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All of the Activities I Use for My Elementary Literacy Centers

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Have you ever wondered what to include in literacy centers? I really struggled with even trying them when I first started teaching. Finding all the different pieces and resources that fit my students felt so complicated.

So, I’m going to show you exactly how you can do literacy centers and share a FREE set of centers for you to start trying in your classroom.

Literacy Centers

There are three primary categories I make sure all literacy centers fit into:

  • Writing
  • Independent work
  • Reading comprehension

I always include a poster, summary, or anchor chart in my literacy centers. These resources help students remember what to do if they’re struggling.

While my students get lots of practice with different activities, they occasionally reach a point where they really struggle with an activity. So, suppose they are doing a capitalization center and start to struggle. In that case, they can look at the included chart to remember the rules.

If you use note-taking in your class for a particular skill, you can also include a copy of your teacher’s notes in the center. You can also include smaller versions of posters that can be cut out and laminated so each student can have their own to use.

Here are four types of literacy charts I use in the classroom.

Task Cards

Task card centers are some of the easiest literacy centers you can use. However, I know they can get a little boring for students, so I make sure that I’m not only using task card centers. Instead, I like to change things up a bit and do task cards, games, sorting, and simple writing and reading activities.

You’ll need a recording sheet for each student using task cards for a center. So, when doing your prep work, you’ll want to ensure you have the correct number of copies. Then, as you move each group through your centers, you’ll have enough copies for every student. 

Hands-on Sorting Activities

Hands-on sorting is a very interactive center that focuses on one very specific skill at a time. So, for example, if your students just finished learning about point-of-view, you can use a Point of View Sort center to give them additional practice.

I like that I can cut these out and put them in a bag and use them year after year.

You can even include an answer key if you want. It allows students to check their work, which is helpful if you are working with a group of students and don’t have time to provide student feedback during centers. A lot of times, students are guessing during centers. Providing the answer key helps them get the feedback they need.

Sorting centers are an easy way to have students do something hands-on.

Color-by-Code Reading Comprehension

Color-by-Code or Mystery Pictures are really easy to find on Teachers Pay Teachers. You can even find clip art sets to make these activities yourself. 

Color-by-Code activities include simple questions that students answer to see how to color an image. Then, as they color the picture in, they see a cool picture.

Sometimes students can tell what the picture is before starting, and some are mystery grids, so they only know once they finish coloring. These coloring activities are great because you have students who love art and engage with this center because they want to do the art piece. I absolutely love when centers can bring in other subject areas or learning types; art is a great way to do that.

Games

Games are another type of center I like to use. You can print out a blank game board and give students task cards to create the game. They are easy to store away in folders.

You could also take a reading comprehension passage that students previously worked on and tweak it with new comprehension questions. That’s a simple way to get additional practice on rereading a passage.

You can also throw in a graphic organizer that students are really familiar with so they can use it with a new text. If you find a paper text boring to students, you can throw in a picture book. There are some higher-level picture books, even for upper elementary. My favorite is Baseball Saved Us. There are a whole bunch of lengthy picture books that are more appropriate for older kids like that.

But even just using a younger grade-level picture book is an awesome way for students to have something with lots of illustrations that is more engaging. Then, they can use the graphic organizer to fill in notes about the book or some additional questions. It’s a fun way for students to get more practice with reading comprehension and vocabulary.

Weekly Literacy Centers

For weekly literacy centers, I like to include:

  • One or two writing activities.
  • One or two reading comprehension activities.
  • Hands-on or art related for the last couple of centers. 

Remember, it can be simple. Things like color-by-code, sorts, gamification, and picture books can be great ways to fill your literacy centers with awesome opportunities for students to continue practicing the skills they are working on in class.

The most important thing to remember is that you want consistent activities every week. Everything doesn’t need to be exactly the same, but you want the same types of activities so students know how to do them. For example, you want students to understand how to fill out the graphic organizer or complete the sorting activity without reexplaining it every time. Keep it simple and consistent.

I have a FREE set of literacy centers you can download and try in your classroom. You can also check out my free Literacy Centers Organization & Management Guide to learn more about how to set up and manage centers. 

Once you try these centers out in your classroom and love them, you can check out the entire year of literacy centers here. It is a simple and easy way to get everything prepped, filed, and ready to use throughout the year. These centers help you reteach skills in an engaging way to students while you work with a small group of students who need extra help on a particular skill or topic.

Lastly, subscribe to my YouTube channel, where I provide a new FREE resource every week.

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April Smith

Curriculum Writer and Online Professional Development Coach. 

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