We all know that the ability levels of the students in our classrooms vary greatly, that’s why literacy centers work perfectly! When teaching literacy, in order to differentiate the learning of their students, most teachers will plan and develop weekly literacy activities 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 centers and groups in your classroom and provides you with a range of activities that are useful to use at each literacy station.
Tips for Setting Up Literacy Centers
Grouping of Students
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.
Literacy Centers Organization
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 was to complete each day. On the grouping posters, I used mounting putty (sticky 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 tabloid paper on a split pin making it easy to spin around to display each group and their literacy stations for the day.
In my second grade 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 or intervention 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 or interventionist 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 practice.
Here are some activities that may be useful to use at this station:
Sentence Structure Activities
At the sentence structure station, we would spend time focusing on sentence structure and grammar. These activities changed depending on the ability of the group.
Here are some great 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 to 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. While 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 checklistcan be used to keep record of each student.
Here are some other reading teaching resources that may assist you 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 skills are an important focus in any classroom reading program. In my early years classroom, we focused on one skill a week using a variety of activities.
Sometimes it was reading a small passage with a parent/teacher aide/interventionist, and then answering questions relating to the comprehension skill for that week. Other times it was an activity/game/match-up task that reinforced the weekly comprehension skill.
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:
If you’d like some more ideas and information about teaching comprehension and 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 are 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 activities/flashcards that you could use:
For more tips and ideas to help you teach spelling, you may like to check out the following blog posts:
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 favorite app and develop the skill required.
In the early years, an app reinforcing sight words would be useful at this station.
This blog post also has some great free apps that are worth trying: