Literacy Centers in the Primary Grades

Hey friends!  I wanted to chat with you a little bit about how I ran Literacy Centers in the Primary Grades. Reading centers are so important for kids to learn structure and routine.
Depending on the number of students, I typically have five reading groups. I want to make sure that my reading groups have no more than 4 students in them. If you’ve followed me long enough, you know that I’m a big believer in research based strategies. Keeping our guided reading groups low, helps with providing more targeted instruction. I’m also a firm believer that the higher and average students need just as much of targeting instruction as the lower groups. We have to prevent our higher and average groups from slipping. Ideally, your guided reading block should be 70-90 minutes long. I understand that may not be the case for some of you though. This is essential for literacy centers in the primary grades.

Literacy Centers for First Grade

As a primary teacher, I want EVERYTHING to be visual and labeled for my students. I  want to create an environment that is rich in print, so I label EVERYTHING. This helps our literacy centers in the primary grades run so much more smoothly.
Classroom Literacy Center Labels for Primary Grades

Literacy Centers in the Classroom

In our five centers we had: Listening Center, Skill Based Center, Word Work, Library and Computers.
Our computer center was easy. The kiddos just logged in (once they learned haha) and began to work on the desired website for the day. Our district used iReady, so they spent a lot of time on that. I also used ABCYA, Epic, Tumble books, PBS Kids, ABC Mouse and more.

Listening Centers in the Classroom

For our listening center, I changed out the response each day. The students might listen to one story a week or two. It just depends on the particular book, and the response I am looking for.  Creating and using listening center responses, is a great way to keep the kids engaged while listening to reading. I would have “Listening Center Scavenger Hunts”. On their directions, I would provide specific words for the students to listen for. When they found the word, they would place flagging tape on that page. After they listened to the story, they go back to the page they found the word. I teach my kids how to use accountability talk and discuss the meaning of the words. The recording sheet might ask specific questions or give the chance for students to apply using context clues. My kids LOVED getting their folders and looking to see what they would “look” for in the book on that day.  Click HERE to get your free scavenger hunt file.
So this is a real life teacher picture, it’s not perfect, but it’s what my listening center has looked like!
Listening Center in the Primary Grades

Word Work Centers as Literacy Centers

Our word work center consisted of the focus skill of the week. I used either a phonetic skill or the vocabulary words. I change this out to prevent boredom. I try to use my phonics skill to match the vocabulary words, but that can be difficult to do depending on your curriculum.
Word Work For Primary Grades Literacy Centers

Library Literacy Center

So I am going to go out on a limb and say this- I still let my kids read to self. Research says that independent reading is one of the best strategies to foster a love of reading and cultivate great readers. I understand the controversy with it though. This can be a difficult stage to manage. How do you make sure your students are really reading while you are teaching with another group of students? Those are all challenges I’ve faced at some point or another. My best answer to you is this: If your classroom creates and enhances a love of reading, you shouldn’t have any issues by using this as a “center”. Even my most difficult students, did well at this center. Why might you ask? I believe it’s because I provided them with materials they wanted to read. It was fun for them.
For 15-20 minutes a day, they had complete power over their choice of text and purpose. They set their own purpose. I teach my students each and every time you pick up a book, there is a purpose. Even in the primary grades. Your kindergarten babies should know this. Even before I had built up my classroom library, I used the school library, the public library and other libraries in our district. I enjoy getting to know students to find out their interests and use that to help them become better readers.
Classroom Library in The Primary Grades
For my skill based center, I use the previously taught comprehension or vocabulary skill. I use a different skill than what I am teaching during my guided reading instruction on purpose I want my students to have a continuous spiral review of the reading skills that we’ve taught.  These are skills the students have an understanding of but still need to apply it to the text.
I always include a mini anchor chart at this center of the skill we are practicing to remind students what they’ve learned. I usually pull the anchor charts from my intervention binders to make it simple.
In order to do this without completely boring my students, I use a variety of resources. 
High interest topics help make the students engaged in the skill we are trying to teach them. This year, I have a group of boys that could literally care less about reading when they started coming. I had to really work hard to get to know them and figure out what they liked. I couldn’t find reading material that was skill based on those topics, so I just started making them! Oh My Word, they LOVED it
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