - I neatly rolled my anchor charts - I put smaller posters in labeled folders - I even found new homes for other supplies in my room that will allow me to get RID of my teacher desk in the fall and make room for more student spaces!
If you ask me if I would do this again, my answer would be "ABSOLUTELY!"
When I asked my students if I should plan something like this again for next year, they said...
It was so much fun!
I loved the airplane ride.
We just got to relax and read, it was the BEST!
Mrs. Christensen put fish in the sky.
She let us read whatever we wanted. 
Please do this again next year! 
Now if that isn't the type of reaction every teacher wants their students to have, especially during the last week of the year, I don't know what is. Doing a classroom transformation was not only easy, it was incredible motivating for my students. I will definitely be looking for ways to incorporate this kind of engagement throughout the year! If you have any questions, please reach out, I would love to collaborate with you.

Check out these related posts: 

Teaching with Mentor Texts - Lessons for Use in the Summer

 teaching with mentor text lessons for end of the year practice with making inferences

Hello and WELCOME! Thank you for joining me, and The Reading Crew for our Summer Mentor Text link up. Whether you are still hanging in there, and counting down the days to summer break, teaching summer school/tutoring or if you're already planning for Back to School, we have a wealth of resources for you. On each blog, we will be sharing a Summer mentor text lesson, using a book we've chosen. The lesson will model a vocabulary, comprehension or writing skill.  The resources shared may be forever freebies, or may only be free for a limited time. Please take note of this as you visit the blogs.
teaching with mentor text lessons for end of the year practice with making inferencesI have chosen to share a lesson that encourages peer collaboration and critical thinking, using the book Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan. This is a simple story outlining some interesting rules of summer learned by two boys. The deeper story is one that outlines the complexities of the boys' relationship. The illustrations are unique and essential to the understanding of the story. This text is a perfect choice to reinforce inferring with your students. The simplicity of the text encourages students to rely on the illustrations, as well as their own personal understandings to discover the protective, rival and supportive relationship of the boys, reveled throughout the text.
teaching with mentor text lessons for end of the year practice with making inferences 

teaching with mentor text lessons for end of the year practice with making inferencesThis lesson is probably best geared for students in 4-6 grade. You could use it for students in lower grades, however be sure they are capable of making successful inferences. The true meaning of the book is only accessed through the inferences they will make. Prior to reading Rules of Summer, you will want to instruct and model for your students how to make an inference. I have an anchor chart to help students visualize how to make an inference - grab this FREEBIE. Additionally, to scaffold this lesson, you may choose to directly tell your students that this text shows the ever changing relationship of the two characters. If you are using this text before the end of school, I would set the stage by explaining the rules in this books come from the freedom the characters have during the summer to use their imagination. However, if using this book as you ease back into the school year, you may chose to explain to your students that the relationships they have with their friends are always changing, developing, and even if rules are unspoken, the expectations guide their friendships. 

teaching with mentor text lessons for end of the year practice with making inferencesAs I was reading this book, I noticed four stages of the boys' relationship - PROTECTION, CONFLICT, RIVALRY, AND SUPPORT. If you are working with a smaller group or 1-on-1 setting you may only want to tackle one stage per day. If you are teaching your whole class, you could divide your class into four (or eight if you have a big class) teams. As you will see, the lesson groups similar pages of the text.
teaching with mentor text lessons for end of the year practice with making inferences
These pages reveal one of the four stages. Using the text, illustrations and their prior knowledge of relationships, your students will be asked to form an inference about the boys and their feelings toward one another. They should use all of the pages in the section and cite text evidence (mostly from the illustrations) to support their inference. By having your class work in small groups, they will be able to collaborate on their
teaching with mentor text lessons for end of the year practice with making inferences
responses and draw from each others' personal experiences to better develop their inferences.
Each group will focus on just one part of the text, so it will be crucial for your class to come together to share their inferences. After having a whole class discussion and facilitating any clarifications, I had my students write a summary paragraph of
teaching with mentor text lessons for end of the year practice with making inferences
the boys' relationship. My students were asked to reference evidence from the text to support their claim about the always changing relationship of the two characters. Finally, in a concluding paragraph, I asked my students to make a connection to the story, and share a time in which they experienced a change in one of their friendships.
The collaboration of my students, the inferences they developed, and the connections they made were very impressive! To say I was proud of them would be an understatement.

teaching with mentor text lessons for end of the year practice with making inferencesThis book could lend itself to so many additional possibilities.  This website has a fabulous collection of ideas. I have highlighted a few of my favorites below. If you have any other ideas you would like to share, please leave a comment below!

1. Shaun Tan writes the rules in a NEVER vs ALWAYS format. Your student could generate a list of rule that they must follow over the summer or rules that govern their friendships. Encourage them to use an 'always' or 'never' format.
2. Explore the Power Struggle in this text. The two boys experience a struggle of power, and it effects their relationship. Ask your class which boy they sided with and why? Encourage them to reflect on how (maybe) their power role in their family played into their choice.
3. This one is my favorite! As I was reading this book for the first time, I kept having a bit of a nostalgic feeling. Then when I stumbled upon "The Classroom Bookshelf" and saw this activity, I knew exactly why. Rules of Summer reminded me of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. The boys in both texts have a mischievous side and the illustrations have the same dark feeling. Would your class enjoy comparing and contrasting the boys in this story to Max? I bet they would!

I truly hope you will try this lesson out with your students. My kiddos certainly enjoyed it! Here is a preview to all the goodies inside the full resource!

If you have any questions about this resource, or how I used it in my classroom, please ask! I would love to collaborate with you.


Check out these related posts: 

This post was part of a mentor text link up hosted by The Reading CrewOn each blog, a Summer mentor text lesson using a book and focusing on a vocabulary, comprehension or writing skill has been featured. The posts and resources from The Reading Crew, never disappoint, and this time was no different. Check out all the posts below
An InLinkz Link-up

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