We all know that the ability levels of the students in our classrooms vary greatly! When teaching literacy, in order to differentiate the learning of their students, most teachers will plan and develop weekly literacy groups to meet the needs of each ability level, using a variety of literacy skills and activities. This blog article provides hints and tips on how to set up literacy rotations in your classroom and provides you with a range of activities that are useful to use at each literacy station.
Setting up Literacy Groups
Firstly, place your students into ability groups. This can be very difficult, especially at the beginning of the year when you are relying on assessment guidelines from the previous year. To help group my students, I used a variety of assessment pieces including reading levels, comprehension assessments, basic phonemic awareness and writing samples.
Once I had the groups, I developed a display board which clearly showed the groups and the activities using a group activity spinning wheel. This display enabled students to identify which group they were in and the activities their group were completing each day. On the grouping posters, I used blue tack when sticking the names on each poster to make it easier to swap kids around if needed.
The spinning wheel uses a piece of card on a split pin making it easy to spin around to display each group and their literacy stations for the day.
In my Year 2 class, I had 6 groups and planned for 6 activities a week (3 days of 2 rotations). Each rotation lasted approximately 20 minutes with 10 minutes for transition and feedback.
When planning the activities it is important to work out how much extra help you can get during this time. I would always plan my groups around my teacher aide time and would also ask for parent volunteers. The more help you can get during this time the better it is for you and your students.
The activities varied from week to week, however, I had 6 main activity centers:
- Writing Station
- Sentences (parent help was used here if available)
- Reading with the Teacher (guided reading)
- Comprehension Skills (teacher aide if available)
- Computers / iPad Station
Writing Station Activities
The writing station varied from week to week. This depended on the text type the students were learning or the areas I felt they required extra support and practise. Sometimes it was free writing using a writing stimulus, other times it linked to the text type focus we were learning about.
Here are some other writing activities that may be useful to use at this station:
Sentence Structure Activities
At the sentences station, we would spend time focusing on sentence structure and grammar. These activities changed depending on the ability of the group.
This is Dressing Up a Sentence Activity is a simple idea that could be used to encourage students to add more detail to their sentences.
Here are some great sentence structure activities that may be helpful to you for this station:
This was the station that I was always positioned at. At this station, I was able to sit and listen to every student read to me at least once a week. I would use an instructional text (a challenging level reader) which enabled the students to apply known and newly taught reading strategies.
Whilst listening to each student read I would make a record of the strategies they were applying and which strategies needed to be taught. This Guided Reading Strategies checklist can be used to keep a record of each student.
Here are some other reading teaching resources that may assist at this station:
For more information about guided reading, you may like to check out these blog posts:
You may also be interested in checking out our Guided Reading Folder Resource Pack.
Comprehension strategies are an important focus in any classroom literacy program. In my early years classroom, we focused on one strategy a week using a variety of activities. Sometimes it was reading a small passage with a parent/teacher aide and then answering questions relating to the comprehension strategy for that week.
Other times it was an activity/game/match-up task that reinforced the weekly comprehension strategy.
At Teach Starter, we have a large collection of comprehension activities and texts that would be useful at this station. Our comprehension strategy packs are convenient and include a range of activities.
Here are some other comprehension activities:
If you’d like some more ideas and information about teaching comprehension, or if your school uses the Super Six Comprehension Strategies, you may like to read our blog post, What are the Super Six Comprehension Strategies?
For this station, the focus would be the weekly phoneme the students were learning about in class. There are so many fun phonics games and engaging activities that you could do here!
If you have a parent helper for this group they could go outside and use chalk to write on cement/play hopscotch/paint with water etc.
Otherwise, here are some other phonics games and activities that you could use:
For more tips and ideas to help you teach spelling, you may like to check out the following blog posts:
- The Fundamental Building Blocks of Teaching Spelling
- 16 Hands-On Phonics Games for the Classroom
- Tips and Activities for Teaching Letters and Sounds
Computers / iPad Station
This depended on the availability of iPads. Most of the time, in my class, we already had apps ready to go, so that the students could pick their favourite app and develop the skill required.
In the early years, an app reinforcing sight words would be useful at this station. Reading Eggs was also another app/computer game the students loved to play.
This blog post also has some great free apps that are worth trying, 40 Free iPad Apps for Teaching Spelling.