In this post, I share 5 of the best low-prep literacy centers for kindergarten, first and second-grade students. These centers are all aligned to the Science of Reading and come in both printable and digital versions.
I love literacy centers, but I know not everyone feels the same way. When I talk to teachers about literacy centers, a major complaint I hear is that they just take too much time to prep. Centers are just one part of the school day. I know you don’t have hours to spend prepping for them. The thing is……you don’t have to! There are plenty of high-quality, engaging, science of reading-aligned center activities that take virtually no time to prep. You just have to find them!
You can always make independent reading and partner reading two of your centers because they require virtually no prep at all. But I’m guessing you want some centers that are more engaging, hands-on, and specifically focus on skills you have taught. That’s why today I’m sharing 5 of the best low-prep literacy centers that are hands-on and highly engaging for students.
These centers are aligned to the science of reading and take very little time to prepare. Once you’ve done a small amount of initial prep work you can use them over and over again for YEARS to come!
All of the centers I am sharing here today come in both printable and digital versions. The printable components are very low prep and the digital components require NO PREP at all. They have all 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 for remote learning or individual centers.
In addition to saving you time, these low-prep literacy centers are also beneficial for students. They don’t include a lot of materials for students to manage, which allows them to focus on getting straight to work!
So let’s take a look at the 5 best low-prep literacy centers….
5 Low-Prep Literacy Centers
1. Word Sorts
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.
One of the major pitfalls with some word sorts is that they often require a lot of small pieces of paper, letter cuts, or word cards. They can take a long time to prep, distribute, and collect!
But NOT these activities! The printable pieces require very few cuts for students. There is NO TIME wasted dealing with materials!
Another BONUS is that the structure of each word sort in the resource remains the same. This saves you from having to explain and model every time 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!
*Note- students should only be using word sorts AFTER a lot of explicit teaching of the spelling pattern. If students are just cutting and sorting words by the letters they see without decoding the words, word sorts become an ineffective activity.
Take a closer look at my Differentiated Word Sorts and download a FREE word sort here
2. Word Ladders
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 or word chains are a fun and challenging word activity. Students determine the next word in the ladder by changing just one phoneme to make the next word.
To prep this literacy center the only thing you need to do is make copies or slip a single sheet into a sheet protector. That’s it!! Students can use a dry erase marker to complete the ladder, erase it when done and it’s ready for next time!
Take a closer look at these self-checking Word Ladder activities here.
One of the main benefits of centers is that they give students the practice they need to master the skills you teach. You teach A LOT of phonics skills and you don’t want to have to prep and create something new for each skill you teach! That’s why you’ll love my Yearlong Phonics Activities Bundle. It is a year-long, NO PREP, science-based resource. All you need to do to prepare this center is make copies!
Every unit in this bundle focuses on a different phonetic word pattern. Within each unit, you’ll find a variety of systematically, differentiated designed activities that give students the practice they need for mastery.
Included in the bundle:
- Vowel Teams
- R-Controlled Vowels
- Diphthongs & Variant Vowels
Additionally, the activities in each unit are consistent. This means once you explicitly teach your students how to complete the tasks in the first unit, they’ll know exactly what to do for the rest of the year. You won’t waste time teaching procedures and expectations for every unit. Students will be able to jump right in and successfully complete the tasks on their own without wasting any mental energy on trying to remember what they are supposed to be doing!
Take a closer look at this phonics center and download FREE printable and digital phonics skills activities from each of the units in the bundle here!
We know students love and benefit from multisensory activities. They allow students to tap into multiple pathways which activates more circuitry, and in turn, enhances learning and memory. Many multisensory activities require extra materials and prep work, but not my Heart Words Word Mapping activities. All they might require is a little cutting! Laminate them and you’re all set for years to come!
The activities in this resource were designed to be used after you have explicitly and systematically introduced heart words to your students. Each activity is self-checking and provides immediate feedback to ensure students practice spelling their heart words the correct way!
With this bundle, you’ll get FOUR NO PREP, multisensory heart word center activities.
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.
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. To prepare this center, all you need to do is print and cut the task cards!
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 just need to be printed and cut one time. You’ll get 220 words- enough to last year all year long!
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. It is an engaging center that just requires printing the “What’s the Word” sheets and cutting out the words one time!
These print and digital decodable sentence builders make it simple for you to provide your students with the cumulative practice and application we know they need for mastery of the phonics skills you teach.
To prep this center all you need to do is print the “Build it, Write it, Read it” worksheets and cut out the word cards just one time! To make it even easier for yourself, you can ask a parent volunteer to cut the world cards. If you choose to laminate the cards, you’ll have the center for years to come!
Take a closer look and download a FREE sample of decodable sentence builders here.
I hope the information and centers I’ve shared here today will help you see that high-quality, SoR-aligned literacy centers do NOT have to require a lot of prep work! Don’t worry about implementing them all at once, but go ahead and choose one and give it a try! Let me know how it goes!
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 brand-new 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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