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3 Steps to Start Literacy Centers

So you're ready to implement reading centers?! Let's make it happen!

My first year teaching my literacy centers were a disaster. There was no classroom management and I was constantly planning and re-planning center activities for my third graders. It was exhausting and I was so overwhelmed. I had no idea what I was doing.

Eventually, I realized that I needed to be better at keeping time, consistent with my expectations, and develop a better routine so that I could work smarter, not harder with my planning. Throughout the years I have altered my routine to best fit the age and needs of my students. It has worked wonders!


Let's start at the very beginning... If you are going to decide 3 things for your literacy centers today, make it these key items:


Consider the amount of time you have to conduct your reading centers. This will help when you start to think about what centers you will plan in your classroom, and how you will set up your schedule (we will talk more about scheduling in a few weeks).

In my first grade classroom I spend about 45 minutes per day on centers. That time allotment breaks down into two 20 minute rotations, and then 5 minutes of "wiggle room" that I can use if we need extra time to rotate, for directions, etc.

If you already know the time amount for your full literacy block, your time amount for centers may be the amount of time set aside for guided reading groups and independent work. I know that schedules look different everywhere.

Deciding on the right time amount is also helpful when you are working on how to break up your total literacy block for the day.

2. Choose your centers!

When I say choose your centers, I want to know what you expect your students to be doing during their rotations. I think there are a few different routes you can go here...

a. Daily 5 Format- Word Work, Writing, Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to


b. Content based- Standards based centers, cross curricular integration

c. Skill based centers- Topics based on student needs or the grade level

During my time in third grade, I focused more on content based centers. My students completed tasks that reinforced the standards we learned in reading and also worked on social studies skills at a center.

In first grade, I prefer skill based centers. I use a few of the centers from the Daily 5 model, but I don't strictly follow that structure. My first graders complete: writing, word work, quiet reading, a listening center, and small group. My students visit each center about twice a week (more about this when we get to scheduling!).

3. Envision the setup of your centers.

Start to think about how centers will run in your classroom! Do you want students to take materials back to seats to complete centers? Complete traditional centers and rotate between stations? Store centers in folders/book bins and do something else?

The setup of how your centers will flow be helpful when you are imagining what centers will look like in your room.


As we continue to plan and talk about centers, we will talk about ways that you can scaffold this routine and expectations with your students so that they run flawlessly! The first step to starting your centers is to have a plan and a direction. The pieces you are planning now are not set in stone. You can always change these elements to better meet the needs of your students!

Be sure to a comment below and let me know: what grade do you teach, and what is a must have center in your classroom?

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