Sunday, November 23, 2014

Literacy Centers.... A Different Approach

I was one that was proud of her centers. Each day the kiddos were engaged and learning during center time. 
When the state, district, and school officials announced they would be walking through my room, I didn't worry at all. I knew they would be impressed by my phonics center, vocabulary center, figurative language center, and writing center. 
The moment they opened the door, the kiddos were all on task and working their little hearts out. My heart swelled with pride. I just knew that I would be given high remarks. 

I was wrong.....
sooooooo wrong.
The district took my centers, crumpled up my ideas, and threw them far out into the ocean. 
My heart sank as I was told my centers did not provide the "rigor" they wanted. 
In fact, no one in our school was. We had been trained in how to provide engaging centers. WE all thought we were doing it correctly. Well we were, before common core took over. 
The state gave us suggestions on what our centers should look like. 
Each center should have students working as a team.
Each center needs to tie into all the other centers using the same text (or similar text). 
Cut out phonics, grammar, and vocabulary centers unless they are tied to a text that is being read in that center. 
Each center needs to have students creating a piece of work that they ALL contributed to. 

This completely made sense to me. Why wasn't I doing this all along? It was time to revamp my centers!

I started by creating this outline.

  You can download it for FREE by clicking {here}.  The form is editable. Our state told us that student directions needed to include the standard, students will section, and a target section.

Students are in ONE center per day. They will spend an hour in their center. Well, technically less than that because they get pulled for small group. I do make my centers according to levels/skills. If centers are main idea and details that week, I will move students accordingly.  No matter what group they end up in, that whole group will come to me at once. That way no one is left to complete the work on their own. Again, this is what we were told.

This is my center board. It is easy peasy to make and even easier to update.
 It is a simple cork board wrapped with duct tape. I tac the numbered cards to the board and rotate clockwise each day. Whatever number lands on the star, is the center that group is at for the day.

I made these bins over the summer. Someone was throwing them away. They were white and ugly. Some spray paint, glitter duct tape, and chalkboard stickers later and WA-LA. I keep all the center supplies in these bins. 

In each bin are folders that are different colors. This allows me to differentiate each center to each academic level. Our county is HUGE on differentiating this year. The kiddos know which folder to pick from when they go to their centers. 

 I drilled it into their heads that they MUST read the directions before anything else. That includes the learning target. 

I place group rules in a plastic sleeve and place it in the prongs of the folder. I found this for free off of TPT, but it was a few years ago and I can't find the file anymore:(.
This is also in plastic sleeves in each folder. We talked extensively about how to have engaging conversations. This product is a great reminder for them on how to speak to one another. We work on this everyday. I hope a day will come when they will fluently and actively engage in conversations on their own. You can find this product from Laura Candler's Store.

What work do my kiddos complete during center time?
All four centers are based on the same text. I level the texts for the students. Yes the students have to reread the text four times. However, this is part of close reading. They are reading the same text with a different purpose. 

One center is vocabulary activities that I create from the text. One center is creating thinking maps for the text (according to whichever strategy or skill we are working on). One center is answering text based in depth questions using RACE. Finally, my last center is a Response to Literature center. They have to write about the text (there is a specific prompt for them).
The important thing to remember about each center is they are done as a group. Students work together to discuss the text and complete the work. 

There ya have it folks. I hope you have found this useful and will be able to easy incorporate into your classroom.


  1. How do you choose the text? Is it the story in your basal? I like your form - thanks for sharing.

    1. We have leveled readers that go along with our book series. I rarely use those. I own tons are close reads from The 24/7 teacher. They are already leveled.

  2. Thank you for sharing! Part of my professional growth goal this year is to create engaging activities for my students to complete as centers. I think the way you do it might just be what I am looking for!! I am excited to try this after Thanksgiving break!

    1. I love hearing that I was able to help someone. Thank you sweety!

  3. OK.. I used to use the word rigor all the time when talking about stepping things up. Then admins started using it and now it just has no meaning for me. I feel like they don't get it and use it as a crutch to just ask us to do more! I am all on board for stepping things up a notch but that does not mean it loses it's fun and DAP! Great post!

    Jennifer with Simply Kinder

  4. Hello, I came across your blog on pinterest, and I absolutely love how you "revamped" your centers. It has been a goal of mine to make centers more efficient and effective for my students. I would love to implement your idea for the centers in my own classroom. With that being said, I have a load of questions regarding somethings that weren't mentioned in your description of how everything works. It is my hope that you and I can connect via email to discuss your idea more in depth. Here is my district email address