In this post, I share 4 reasons why I love literacy centers and explain how centers can help you better align your instruction and practice to the Science of Reading.
Center time in the K-2 classroom….Does the thought of it make you cringe? If so, you’re not alone. Many find centers to be overwhelming to plan and difficult to manage, some even feel it is a waste of time. Centers do take time to organize, prepare and manage. And yes, you must spend a lot of time teaching your students the routines and planning meaningful practice activities, but I still must admit…I love them. In fact, literacy centers are my favorite part of the day!
Now don’t call me crazy, not just yet! I’ve got my reasons and I hope you’ll hear me out! Today I’m sharing four reasons why I love literacy centers and explain how they can help to align your instruction and student practice to the science of reading.
4 Reasons I Love Literacy Centers
1. Centers Give Students Time to Practice and Review the Skills You Have Taught
In my study of the Science of Reading it has become clear to me that we far underestimate the amount of time it takes our students to master phonics skills. Most curriculums simply move too quickly. Many of them want us to introduce a new phonics skill each week. But one week is not enough.
After receiving our explicit instruction, students need a substantial amount of purposeful and systematic review to master the skills we teach. In his book, A Fresh Look at Phonics, Wiley Blevins states that after a new skill is introduced, it should be reviewed for the next four to six weeks. Literacy centers offer students this essential practice time.
When choosing literacy center activities, you want to choose those that offer your students cumulative review. These types of center activities focus on a target skill AND include skills that you have previously taught. Cumulative practice is one of the essential, evidence-based features of quality instruction. It helps to ensure students are not just exposed to skills, but that they actually master them.
Don’t stress about having to create resources that offer cumulative practice. That would take a LOT of time! Instead, look for activities that are already designed to do that! In this blog post, I share three center activities that were systematically created to offer students cumulative practice.
2. Centers Allow Time for Targeted Small-Group Instruction
When my students are engaged in their center activities, I am able to pull small groups of students for targeted small-group instruction. This time is so valuable! Within a small group, I am able to provide targeted, explicit instruction to each student. I can assess their understanding of the skill being taught and provide immediate corrective feedback when needed.
Teaching in small groups allows me to perform informal assessments and collect data that helps drive my instruction. I can watch as they attempt a task and get a clear sense of their understandings and misconceptions.
Finally, students love their time in small groups. Of course, they love having my full attention. The immediate feedback I can give helps to build a connection and can really boost students’ confidence.
3. Centers Allow Students to Work Collaboratively
Knowing how to collaborate is so valuable, both in and outside the classroom. I love that centers offer students the opportunity to practice this important skill. And because I want to be able to give my full attention to my small group, it’s important that my students know how to work together to solve problems and complete tasks without my help.
Of course, young kids don’t automatically know how to collaborate with each other. It is something I explicitly teach them. I give them specific strategies for how to solve problems that commonly arise such as deciding who goes first, how to remind each other of the expectations, how to ask a peer for help, etc.
I also am deliberate when I select which students will work together. When I match students by strengths and weaknesses, and intentionally mix academic ability and social capability it helps to ensure a group is set up for success.
4. Literacy Centers Offer Students Choice
Choice is highly motivating for students. When students have some choice in what task they complete – or how they complete it – they are more likely to take ownership over their work and will perform better on it.
That being said, I am always careful not to offer TOO much choice. For example, if my students are working on Writing Picture Prompts they can choose a picture that interests them, but they must write about that picture in the genre we are working on at that time.
Multisensory Word Mapping activities are another great option for a literacy center that offers students choice. As the teacher, you determine the phonics skills they will practice. Students can choose the manipulative (pop-its, playdough balls, linking cubes, mini-erasers, etc) they will use as a scaffold to help them map the words. This choice makes the word mapping center even more engaging for students!
I hope the information I’ve shared here today helps you to better understand the benefits of literacy centers and motivates you to give them a chance in your classroom! Stay tuned for upcoming posts that will help you plan, implement and manage your centers with ease!
Imagine there was an easy, foolproof process for running literacy centers without the circus, noise, or interruptions…
AND if 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!
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