5 Literacy Centers Aligned to the Science of Reading

In this post I share 5 literacy centers aligned to the Science of Reading. These low-prep, research-based literacy activities are ideal for kindergarten, first, and second grade students and classrooms. Be sure to download the freebies linked in this post!

For too long it was thought that there were a variety of ways to teach children to read.  The Science of Reading has changed that assumption.  Decades of research now tell us that children learn to read the same way.  They build pathways in their brain that connect speech sounds to print.  

As teachers we simply don’t have time to waste on activities that don’t help everyone grow and learn. With so many resources out there, it can be difficult to know which ones truly align with what current research tells us about how students learn to read. 

This is where I’m here to help!  Today I’m excited to share 5 literacy center activities that are aligned to the Science of Reading!  

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. This means that, at no cost to you, I earn a few nickels should you choose to make a purchase through the link.

The literacy center activities I’m sharing today take what we know about how students learn to read and put it into practice. While they focus on different reading skills they all follow these essential, evidence-based principles of quality instruction.

💕 Instruction must be explicit.  In explicit instruction, the objective of the lesson is clear and the teaching is intentional. The teacher takes center stage and directly teaches concepts to students. There are opportunities for guided practice with decreasing levels of support. It follows the “I do, We do, You do” model.

💕 Instruction must be systematic.   Skills taught and practiced are based on a research-based scope and sequence. Each lesson and activity builds upon itself.  Students are not asked to do anything they haven’t first been taught.  When instruction is systematic, nothing is left to chance.

💕 Instruction should be engaging. When students understand why they are learning what you are teaching and they are provided with the appropriate support for success, they see learning as relevant to their lives and are more engaged and motivated.

💕 Instruction is intensive. This means instruction data-driven and focused on essential skills.

💕 Practice activities should be cumulative.  Once a student moves forward with a new concept, they must continue to review the skills they already learned.  In his book, A Fresh Look at Phonics, Wiley Blevins reminds us that a new skill needs to be systematically and purposefully reviewed for four to six weeks after you first introduced it. 

Literacy Centers Aligned to the Science of Reading

Heart Words Word Mapping Centers and Activities

Leave behind those flashcards and boring word lists! These SoR literacy centers are truly what your students need to store heart words into their sight word memories.  

My Heart Word Centers and Independent Activities were designed to be used after you have explicitly and systematically introduced heart words to your students. They offer students the repeated exposure they need to commit the words to memory.  

With this bundle, you’ll get FOUR NO PREP heart word center activities.  Each activity helps students build phoneme-grapheme associations and work on phonemic awareness skills. They are self-checking and provide immediate feedback to ensure students are practicing spelling their heart words the correct way!  

Let’s take a peek at each center activity included in the bundle: 

Heart Words Digital Word Mapping 

In this digital center, students first hear an audio clip of the word. Then they read a sentence and map the word by moving a chip for each sound they hear.  Next, they graph the word by spelling the word with graphemes (letters).  Finally, they identify the “tricky” part of the word that they must learn by heart.

Heart Words Word Mapping Task Cards

Students first read a sentence to hear the high-frequency word used in context.  Next, they map the word by placing counters/cubes in the sound boxes. They then graph the word by spelling the word with graphemes and finally, write the word three times.

Heart Words Word Mapping

In this activity, students map the word by popping a dot for each phoneme they hear. Then they graph the word by spelling out the word. You can use the pop-it printables that are included or purchase your own.  Either way, this activity is highly engaging for students!! 

Mystery Heart Words 

Here students identify the sound represented by each picture and blend the sounds together to identify the mystery heart word. You’ll get 56 game mats that include 220 words- enough to last year all year long! 

In addition to the activities, this bundle also includes information about Heart Words and a high-frequency words list and scope and sequence to help ensure your instruction is systematic and informed.  

Phoneme Grapheme Word Mapping

Through research on the Science of Reading and David Kilpatrick’s book, Equipped for Reading Success I’ve learned that students use the oral language processing part of their brain to map, or connect, the sounds (phonemes) of the word to the letters or letter combinations (graphemes) in a word. This process is called orthographic mapping.  It is how we take an unfamiliar word and turn it into a sight word for immediate retrieval.  

Word mapping is a physical way to represent the relationship between the phonemes and graphemes.  It allows students to physically connect or match the letters with the sounds they represent. Ultimately, it helps build word recognition and decoding skills that improve fluency in both reading and writing. 

Students find word mapping activities ​​highly engaging because they have both visual and kinesthetic aspects. To increase student engagement, you can offer multisensory manipulatives like silicone poppers or playdough.  

My printable and digital Word Mapping Resource has EVERYTHING you need to get students mapping words in your classroom!

I’ve included interactive digital slides for over 485 words perfect for explicit instruction. Also included are mapping boards and word image cards for your small group instruction and independent student practice.

I also designed 42 printables that offer students the cumulative practice students need for mastery.  These self-checking printables are ideal for independent practice, literary centers, homework, or as a meaningful activity for a substitute.

You can take a closer look at the Phoneme-Grapheme Word Mapping Bundle here and download FREE CVC Word Mapping Activities here!

6 Syllable Types Activities

It’s important when we are choosing a scope and sequence that we choose one that allows for systematic phonics instruction and includes direct instruction of the 6 syllable types.

Teaching the six different syllable types to our students helps them decode bigger, more complex words and become more effective readers!  Without a strategy for chunking longer words into manageable parts, our students may end up guessing or even skipping over the words. 

My six syllable types (closed, open, magic e, vowel team, r-controlled, consonant +le) resource comes with everything you need for teaching syllable types to your students!

You’ll get digital teaching slides designed for explicit whole group instruction you’ll use when you are first introducing your students to the syllable types.  Students can practice what they’ve learned using the interactive digital slide activities and printables.  Both are ideal for small group instruction or independent practice! 

Learn more about the six syllable types and download free syllable types activities here!

Differentiated Word Sorts

When we first introduce a new phonics skill it is best to keep the instruction explicit, clear, and to the point.  But in order for students to truly master the phonics skills we teach we must provide them with lots of opportunities for review and repetition! 

 In his book Phonics from A to Z, Wiley Blevins encourages us to have our students explore and play with letter sounds and suggests word sorts are a great way to do so!  

Word sorts require students to think about how words work by drawing their attention to common spelling patterns.  Students receive a set of words that all have something in common. They must identify the feature and sort them accordingly.

Take a closer look at my Differentiated Word Sorts and download a FREE word sort here! 

Word Ladder Phonics Activities

Once you have a strong word sort routine in place, an engaging exercise to continue the development of word awareness is Word Ladders, aka Word Chains.  

Word ladders are a fun and challenging word activity for students and are good for when students have already had a lot of exposure to the word pattern.  Students will determine the next word in the ladder by changing just one phoneme to make the next word.

My Word Ladder Resource, designed from Wiley Blevins’ recommended scope and sequence for K-2 students, includes both printable and digital word ladders. These activities require students to think critically to figure out the next word to build, using letter or picture clues for support! Since word ladders are self-checking they are perfect to use in an independent literacy center.

Get more details about my Word Ladder activities here!

Each of the literacy center activities I’ve shared today take what we know about how students learn to read and put that research into practice.  I hope the information and resources can help to bring more effective reading instruction and practice into your classroom! 

Feeling overwhelmed in trying to plan effective literacy centers or exhausted from all the center chaos many teachers experience?

Imagine there was an easy, foolproof process for running literacy centers without the circus, noise, or interruptions…

AND imagine you could get new, low-prep Science of Reading-aligned centers every month…plus detailed, specific trainings…would you finally feel confident about doing centers in your classroom?

All of this awaits you inside my K-2 membership, Leaders of Literacy!

Join the waitlist and be the first to get the hot email saying it’s open for enrollment!

*87% of the time, school spam filters block emails like mine 😩 Please use a personal address so you don’t miss a thing!

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