Fun Classroom Transformation Idea for Middle School Math

October 1, 2022 The Teaching Files No Comments

What is a Classroom Transformation?

So let’s start with what a classroom transformation is. Classroom transformations are just a day or day(s) where you transform your classroom space into something new or different while tying in your content. You can create them to be as “big” or “small” as you want with the decor and extras, but the goal of a transformation is to give your students an experience while practicing/learning content. I’m giving you a free, easy-to-use, printable guide to support your next classroom transformation if you decide to pick your own theme!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.

Fear Factory Day

This past school year (if you’re reading this in real-time 2021-2022), was a hard year so I needed something to get my kids ready and excited for state testing. We were scheduled to start testing right after we returned from Spring Break so, I did something crazy and planned a classroom transformation the last day before Spring Break. I know what you’re probably thinking.. CRAZY. But, let me tell you… my students were SO engaged and on it. It was the best last day before Spring Break ever.

The Big Overview

The classroom transformation theme I picked was “Fear Factory”, inspired by the show Fear Factor where contestant had to complete gross, dare-devil, challenges at a chance to win a cash prize. I took that idea and adapted it to fit in my middle school classroom because:

  1. I didn’t have thousands of dollars to give the winners.
  2. I did not want to get parent phone calls for having a kid eat real worms in class.

I used this Fear Factory Classroom Transformation theme to review my entire year of 6th grade standards, but you could use it for anything with this editable template I created. I structured 6 challenges that were each paired with 6 sets of problems (each set was a domain in our standards- i.e. Ratios, Fluency, etc.) Teams worked together to solve the problems and get the chance to participate in a challenge that would earn them points for their group.

Planning The Content For The Classroom Transformation

With any classroom transformation, the content you will focus on is always the most important thing because at the end of the day, we want students to make meaningful connections with the skill(s) to deepen their understanding.

My 6th Grade Math Fear Factory Content:

As mentioned above, I centered this classroom transformation idea around a comprehensive review of 6th grade standards. So what I did was take each of the 6 challenges (activities) that I knew students would be working towards and paired them with a domain. It was super easy to do because 6th grade math has 6 total domains: Ratios, Fluency, The Number System, Expressions and Equations, Geometry, and Statistics. 

Each challenge’s questions were made up of 6 different questions that covered all or the majority of skills/topics learned in that unit.

Things To Consider When Planning Your Content:

  • Ensure that your students are “good enough” at the skill(s) you are centering around the classroom transformation so that they can be challenged, but within their zone of proximal development.
  • If you are doing a whole-year review like me, figure out if you could break up your domains/units nicely like mine, or if you need to have more or less challenges.
  • If you are planning your content on one, or just a few, skills/topics be sure to map out how you will add variation to your question types so you don’t have 20 of the same type.
  • How will students check answers? This classroom transformation was a whole-class style format, so I had the answer keys for each challenge in an envelope sitting at their team’s caddy. When I prompted students, their captain checked to see if their answers were correct. Think about if this is something that would work for your Fear Factory classroom transformation. You can find more ideas and in depth information on structuring your classroom transformation in my last blog post here.

Decorations and Set-Up For The Classroom Transformation

The set-up of the classroom itself always seems to be what most people are intimidated by with a classroom transformation. It’s important to remember that you can make the set up and decor as simple or as “big”as you want. If you use the 6th Grade Fear Factory Classroom Transformation or the Fear Factory Classroom Transformation Editable Template that I made, I provide printable signs that could be your decorations for the day.

Other Ideas For Your Classroom Transformation Decor:

  • This Idea List on Amazon (affiliate links included) has things that I used for decor and for actual challenges in my classroom transformation. 
  • Hit up Dollar Tree and grab a few balloons for tables.
  • If your school has black and/or yellow butcher paper, use it to cover sections of your walls to add to the effect of the theme.
  • Pick up black, plastic table cloths at Dollar Tree and use them to cover your tables if your school doesn’t have paper.
  • Make a fun slide to go with the Fear Factory theme.

Other Ideas For Your Classroom Transformation Set-Up:

  • Where will each team work? Consider how you will layout your room and tables. I always make team work stations in the middle of the room for all of our classroom transformations so that each team has a place to report to.
  • Where will students do the actual challenges each round? Will you have one table per challenge or will you have one area for all of the challenges? I laid out 3 tables to make one long table on each side of my classroom. Each table was for one challenge and it made it super helpful to have them ready to go because I had all of the things needed for each challenge ready so time was not wasted.

Structuring the Day

The actual day of my Fear Factory Classroom Transformation ran super smoothly. Here is what the process looked like for students:

  • I grouped them into teams of 4 and they reported to their work station and nominated a captain immediately.
  • I gave instructions and expectations for the day.
  • Students got the Challenge #1 envelope and had 8 minutes to complete the 6 questions as a team.
  • After the 8 minutes, I prompted the captains in each team to check their answers with the answer key provided in the envelope.
  • If the team got at least 4/6 questions correct, they were able to send one person to complete the challenge for that round.
  • After the challenge done, they added points to their team’s score (if they earned any).
  • Repeated that process for all 6 challenges/rounds.

The Challenges For The Fun Classroom Transformation:

  1. Baby Vomit: Students had 30 seconds to eat “baby vomit”.
  2. Poop Roll: Students ate a spoonful of “poop” from a diaper.
  3. Fuego Frenzy: Students were blind folded and taste tested 3 spicy foods making a guess of what they thought each was.
  4. Capture the Bug: Students were blindfolded and all had their hand in a container of gross, slimy liquids. Whoever found the bug first won.
  5. Diaper Change: Students were blind folded and taste tested 3 foods from diapers making a guess on what each one was.
  6. Saltine Sweep: Students had to eat 6 crackers within 30 seconds.

Helpful Tips For Fear Factory Day:

  • When giving your expectations at the start of the class, explain what each challenge will be so students can pick which one they feel most comfortable doing. This also makes things run smoothly and quickly each round.
  • Be sure to cross-check if students have food allergies as you may have challenges that also have food.
  • Set-up your classroom the day before if possible. Utilize former students if it is an option!
  • Use food items from home if you can to save money and time from buying them.
  • Read my The Full Breakdown of Classroom Transformations for in detail tips and ways to structure the full process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Classroom Transformations

 Anytime I post about a classroom transformation on social media, I always get the same questions time after time. Here are some answers to some FAQ’s.

  • Where do I start with classroom transformations?
    • In all honesty, starting with the 3 steps broken down in this post is the easiest. It will be trial and error, but once you get one under your belt, you’ have somewhere to work from. Remember: Theme + Skills/Standards, Activities/Tasks + Questions/Prompts, Structuring the Day.
    • Use my free guide to get started!
  • How can classroom transformations become a quick and easy process?
  • When is the best time during the unit to do a classroom transformation?
    • You can do a transformation at any point in your unit and year. It really depends on the purpose you have for it. No matter when you use it, the big question to remember is “Are my students strong enough at the skill/topic that they can be successful with 85%-90% of the questions?”. 
    • Some ideas for when to do them are:
      • To give more practice on one or a few skills after an instructional lesson.
      • To allow practice after an entire unit.
      • To review your entire year’s learning.
      • On a test day to spice up the mood.
  • How do you keep students on task during a classroom transformation?
    • Structure everything. Just like the breakdown in this post, think through and have a plan for every aspect of your transformation. The more structured the day is, the more successful it will be.
  • What do you do if your students are not behaving during a classroom transformation?
    • Just like anything else in my classroom, I give my expectations and if they are not met, I have a plan b. Often times, at the start of the class period, I start with, “We can do this (the activities) or if multiple people are not following the expectations, we will do ____.” I make the second option sound very boring and often describe a plain worksheet. Remember, it’s okay to stop your class, remind them of what it should sound and look like throughout. If needed, stop and change gears if they can’t handle it. Being clear when you set the expectations at the start of the class period is going to be key.

Classroom Transformations In Middle School

The idea of planning a classroom transformation can be overwhelming. More so when trying to pick a theme that is appropriate for your middle schoolers. This Fear Factory Day is just one fun classroom transformation idea for middle school math, but one that your students would love too!

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