Literacy Centers

I have had a lot of questions about how I run literacy centers in my room lately.  We don't use Daily 5, our county has it's own framework it wants us to use but with the new Common Core we aren't limited to using a basal reading series anymore which is great!  This is a long one but full of good information and hopefully some new ideas. So, here is how literacy centers goes down in my room of 2nd graders!

First let's start with the Tic-Tac-Toe.  This is my "contract", I make a new one each week and it has all my kiddos center information on it for the week. The directions are there but we go over and over the center routines as a whole group many times before I ever put them in a center independently.  So, for example during the first week of school we only did the top row of centers,  a different one each day as a whole group to learn the routine.  Then during week two I added a row, and so forth. Here's next week's Tic-Tac-Toe for biographies: 

This gets stapled to their packet of sheets that they will need for the week. They turn it in every day so I check them every night. The Tic-Tac-Toe above and below is for my highest group of learners,  I don't have as many rows for some due to the fact that most of my struggling readers get pulled for Title I or special education services during their center time and they simply aren't in the room to finish things.  I also differentiate using shapes (circle, triangle, square).  If anyone is familiar with Houghton Mifflin, you will know these shapes.  The Tic-Tac-Toes have the same directions for all but when they get their materials they may differ depending on their reading level so I may have a different passage to read, a different set of spelling words, different vocabulary/sight words.  The easiest to differentiate is Word Study since I have 4 different groups based on their spelling inventory and I use the Words Their Way books like this for spelling lists.   The top 4 centers are my "group" centers and the rest are either independent or buddy centers.  

Here is how I check the centers every night.  I chose a different highlighter each day and check it according to the rubric on the bottom of the page. If there is an error I highlight the title so they know to turn to that page and see whatever note I have left for them. I like using a different color each day so I can track how much they are finishing each day. My county has pushed a product for EVERY center for the last few years so most of my centers have some type of written task or recording sheet.  They are moving away from this now, but out of habit I still have most of my centers with a product.  

This is my center rotation board, I started using it last year because it was part of Houghton Mifflin and we had to use Houghton Mifflin.  I'm not crazy about the heading cards and now that I am looking at it, I should make some cuter ones but they get the job done.  This chart tells them which center to start in each day.  On Friday we take our weekly assessments and finish up everything so we don't use the chart on Fridays.  I also have the spelling groups on the chart, which I named after continents just to switch it up.  These also happen to be my small/guided reading groups as well, it just worked out that way this year that their reading levels and spelling levels were close enough to make the reading and spelling group the same.  In the past I have done some major switching for spelling and reading groups.  The top person in a column is the "team leader", this is usually a student who is a good leader, can read well and helps others but doesn't do work for them.  I do change the team leader and the groups every week.  Here's a breakdown of my "top" centers in pictures, directions are above in the tic-tac-toe so I'll just let you look at them in action!

So, after they finish their "top" center I have independent/buddy centers to go to.  Here's some of those extra centers that I use each week, most are hyperlinked if you are interested in getting them for your classroom. I don't change these up very often so there isn't a lot of confusion on what they're supposed to do.  I will add new words to the word wall each week, new reading passages, new vocabulary words and so on but the routines of the centers don't change very often.

I do make (or sometimes find/buy from other awesome teachers) a few "theme" centers that include cards or certain standards in my ELA packets for a certain week. I teach these on Mondays and usually it's only one or two of these "special" centers.  These pictures were from my Exploring the West Unit.  I have been trying to make Common Core ELA Units each week with a few new centers, vocabulary cards, minute/buddy reads, comprehension graphic organizers and some standard specific activities.  You can check most of them out HERE

I have a lot of other center ideas in my Literacy Center Menu: A Collection of Everyday Centers which includes many of the centers I mentioned above as well as some easier centers for 1st graders/struggling readers that include phonemic awareness and other phonics ideas. I don't include phonemic awareness in my 2nd grade centers but I do use a phonemic awareness book with quick lessons for small group instruction.  It's technically a first grade book but it's awesome for quick phonemic awareness lessons and everything you need is in the book.  This is what it looks like.

Still with me after all that??  A few centers on the Tic-Tac-Toe I didn't mention are AR which is Accelerated Reader, my school is crazy about AR but that's another post in itself, Digging Through the Dictionary, Word Detectives and Word Wizard.  I am re-vamping my Word Detectives pack and hope to have an updated version soon.  The Word Wizard template and Digging Through the Dictionary are in my Literacy Center Menu pack but Word Wizard is a quick graphic organizer for one vocabulary word (usually cross-curricular) that they look up using a dictionary, define it, illustrate it and use it in a sentence. 

I should also mention that in addition to the things that I make to help my kiddos I also pull from various paid and free resources, here are a few of those resources I like best (besides TPT): 
Reading A to Z (e-books, printable books, comprehension organizers)
Super Teacher Worksheets (Reading Comprehension Passages)
Florida Center for Reading Research (5 domains of Reading Centers)
K12 Reader (Comprehension Passages)

Whew!  That was a LONG post, I hope that I have given you some new Literacy Center ideas or clarification, I really enjoy literacy centers in my classroom.  My kiddos are engaged during center time and I have seen a lot of growth from using these centers.  If you still have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask! Oh, and Happy Friday eve!

(Hello DoodlePrint Font is courtesy of Jen Jones at Hello Literacy)


  1. I love the way you check your centers! Such a simple, easy way to track how students are doing on a daily basis. Thanks for giving me some things to think about!

    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

  2. You have a lovely blog. Very bright and colorful, and lots of great ideas. I'm a new follower. I'd love for you to check out my blog.

  3. Thank you for sharing! I love your ideas!

  4. Thank you for sharing this great information. I just completed a career change and graduated in May with my Masters in Education. This September I will have my first classroom (First Grade) so I am constantly looking for inspiration. I will certainly come back to your site. Thank you again for sharing the information and your talent!

  5. I LOVE this post. Checking work daily is genius, then they can go back and fix what is needed and you know who needs help right away. I'm definitely going to switch up what I'm doing. Would you be willing to share your tic tac toe template? I'd love to start doing this with my kiddos.