by Third Grade Teachers Lynn Frankenberger and Kristie Kerber
Last August, when we began looking at our curriculum for the upcoming year, we wanted to find new and innovative ways to engage our students in the classroom. From experience, we know that kids buy into what they are learning on a deeper level when they periodically break away from the normal routine. We began researching meaningful, hands-on activities that would support the different skills our students would learn throughout the year.
One instructional technique that we discovered was Room Transformations. This technique is when you turn your classroom into a new and exciting learning environment based on a fun theme. Our first classroom transformation happened at the end of our place value unit in math as a review before the test. The third grade classroom was transformed into a hospital with eight “operating rooms.” The students dressed the part by putting on doctor’s coats, masks, hair nets, and gloves. Our doctors were given different tasks to complete that connected them to the skills that they had learned throughout the unit. One of their tasks was to check the symptoms of their patients. At this station, they had to match the diagnosis (numbers) with the symptoms (numbers written in word form). For example, they had to match the number 627 to the words, six hundred twenty-seven. By the end of the day, they all begged for more hospital transformations.
Another classroom transformation took place with the help of some parents when we turned our classroom into an airplane. We trekked around the world to seven countries where we read about different aspects of each of these countries. While they were reading the passages, the students used their knowledge of context clues to determine the meaning of unknown words. Along their journey, the travelers collected stamps in their passports from each of the countries that they read about. As their flight attendants during their six-hour flight, we passed out snacks and beverages to our travelers. We all enjoyed this experience and were sad when we landed back in Missouri.
Both of these experiences were such unique ways that elicited high motivation from all of our students. Not only are these effective ways to reinforce our students’ learning before assessments, they also help encourage social and collaborative learning skills. It was fun for us teachers to observe our eager participants engaging in hands-on learning and making real world connections from these transformations and several others throughout the year.