Elementary Literacy Centers
Reading and writing instructional blocks can utilize the center format to create individualized learning environments for students. As students work on a variety of skills independently or in different groupings, educators can offer intensive direct support to students in small groups. While volunteers or educational assistants may provide additional support during literacy centers, additional adult guidance is not necessary for successful implementation. Just Read, Florida! (n.d.) describes a literacy center as a “physical area (or station) designated for specific learning purposes. It is designed to provide appropriate materials to help students work independently or collaboratively (with partners or in small groups) to meet literacy goals” (para. 2). While centers can support a variety of skills, comprehension, fluency, silent reading, word work, and writing will be highlighted.
In order to successfully implement centers, rules and procedures need to be in place. Center rules are explicitly provide what is and is not acceptable. Creating a list of Do’s and Don’ts ensures that small group time is successful. Developing and displaying a list of Do’s and Don’ts with students should be a part of the process to help increase ownership and provide a visual reminder. Procedures show students how to interact with the centers. One way to accomplish this is by providing written directions for each center. This supports students in taking ownership over their learning. Another is placing centers in the same place each day and ensure all materials are available. Regular routines support positive classroom management during literacy blocks.
This center is teacher led. During this center, a book is selected for the small group. Selected books can be fiction or nonfiction based on the literacy unit and instructional level of students. Educators support students with comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, and writing. During this center time, students and educators have discussions about the book to help students with overall comprehension, as well as how the book’s content is connected to themselves, other texts, and the world.
Students lead this center and practice reading phrases and sight words to each other. Timers are provided so they can time how many phrases they are able to read within a certain timeframe. They then record the number and set goals to ensure continuous progress. Poems are a common resource for this center and are practiced daily. In addition, poems can be offered as both fiction and nonfiction so students have a choice each day. Books and poems used for fluency practice should be updated regularly.
Silent Reading Center
This is a student led center. Silent reading time allows students opportunities to read materials of their choice. A wide range of literature from either the classroom library or the school library is a necessary component for this center. While students traditionally select print books to read, digital resources are increasingly popular and can provide additional levels of engagement for reluctant readers. Within this center, students are allowed to select a location within the classroom to read. Bean bags, body pillows, and mini-lawn chairs are examples of places students might choose to spread around the classroom and relax while reading.
Word Work Center
Students work cooperatively within this center. File folder games and teacher-created resources are common resources to support word work. Language skills, such as compound words, punctuation, and contractions, are areas of focus. Students can utilize manipulatives to create compound words or contractions. Letter tiles allow students to become familiar with contractions. Word sorts, with the focus on word families and vowel teams, promote pattern recognition in words. Students can also utilize the words in traditional sentences or silly sentences to increase their level of engagement.
This center can be either student-led or adult-led. It can also focus on fiction or nonfiction. While it is helpful to have an adult assist students progress with their writing tasks, regular teacher feedback and mentor texts can be utilized in order for this to be an independent center. Mentor texts should be provided to students to support their writing as they create a writing piece over the same character or with a similar plot. Students are able to utilize mentor texts to help provide background or a starting point for their own work. Students also have opportunities to create narratives and research papers connected to our science or social studies unit of studies.
Literacy centers allow students a sense of choice and control over how they learn. Centers offer students active engagement and social construction of knowledge through opportunities to discuss understandings. This type of learning is often louder than that seen in a traditional setting, but is also often balanced, joyful, and meaningful.