In this post I’m sharing 4 tips for planning and choosing engaging and manageable literacy centers for kindergarten, first and second grade students and classrooms.
Planning literacy centers can be overwhelming. There are so many different activities to choose from and it can be hard to know which ones will be best for your students. And I know it is beyond frustrating to pick one and prep all the materials, only to discover it was too hard/too easy/too confusing/or just no fun for your students!
But don’t let the fear of planning your centers keep you from implementing them! With the right choice of activities, literacy centers can become the best part of your day!
Today I’m happy to share with you 4 tips for planning literacy centers to ensure they are successful and manageable for both you and your students!
Tips for Planning Successful Literacy Centers
1. Choose literacy center activities that have a consistent structure.
When planning my literacy centers I search for activities that have consistent routines. I want activities that allow the content to change, but the structure remains the same.
These Writing Picture Prompts are a great example of a consistent writing center. For this activity, students create a story based on the simple picture they see at the top of their page. If you’re studying narratives, students can write a narrative about the picture. Informational or Opinion writing- those work, too!
The bundle includes 25 different pictures for EACH season- 100 total! So while the pictures and genre may change, the routine and expectations for the activity remain the same.
Of course, to make this successful I DO spend a LOT of time clearly modeling the procedures and expectations for each center activity. But once all of my students show me that they can successfully complete the task on their own, I’ve got a center activity I can use for the remainder of the year! This saves me from constantly having to teach new procedures. Students are clear on what to do and more time is spent engaged in learning! Win-Win!
Download a FREE set of picture prompts in this post Writing Picture Prompts to try out with your class!
2. Choose center activities that are low prep.
Yes, I do think the thematic, seasonal activities are cute, but the reality is that I simply don’t have time to constantly prepare that kind of stuff. So when I’m planning my literacy centers, I search for activities that are LOW PREP. I want activities I can use over and over again. This saves me time (and my sanity!) but it also helps my students. With fewer materials to manage, they can focus on getting straight to work!
One of my favorite low-prep centers is Write the Room. It is an engaging literacy center activity that combines reading and writing! All you have to do is print the sentences, laminate, and cut them apart. Then tape them around your classroom for students to find, read and write! Easy-peasy and the students love it!
3. Choose literacy center activities that allow for differentiation.
We know that in any classroom you’re going to have a wide range of abilities among students. In order for my centers to be successful I know I need to find activities that adequately support and challenge ALL of my students. This means I need literacy center activities that are naturally differentiated.
I like center activities that have things like checklists, vocabulary banks, and/or pictures that support students and help build their independence. Having different versions of an activity is also helpful to ensure all students are appropriately challenged.
The Sentence Building Center Bundle is a great differentiated, hands-on literacy center. Students build seasonal themed sentences with word cards, write the sentences out and then edit them using a checklist. Students can then practice building fluency by reading it to themselves and to a friend.
I also love that this activity comes with TWO versions of each sentence in the center. One is aimed at emergent readers, while the other is best fit for early fluent readers.
4. Choose center activities that provide practice and review with skills you have already taught.
I never introduce something new in a center, because I KNOW that would lead to confusion and chaos! Instead, I use centers as an opportunity for students to independently practice skills I have already taught.
So for example, if I had worked with my students on word building and had a good routine going, I would then turn these word ladder activities into a center. They are a challenging word activity that is also self-checking so they make a perfect independent literacy center!
I hope these tips help take the overwhelm out of planning and help you make literacy centers more manageable for you and your students!
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