Working in reading centers gives you time to do small group with your students which is ESSENTIAL!
I do reading centers in my classroom every single day for 20-30 minutes. There are tons of resources in this blog post to make setting up your reading centers simple and easy!
Centers/What to Prep
I have four centers in my classroom and teacher time. I have done a mix of Daily 5 and other center ideas that are found online.
- Working with Words
- Writing Time
- Listening to Reading
- Read to Self
Working with Words
I typically have 4 centers for students to choose from. Two of these centers will focus on their vocabulary words and two of the centers will focus on their spelling words. I will typically let students self reflect on what they need to work more on, but if I know they need to practice vocabulary/spelling I may guide them in that direction. 😉 The point is to give them choice in their station, so that they take pride in their work.
If spelling or vocabulary is particularly hard or easy that week I may only do stations for that skill.
I rotate through 20 spelling stations throughout the year. These stations focus on students using higher level thinking and apply spelling the word to a real life situation. These are not just write the word in pyramid over and over. They are doing things like making a lesson plan to teach the word, creating an Instagram page for the words, creating a word search, creating hashtags for their words, or creating a business plan that uses all their spelling words.
I also rotate between 16 different vocabulary stations all year. These have an upper elementary focus that really causes students to think at a higher level when using the word. These can be individual and partner and I like to switch that up often.
For writing I always give my students many different options. During writing time I want them to focus on CREATIVITY and writing for ENJOYMENT. I do ask them to edit and such, but I don’t pressure it much. During our writing instruction I will focus on that. But during this time of the day is really where I see creativity and see writers grow.
The only rule I have is that students have to write before they can color or illustrate. They know that they need to have a decent amount of content down before illustration (typically five sentences)
I check at the end of the session and if they don’t follow this rule it goes home for homework!
Options they have every single week include:
- Class Journals- I buy journals at the beginning of the year and attach these FREE covers to them. Students know to go to the next blank page and write on the topic from the cover. Once they have written for 15 minutes they are allowed to go back and read other students journal entries.
- Dice Prompts- I have these dice on my writing table and all the students know that they can roll the dice and write about the prompt whenever they’d like. This is for students who need a prompt to get their creative juices flowing, but don’t like any of the prompts for the week. Grab affiliate link here!
- Free Write- Students are always allowed to free write their own creative stories. These are my FAVORITE type of writing to read, but there are only certain types of students who choose this options. I also allow them to free write stories together, but they both have to be writing. So, they can each write the same story if they want to be creative together!
On top of these three choices I change out 4 choices often. These are simple writing tasks that follow our theme or unit at the time. They could be holiday themed or maybe just fun writing prompts for the month.
I do one of two things to find these sheets!
If we read a mentor text in class, but don’t have time to do the writing to go with it I will put that choice in there. You can find my writing with mentor text here!
Otherwise I will search my theme on Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers and find easy writing sheets for free! 🙂 For example, “Halloween Free Writing Centers”
Listening to Reading
I keep it simple here! Students can use iPads or Computers and they can get on EPIC. There are millions of free reading sources on this site and my students LOVE LOVE it! I don’t have to change it up all year because they NEVER complain!
If we are focused on a specific theme or topic I may send a collection to their library and ask them to read books off their collections.
I do not allow my students to watch the videos. They have to read the book or do a read-to-me book. But that is just personal preference!
Read to Self
This is enjoyment reading for kids. I do not force any book or level on them. They pick books from the classroom library or our school library. They just have to read the entire time. They can only get new books the first three minutes of centers or before school and then they read the entire time. EASY and ENJOYABLE.
Most Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Do Students See Each Center?
I know there are many critics of this approach, but my students will see each center 1-2 times a week.
I work in each center for 20-30 minutes a session. I found that doing any less was not giving me time to dig deep with my students and they were never digging deep enough in their center work. So, instead of doing several sessions a day I decided to do longer sessions with less daily.
So, I work with my highest groups 1 time a week and my lowest 2 times a week! I luckily has an aid who will also pull the groups one time a week.
How do you teach your centers to students?
I spend the first three/four weeks of centers just teaching. I introduce a new center every three days.
I go in this order:
- Reading to Self
- Working with Words
- Writing Time
- Listening to Reading
- Teacher Time
Each time I introduce a new station I do the following:
- Show all the options and how the stations work
- Have students show how to correctly do the station and how to incorrectly do it
- Practice once whole class and go over what went well and what to improve (I start a timer and stop it each time they are doing something incorrectly or off focus)
- Go over scenarios that might come up in that station
- Practice again whole class and go over what went well and what to improve
- Practice each day with all the other stations that are already taught
How do you hold students accountable?
Making sure students are working hard is the largest concern when teachers what to start reading centers. I hold students accountable in a few different ways. Here are some suggestions:
- At the end of reading centers each day I pick a VIP of centers. This person gets a shout out for staying focused and loves it!
- I also go through each center and have one person share what they did or learned during that center.
- I do a quick walk around and check what they completed.
- If they do not complete an acceptable amount of work in working on words or writing time they get extra homework for the evening.
- If they are not focused during other centers for more than one day they lose their listening to reading time (this is big).
Can they work in partners and how do you control the noise?
Yes! If they are in writing or working on words they are able to work with only one other person in their group. But this is a PRIVILEGE and they know that. They can lose it very quickly and I make sure that I have one or two groups lose that privilege for a day or two early on in the year.
To control noise I have a bell at my desk. If it gets too noisy I ring the bell once as a warning. If the bell has to be rung again before stations are over then the entire class knows that they are in silent stations now. If this happens more than one time a week we will do silent stations for the whole next week.
How Often to Change the Centers
I change out my centers once a week. On Mondays, we sit down and go over the new writing time and working on words centers. These may be centers that they have seen previously, so it makes for easy explanations! If our theme is longer than a week I may keep the writing centers the same and only switch out the word work!
What is the Teacher Doing During Centers
I have a blog post that explains teacher time here: TEACHING GUIDED READING BLOG POST
You can also watch it in video format here: VIDEO FOR TEACHING GUIDED READING