Literacy centers are work stations that support literacy development.  To create interesting centers some thought and reflection is required.  Developing great literacy centers is not hard work but requires some reflection and preparation.  Knowing the audience participating at the center activities is important.  Additionally, students need to LEARN about each center prior to active engagement in center activities.  In my classroom, centers are CLOSED until the kids are "center certified."  During the first weeks of school, I model and role play center activities and expectations.  Students practice centers as a whole group as seatwork first.  Then, we discuss what are the proper procedures, processes, and behaviors for literacy center time.



          To begin centers early in the year, I create some word work and spelling centers that are quick, easy to model, and great for student practice of center behavior and responsibility.  The first is called RAINBOW WORDS.  Students write the word families and sight words for the week in rainbow colors.  I keep the papers in a two-pocket folder on the table.  The cover of the folder has this picture to enable nonreaders or early readers a picture prompt.  Students watch as I take each picture for the center.  I tell them that this helps their schemata.


            The next center is called SHAPE WRITING.  Students practice this center as a whole group, seatwork type of activity.  I model the writing on large chart paper.  Students practice as I monitor their responses.  This center is also in a literacy folder at the word work station.  This picture is on the cover of the folder also. 


                       MAGNETIC LETTERS MAKING WORDS


             The reading center is an easy one to introduce at the beginning of the year.  In this picture students just completed the first activity using the story that they read in the Trophies reading program, "The Hat."  I model folding the paper into three sections using a large sheet of chart paper.  We also learn how to make the fold ironed flat.  Then, students write three headers on their paper (who, what, end).  After they have worked with the story for two days, I have them draw and label the who (characters), what they did, and the ending of the story under each header.  This does not require much time and students LOVE to use the STORY CHART.  As we talk about graphic organizers, we name this one our story chart.  We discuss how the story chart will help us remember the important characters, events, and ending to the story.


                               Illustrations from Trophies, "The Hat."




   The game, "BANG!" is an active game for two players.  To make the game, I use a one-pound coffee can with a lid.  I write or use labels for the computer, words from the Dolch word list and our reading series, Trophies.  I use the 3 x 5 index cards for the game.  Each set of cards is kept in a small mailing envelope and labeled for Dolch number (1-25) or reading book in the series (1.1, 1.2, etc)  I store the cards in the envelopes in a Rubber Maid tub (12 quart size).  I label the outside of the tub for easy finding for center set up.  The students do not look at the cards in the can. They take turns drawing cards out of the can and reading the words on the card.  If they cannot read the card, a partner can help them read the word.  However, they must return the card to the can.  If they read the word, they keep the card.  Students take turns drawing cards from the can.  If one gets a BANG card, they must return all of their cards to the can.  Play continues until all of the cards are removed from the can.  I keep at least three cans with cards to differentiate my word games.  The outside of the can lid has a colored dot so students know which can to use.


                                   PANCAKE FLIP WORDS

   This is another sight word game.  I use circles for the pancakes and spatulas from the dollar store.  I keep the words in envelopes labeled with level of Dolch word or story from the reading series.  All materials are stored in the Rubber Maid one quart containers. Students set the pancakes on the floor with the word side down. They take turns flipping the pancakes and reading the words on the pancakes.  


                  VOCABULARY READ, WRITE, DRAW

   Each student needs a sheet of construction paper or computer printer paper (8 1/2 x 11).  They fold the paper "hot dog" style first, then up one for hamburger style, and again.  There will be four rectangle folds.  The outer page is cut on each fold to the long fold.  Students write their words on the outside, a sentence on the inside, and draw a picture of the word meaning.  This is one version of the activity.  I have also made necklaces applying the same concept.  Use a large piece of construction paper.  Fold the paper in thirds.  Cut on the folds.  Students fold each rectangle again two times.  They write and draw the same way as in the aforementioned activity.  Then, punch a hole in the top of each large piece.  Put yarn through the holes.  Students discuss words and meaning as they wear the necklace.  This necklace works well for a retelling activity.  There is an example of one on the Henry and Mudge page in this site.


   The overhead center is flexible in a tight space and popular with students.  I change the tasks for the center throughout the year.  One center that lends itself to many different tasks is the word family poem center.  The students focus on reading, word families, counting sounds/words/syllables, reading in a "voice", answering questions about the poem from the center folder, and leaving the center with a copy of the poem to illustrate for their poem folders.  I also take digital pictures of the students during our center certification learning process.  The pictures are inside of the center folder to remind students, especially ESL or emergent readers, of the directions.  Here are picture examples:


      Read the poem together. Your voice and pointers must match



                       Read in the character(s) voice(s)


                Mark the words in the word family in the poem.


 Use the counters to count words, sounds, syllables as you say the lines in the poem.

   Read and answer the questions about the poem in the folder.


    Take a copy of the poem and illustrate/color and put your poem work in your poem folder.


     The alphabetical order center is used for word work, sight words, or special word wall words.  I model and teach the center, we practice whole group so I can correct misconceptions, then, students demonstrate as other critique following center directions.  The activities are also captured on digital pictures and placed inside of the folder for prompts.


              Sort Cards                                            Alphabetize


                                       Write the words



                                  Completed Center Folder 

                   WORD WORK CENTER

    This center is very simple.  I use a book published by Scholastic.  The pages have activities for word families.  Even though this paper would be in "worksheet" format, the interaction and activities involved diverse modalities.  We practice the center together, list how we complete the center, and preserve our performance in digital pictures.  If you would like to see the word family book by Scholastic, click on the book cover.


     Cut and Sort

     Put words in ABC order



                        WRITING CENTER

 I have several writing centers each day.  The students usually work on their writing pieces at their desk or with a partner in another part of the classroom.  One center that is very popular is called STICKER STORY.  For my early emergent students, they can write STICKER SENTENCES.  Materials are easy to generate.  You need construction paper, permanent markers, pencils, stickers with different themes, crayons, colored pencils, or other scraps of craft material.  Here are some pictures of the sticker center as the students were learning the process.


 Decide on a theme and select a sticker.  Write a sentence using a pencil first.
   Check your sentence. Write your sentence with a permanent marker.



  Each student has a weekly center checklist in their center folder.  They complete the checklist as they complete the center activities each day.  At the end of the week, the folder is turned in to me.  I staple their center work, send the work home, and the checklist remains in the student's portfolio at school.  To see the checklists, click on the topic link in the table below.  To see other word family and literacy resources, click on the RESOURCES LINK BELOW.



Listening Center Checklist


Word Work/Spelling Checklist


  Reading Center Checklist


  Writing Center Checklist









          More coming....this week

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 The content of these pages are the property of B.Froehlich, owner Primary Teachers Nook, all rights reserved, 2005.