Theme Theater – A Classroom Transformation (with COVID friendly ideas)

What better way to practice determining theme in the classroom, than by transforming your room into a movie theater?!

This transformation is a simple, cheap, and highly engaging learning experience!

The Theme Theater lesson starts with a whole group viewing of “La Luna.” You’ll watch the video together and discuss identifying the theme with evidence as a class.

Next, students view five more Pixar shorts on their own. The first time I did this, I used table cloths to divide half of my classroom into five different theaters. I had a computer set up in each “room” with the paper I needed them to fill out for that video on the table. Students rotated to each “theater” in small groups and worked together to determine the implied theme of the Pixar Shorts.

The second part of this activity takes place in the “theater lobby”. While in the theater lobby, students brainstorm a movie story line, based on a chosen theme, and then create a movie poster to advertise and illustrate their story and theme. While in the lobby, students also had a chance to visit the concession stand, in which I offered popcorn, m&ms, and a small bottle of water/juice.

You could also use this theater plan to have students plot and analyze story elements. Get the lesson plan and Google Slides I used to run this transformation lesson in my store.

Covid-Friendly Ideas

This activity can easily be done as a whole group learning experience. This year, I’ve set up the room so that it’s one big theater. My students will sit in the floor beside their desks, six feet apart, and the videos will be projected on the board.

Here are pictures from my room this year.

You could also do this as a virtual activity since the lesson is in a Google Slide.


Most of the theater was set up with red and black table cloths purchased from the Dollar Tree, hung from the ceiling and draped across the tables. I also purchased a few movie theater party decorations from Amazon. These could probably also be found at a party store, but are not mandatory for this transformation to work. Here’s an image of the decorations I used. They are linked above.

I also purchased clapboards on Amazon as theater movie labels for each station. Again, these are not mandatory.

As I stated, these decorations are in no way necessary for a successful transformation or theme activity. They could also easily be created using clip art in a powerpoint or Google Slide.

If you try this room transformation in your own classroom, I’d love to hear about it and see pictures! Happy teaching!

The Game of Awesomeness

A Unit Review Classroom Mini-Transformation

We accomplished our first classroom transformation game day of the year! Okay, it was a mini-transformation, but only on week 5 … that’s a great start in my opinion! It’s called The Game of Awesomeness … and it was named by my students. I have to admit, I love the name!

It was a simple transformation. We used four game review stations: 1) plot elements in test question format, 2) summarizing with a plot diagram, 3) inferences, predictions, and drawing conclusions, and 4) characterization and setting . I began the day before by having the students read the book, “Fanny and Annabelle” by Holly Hobbie. It’s a relatable story about a girl who decides to write a picture book but gets stuck, then uses her own life experiences to continue the story. It’s a story that was simple for my 5th graders to read, but allows for higher-level thinking and close reading. The students must discern between two story lines throughout the book between the main character, Fanny, and the story she is writing about her doll, Annabelle. Their story lines are similar, and therefore, the text requires dependency from the students in order to analyze the plot elements and correctly summarize the text. I used a text copy of this story since it is written on a lower reading level than most of my fifth graders and I didn’t want the pictures in the book to give away the inferences they needed to make without. All of our stations on game day were based on this one text. You can get the first three game stations in my shop!

For our game day review , each station had about 5-6 questions or 10-15 minutes worth of review tasks. The stations were each 25 minutes long (I have a two hour block with both of my classes). Students were expected to have their own answer first and then communicate with their team to compare their thoughts, prove their thinking, and decide on a team answer. I called penalty if they weren’t using the text to prove that thinking as I walked around the room and checked in on each group. Those groups had to go back and find the proof before having their answers checked. Students off task were benched from the game and had to earn their way back into the game by completing work “on the bench” (they just kept working at another table while the rest of their team moved on). Only two students from all 40 of my students got “benched”. Once complete and checked, each table had a game the students got to play. I used the games Jenga, Connect Four, Basketball, and a Ping Pong Three-in-a-Row game I found in the sports section at Walmart. The link for that game can be found here. It was definitely a favorite of the day and will be brought back out for other review days!

This set up could definitely be used in any classroom and with any subject. Other ways to use these rotations would be to only do two stations per day and run the games over two days, or to speed up the work by leading it as the teacher (we tend to push faster than our students do independently) and then having the teams rotate to each of the four games (teacher-led work, game, teacher-led work, game, and so on).

For the room decorations, that was simple. I used black and white table cloths across the ceiling (my ref colors, pictures not shown), and green paper to cover the “fields.” I hung a few streamers in black, green, and white on my door, and posted a sign by the door.

The refferee top and hat that I wore are from Amazon. Here is the link to the shirt and hat. My students chose their team colors the day before. They were excited, all but two actually wore their team colors! One class chose blue and white. The other, black/white and yellow/green (you had to wear both black and white, or yellow and green).

It was a great day! Have you done something similar? I’d love to hear about it! Send me your comments and share your experiences!