Socially Distanced Word Work Centers

These socially distanced word work centers allow students to engage in meaningful literacy center work while maintaining safety & distance. Make sure to download free socially distant word sort and word building activities in the post!

“Social distancing” and “literacy centers” are two things I never expected we’d hear together!  So much of center time has always been about sharing materials, working together, and partnering up, but 2020 really threw a wrench in those plans!!  

Implementing centers in a “normal year” can be a challenge. Thinking about doing it while maintaining social distance is enough to make your head spin!   But as I began to think more about some of my best literacy centers, I realized that with just a few simple tweaks they could still work. Some even naturally allowed for social distancing!  

So while literacy centers may look a little bit different in 2020 (and probably beyond), they can still be a meaningful and enjoyable part of the day. 

In my last posts I shared ideas for socially distanced writing centers and socially distanced reading centers.  Today I’m wrapping up the series by sharing a list of SOCIALLY DISTANCED WORD WORK CENTERS you can safely and easily implement in your classroom! 

Establishing Routines to Ensure Safety

Student health and safety has always been our #1 priority but in this time of Covid-19 it is of utmost importance.  In order to ensure these centers run safely it is absolutely necessary to TEACH, MODEL and have your students PRACTICE routines and procedures for safety.  

The procedures you set into place may depend on your students and your classroom set-up but I thought they could include: 

💗Teaching students to properly sanitize hands and materials after use. 

💗Teaching them to place used materials and books in a “quarantine” or “used materials” bin. 

💗Modeling how to gather the materials they need and work only in their personal work space.  Teach them what that space looks like and feels like! 

💗Creating a bin of personal materials students can keep at their seat. (this may include a whiteboard marker, eraser, erasable sleeve that they can easily slip a center worksheet in and out of).  

Once you have a clear plan for how you’ll ensure the health and safety of your students, you can begin to introduce them to the following word work centers!!  

Word Work Centers with Social Distance

This past year I’ve spent a lot of time reading the work of Wiley Blevins.  One of my biggest takeaways has been that our students really need more review and repetition in order to master the phonics skills we teach.   

As I read more about this, I was motivated to create word building activities that I think both you and your students will love! 

I made them DIGITAL (as well as printable) so that they could be used for remote learning, but I soon realized that they would also make great word work center activities in social distanced classroom! 

Phonics Word Building

In his book,  A Fresh Look at Phonics, Wiley Blevins recommends using word building activities to give students the practice they need to master the phonics skills we teach.  

This resource offers students SO MUCH but is no extra work for you!  Just load it into your Seesaw library or Google drive and I’ll take care of the rest!  Yep, that’s right, I’ll teach your students! 

Students will listen to the AUDIO directions (from yours truly!) and then build words in a specified sequence. Each new word only varies by one sound spelling from the previous word. Students press the audio button to hear me state the word to build, blend the phonemes of the word, say the word again, and use it in a sentence to develop vocabulary.  

Students will love that these phonics word building activities are interactive and self-checking.  They provide immediate feedback!  You can feel good assigning it, knowing they are receiving explicit and systematic phonics instruction! 

Along with the digital version, the resource also includes PRINTABLE word building worksheets.  So if you prefer for students to not use a device, you can make copies of the worksheets and have students complete them in their personal work space.  

Download a Free Set of Word Building Activities HERE

Differentiated Word Sorts

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!  

I love these Word Sorts for a number of reasons!  For one, they are differentiated.  There are two levels of word sorts: whole words and words with the missing target spelling pattern to assign to your students. Students will look for common spelling patterns, sort, then communicate what they notice and have learned about the words they’ve sorted.  All students can be successful! 

Secondly, they are LOW-PREP!  The printable pieces require very few cuts for students. There will be NO TIME wasted dealing with materials!

The digital version has been PRELOADED for you. With 1 click you add them to your Seesaw library or Google Drive and then you can assign them to your students. 

Finally, I love that the structure of each word sort in the resource remains the same. This saves you from having to explain and model everytime you assign one!  Once your students have successfully completed one sort, you can be sure they’ll be able to independently work through the rest at whatever pace you assign them! And with 38 different word sorts you’ll have enough to last you the ENTIRE YEAR!  

Download a set of FREE Word Sorts to try today HERE!

Word Ladders

If you have fairly strong word building and word sorts routines in place, an engaging exercise to continue the development of word awareness are Word Ladders.

Word ladders require students to think critically.  They must use the letter or picture clues provided to figure out the next word they have to build.

This self-checking phonics activity provides students with immediate feedback.  The digital version has a slider that allows them to check their work and the printable version comes with an answer key.  

This NO PREP resource includes 42 word ladders that are BOTH PRINTABLE and DIGITAL.

Read and Match Sentences

This is another LOW-PREP, interactive, socially distanced word work center that students LOVE!  The resource includes both PRINTABLE decodable sentence worksheets and NO PREP DIGITAL activities- both would be easy and safe to implement in your socially distanced classroom!  

There are 265 decodable sentences with early sight words. Students demonstrate comprehension by reading and matching the picture, then reread the sentences to build reading fluency.  

If you chose to use the printable version, you’d just have to set the routine with your students that they must use hand sanitizer or wash hands before using the interactive materials. The digital version just requires a device! 

Included in the year-long decodable Phonics Sentence Matching Bundle:

  • CVC Sentences
  • Blend & Digraph Sentences
  • Long Vowel Sentences
  • Diphthong & R-Controlled Vowel Sentences

Seek, Sort, Read Phonics Activities

This word work center activity is another safe and simple way to provide students with the practice they need for phonics mastery!  

Students will love these hands-on phonics activities! They will seek words by indicated phonetic pattern, sort them into columns, and read the lists of words.

There are 40 printable worksheets that are perfect for your socially distanced literacy centers! 

There are also PRELOADED digital activities included.  They’ve been created in Google Slides and Seesaw. All you have to do is click the link to add these activities to your drive or library!

Included in the year-long Seek, Sort, Read Phonics Bundle:

  • CVC (short vowels)
  • Digraph & Blends
  • CVCe (silent e) & Long Vowels
  • Diphthong and R-Controlled Vowels

Phonics Word Activities – Fun Flaps

This last word work center isn’t digital but it is one that seems like it was made for social distancing! 

I have always loved these FUN FLAP Word Activities because they are so easy to manage. It’s truly a NO PREP word work activity that engages students in MEANINGFUL practice!  All you have to do is print the worksheets and fold the flaps!

It’s the perfect activity for your emergent readers who are learning to segment and blend words.  They can take the worksheets back to their personal workspace, complete each fun flap, and fold back the word list to self check their answers.

Included in the bundle are 35 different phonics fun flaps to be solved. There are black & white and color versions of each fun flap, plus a template for students to create their own.

I know I’ve shared A LOT of information here today!  I certainly don’t suggest you try to do it all!  Instead, choose one or two activities that you think would be a good fit for your class.  Start there, give it a try, see how it goes, and let me know!  

I do hope that the information I’ve shared today has helped you see that students CAN safely engage in socially distanced literacy centers.  With just a few very small and simple tweaks, centers can remain a vital and meaningful part of the school day!

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