Room Transformations 101

Ohhhh room transformations. You either love them or you hate them... or you're like me and you hate that you love them! Over the last few years I have done my fair share of room transformations. It's taken hours upon hours, blood, sweat, and tears but they are some of my favorite days of my career. With all of that time invested I have learned a few tricks on how to save your sanity and make your room transformations pop!

A few disclaimers before we get started:
1. I LOVE decorating and I LOVE crafting. Because of this room transformations fit right into my wheelhouse. I was hooked after my first one and it quickly became my hobby. With that being said, not everyone is like me... and that is OKAY! I do it because I enjoy it. It makes me happy while I sit at home and craft and it makes me happy while I am in my classroom teaching. If this is not you, feel free to stop, turn around, and leave this blog post. You do NOT have to do a room transformation to be engaging or an effective teacher. Let me say that again in case you missed it... YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO A ROOM TRANSFORMATION TO BE ENGAGING OR AN EFFECTIVE TEACHER! If at any point it is stealing your joy... STOP!

2. I am not married and I don't have kids. While I am not going to play into the lie that not having those two things means this is "easy" for me or that I just have all of this "extra" time to kill, I will say that I do not know what it is like to come home to a family that depends on me. I will say that I do find myself with more "me-time" than some others may. Am I going to apologize for that? NOPE! Do I still have to prioritize my time to make room transformations work? You bet! Is it still a lot of work? For sure! Do I think I would still be doing it if I did have a husband and kids? I hope so! Would it look different? I'm almost certain of it! Regardless of what your circumstances are, prioritizing your time is necessary when you are trying to create an experience. Decide how much time you are going to need to make your vision happen and how much time you are willing to give. Maybe this means your planning starts months in advance. Maybe this means you work for 20 minutes each night as you watch TV. That's all up to you! All I can share are my experiences and how I make it work for me. Where there is a will... there is a way!

3. I work on a budget. We do get a small budget from our school and PTA to use on materials for our classroom. Sometimes this money goes to paper and ink, others it goes towards a big item for a room transformation. When I use this money on room transformation materials I do try to find things that I will use for years to come, and things that can be used for multiple transformations. One year I invested in black out curtains to cover my windows and another year I stocked up on black lights. Wait.... did you hear that..... TWO different years! I know it may seem like people throw up room transformations left and right, but for me it has been years of collecting. Every year I add something new or bring in a new theme. This slow and steady build has helped save the bank as well because outside of that small budget from our school it's all on me!

So now to answer some questions!

Q: Where do you get the ideas?
A: Honestly, kids birthday parties! My favorite place to go stroll is party city. Now I don't buy all of my decor there (I rarely buy any of it there) but I love to walk around and browse different birthday party themes. Birthday parties are honestly the OG transformation, without the education. Party stores literally build their business around knowing what kids like and are into, so it is a great place to start. Other things I love are movies, books, or TV shows. These are all great starting points for a room transformation that will blow your kids away. Once I have a theme picked out I usually hit up pinterest. While party city has all the pre-made goodness, pinterest makes my DIY heart flutter. Throw your theme into the search bar and search kids rooms, birthday parties, or decor with that theme. While I'm searching on pinterest I usually look for a couple of key points: 1. How am I going to decorate my large back wall to make it scream the theme? 2. How can I transform their desks for an overall experience? 3. Are there any fun touches I am seeing that can be tied in with content or a hands on activity?

Q: How do you do it all on a budget?
A: DIY, DIY, DIY! Cardboard and cardstock are my best friend! When and where I can I make my decorations with cardboard. Almost my entire Toy Story transformation was made using cardboard boxes. When I can't DIY it I always hit up the Dollar Tree first. I have found so many amazing things there for room transformations. The key is to always keep an eye out. Way before I have a room transformation planned I will snag items that I know could fit. In the summer there is always fish netting. I stock up on that when it is out and cheap. That simple touch will be perfect for under the sea or a pirate transformation. It would also work great in a Jurassic Park or Halloween transformation! Before every transformation I usually do a sweep of amazon as well and fill my cart with a gazillion things (sorry mom... shout out to all the broke teachers still on there mom's amazon prime account!). Once I have that cart nice and full, I go and delete 90% of it. But really... I'm serious. Once you have everything where you can see it all at once think about what will give you the most bang for your buck. What can you use year after year? What makes you smile the most? Get THAT! And the rest, delete! So there is my secret to budgeting for one transformation, but I currently do 7 or 8 a year. How can I make that work on a budget you ask? I only PAY for one a year! Once you have the materials for a transformation make sure you save everything! Next year that transformation is done and paid for. Then you can budget for a new one. If each year, or each semester you budget for one transformation you will quickly have quite the line up! I also make a plan to have "mini transformations". This is where I might get a few things, but not go all out. The next year I can add to that mini transformation and make it the theme of my dreams!

I also always get asked how much I spend. Honestly, I don't know. I'm sure when I start a transformation out it usually lands in the $100-$200 range. They don't have to cost that much, but I tend to get carried away. Like everything, make it work for you! It can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be.

Q: When are where does the content come in?
A: Oh goodness, this one is tricky to answer because it is a little different each time. For the most part I have ideas of themes floating around in my head. Once school starts we sit down and look at our scope and sequence for the year and when we are teaching what. A few things I look for when adding in a transformation: 1. Is there any topic that we do for a really long time? I know the kids will get bored (and so will I) so this is the perfect opportunity to plan in a transformation. 2. Is there anywhere where we have little to no time to hit a topic? If I know I will be pressed for time to cover a skill I try to throw in a transformation. I know my kids will be 100% engaged, I will be the most energized and giving my best teaching, and they are sure to remember the whole experience. Those are 3 things I NEED if I know I am pressed for time. 3. Is there a topic that I am dreading teaching or just didn't go so well last year? This is another time that I will plan in a transformation. If I am struggling as a teacher I love to use a transformation as a way to guarantee that I spend extra time being thoughtful about what I am teaching. When I come up with lessons for my transformations they are almost always made 100% by me. I am meticulous as I make them to make sure they hit the standard and fit with the theme to creating a lasting impression on the kids. This is also a time that I push myself to make my most hands on lessons. This is always a game changer on those skills that both the students and I struggle with.

Once I know when and where I want a transformation I go about planning out my lessons the way I would normally. I think about what specific skills need to be hit that week and what exactly I want my kiddos doing each day. I will also look over lessons and activities that we have used in the past to make sure I know what is expected of my kiddos by the end. Once I have mapped out my plan for the week I make my activities like I normally would, but put a spin on them to match the theme! I usually find myself my most creative after I have done all the planning, pinteresting, and DIYing. For that reason I usually do content last, not because it is the least important (it's the most... duh!) but just because I know I will have my best ideas once I have let my creative juices get to work.

Q: How many do you do a year?
A: Like I said before, I am up to probably 7 or 8 however it didn't start that way! I started with 1 for the year and the next year it went to 2. Each year I added 1 or 2 more, until I had enough where I could create a rotation. Each year I pick different ones to do. Some are huge and take a lot of time. Some I can throw up during my planning period. Some are new and some are old. I try to space them out so I don't burn out, and mix up the new and old to give myself a break. Also, It's totally fine to plan one and then say NOPE, not gonna happen! Every year I have had high hopes for a transformation that just never made its debut. Listen to your body. If you are wearing down, don't do it. There will always be next year!

Q: How do you get the most bang for your buck when decorating?
A: My biggest tip- FOCUS ON ONE WALL! Too many times I see people putting decorations all over the room, and while that is great, it is also going to take you forever. In all of my transformations I focus on one wall. I make sure I go all out on whatever my kids will see right when they walk in the room. I want the first thing they see to make them say "Woah!". I literally put all of my eggs in the back wall basket. We need to remember kids have a wonderful imagination. They are able to transform themselves to another place. All they need is for me to jump start their imagination, and I do it with that one wall. I usually cover the entire wall with butcher paper. I have used tablecloths in the past but make sure you get thicker ones or they will become see through. I also bought fabric and made curtains to cover my entire wall. Once the wall is covered in a solid color I start layering all the fun details. When it comes to the details bigger is always better. Don't waste your money on a lot of little touches. Invest your time and money into something that will scream you theme and blow them away. Once I have my wall completed I usually add something to the ceiling like a banner that matches the theme or inflatables. The last, but not necessary item, is covering their desks. I cover the front of their desk with tablecloths. I only cover the front because, 1. It lasts longer (no pencil holes.. bless!) and 2. I don't have to buy as many tablecloths. Covering the desks really helps to mask all of the "school-ness" of the classroom.
***Helpful hint- when it comes to hanging things from the ceiling, binder clips work great for those of you with ceiling tiles.

Q: How long does it take you to set up?
A: I'm probably the wrong person to ask this- because I am anything but efficient. You see, I work with my best friends... so go ahead and add about 3 hours on to any project. #allthedistractions But honestly, it takes us hours. Im not going to lie... it's not quick when it comes to hanging it up. Here are some tips though: 1. Bring help! A second set of hands will cut your time in half. (and if you're like me the second set of hands will keep you on task as well) 2. Get good on a ladder! I am constantly up and down the ladder when I am doing a room transformation. Buy a ladder and keep it handy, then find a friend who isn't afraid of heights. 3. Keep hooks or binder clips on your ceiling. Find the places where you are always hanging things and keep your hooks or binder clips there. Then all you have to do is hang the decoration instead of finding a location. 4. Prep as much as you can at home. When the school day is over and you start to get going, make sure everything is prepped and ready. At 3:00 your only job should be to hang and set out. Get that crafting done on the couch girl!

Q: When do you start planning your transformations?
A: Again, there is no perfect answer for this. Each one has been so different. Some ideas I have thought on and planned out for months. We knew we wanted to do Monsters Inc. in the summer and planned all the way up to September. Others, like basketball, I literally threw together in a week because I knew my kids would love it. Once you try your first one you can get a better idea of how long you need to make your ideas become a reality.

Q: How do you store it all?
A: Umm..... find any little nook and cranny I can and shove it in there! But really... I have a system, but I also do this. Maximize any storage space you have. I have one closet at school that I have fill to the top with supplies. I keep my small supplies in plastic shoe boxes. Each shoe box is a different theme. I keep tablecloths in scrapbook paper bins labeled by color. Hats, baskets, bins and accessories are all stacked like the leaning tower on top of a shelf. I have an empty locker filled with costumes and content. My stage is filled with games and blacklights. And then whatever doesn't fit at school comes home with me to be nicely tucked away in my garage. There is no secret or perfect plan. I just hide it anywhere and everywhere I can.

(see y'all, aint nothin' fancy!) 

And here are a few snaps of my favorite transformations.
Click on any of the pictures to see the content I used with the lesson. 

For this Toy Story transformation almost everything was made out of cardboard boxes or poster board. The monkeys were cut from poster board, the rocket was a large cardboard box. The giant crayons were even DIYed by Amy Lemons by using pool noodles and a party hat. 

Monsters Inc. took some time but ended up being very inexpensive. The doors were purchased from a salvage resale store. I paid under $2 per door and then just painted them up. The scream cans were all made using poster board or pringles cans. The door banner is made out of cardstock and the monsters inc hats were plastic yellow party hats that I painted blue. 

Basketball- so stinking simple yall! My basketball hoops are made out of trash cans and laundry baskets from dollar tree. The backboard is poster board that is attached with a binder clip. Other than that its orange butcher paper, black and white tablecloths and some tape on the floor to make a court.  

Stock up after every holiday- you will thank me later! This was all clearance Halloween decor that I used to make a spooky blacklight transformation. It was Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween so I used cardstock to turn the ghosts into Mickey ghosts.  

This pizza theme was so much fun (and made me so hungry). Check out pool floats at the end of summer! I was able to grab these pizza ones on sale! All the table decor was purchased at Dollar Tree and the pizza boxes were donated by a local pizza restaurant. 

Candy land was just so sweet! I decided to go for an overall candy theme instead of really sticking to the game. All the giant candy boxes are cardboard boxes and I printed off candy labels. The hanging candy pieces are paper fans covered in plastic wrap. The gum drop banner is cardstock and the wall was covered in rainbow tablecloths! 

Phew! Are you tired of room transformations yet? Honestly peeps, if you take just one thing away from this I hope it's to make it work for you! I do what works for me, you can do the same. Don't be afraid to try something new, but make sure you are having fun while you are doing it! 

Have any more questions about room transformations? Reach out and I'd be happy to answer. Happy planning everyone! 

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