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10 Center Rotations to Promote Literacy Skills in the Classroom

literacy-center-rotations

As an elementary school teacher, you understand the need to create an engaging and effective literacy environment for your young learners. While the Daily Five model has been a popular choice for many teachers, it just wasn’t working for my students. These center rotations include everything great about Daily Five rotations but meet so many other needs for students too. You’ll love them too!

Read on to learn everything you need to know about 10 low-prep and high-impact center rotations you can implement in your classroom as soon as this week!


Setting Up Centers for Success

Like Daily Five rotations, centers need to be EASY to prep, include a simple routine, and have an emphasis on reading and writing. 

And as you know, there’s no time to constantly make more cutesy games or to explain new directions for activities each day. With this routine, you will have 10 centers that last ALL year! I promise it’s not too good to be true!

Organize Small Groups

At these centers, kiddos work in pairs. The partner groups work on similar skills. 

Before you panic about having so many rotations, don’t forget– each of your centers will be LOW prep and LOW maintenance! You will love the results.

Benefits of Working in Pairs at Centers

  • Need fewer sets of materials
  • Students get to go to LOTS of different centers 
  • More engagement and less boredom
  • Fewer disagreements and off-task behavior
  • More accountability

In larger groups, students can sometimes be more talkative, less focused, and always rely on certain kids in the group to do the majority of the work. This just isn’t the case with partner centers!

Establish Routine

One of the best parts of these centers is that you can adjust your routine as needed to fit your schedule and your students! For younger children (think Prek to first), I like to limit them to two different centers each day. This prevents them from being overwhelmed by independent time and means they only visit each center once per week.

Try to give students enough time to work at each center without being rushed. Too often, I have observed children who practice 2 or 3 words at a center before it’s time to clean up. Giving them more time helps with accountability and expectations, because you know they had enough time to work.

While students are engaged in learning and fun, you can call different reading groups to your table to work with you. 

Use Digital Slides

Set your small groups using Digital Slides. Use digital center rotation boards to easily change partners or centers in just a few seconds. 

digital-centers-slides

You can completely customize the slides by adding student names or pictures! 

Establish Your Center Rotations

Depending on your class size, you may need 10-14 centers so that all your students are engaged in learning. 

literacy-centers-slides-visual

You can use iPads or tablets for some groups to keep it simpler for yourself.


10 Centers Your Students Will Love

Now for the best part– everything you need to prep and provide tailored support to make these centers a success!

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1. Draw and Write


At this center, students complete a simple directed drawing, add details, and write about their pictures. 

draw-and-write-literacy-center

Materials Needed

Support

Hang a completed sample for your students to see. Try to include some new words you are learning. The only students who typically copy your writing are the ones who need that support! 

Remember, they are still working on writing skills.

Benefits of This Center

  • Fine motor practice
  • Creativity
  • Writing skills

2. Magnetic Letters


Students use magnetic letters to the build sight words they read on cards. Once the word is complete, they read the phrase or sentence together as a pair.

magenetic-letters-center

Materials Needed

Support

Differentiate this center by choosing the set of word cards that best fits the needs of your students.

Benefits of This Center

  • Letter discrimination
  • Word recognition
  • Fluency

3. Window Words


Students use dry-erase markers to write words with patterns on a window. They can write word family words or patterns, such as “words with short o.” 

window-words-literacy-center-rotations

If you don’t have a window within reach, this plexiglass easel is fantastic! 

To prep for this center, hang your newest word family posters. Put dry-erase markers and felt squares (erasers) in a magnetic basket inside the window frame. It’s super simple to set up and clean up!

Materials Needed

Support

Choose the skill that matches what each partner set needs. 

Benefits of this Center

  • Phoneme substitution
  • Phonics
  • Writing on a vertical surface (important for motor development)

4. Exploration

In this center, students “explore” the topic and record facts using words or pictures.

exploration-literacy-center

Materials Needed

  • Nonfiction books
  • Magazines
  • Maps
  • Hands-on materials
  • Pencils
  • Recording sheets
  • Work sample

Support

Differentiate this rotation for students by providing resources at different reading levels. Students can also record their findings using pictures.

Benefits of This Center

  • Cross-curricular connections
  • Reading for information
  • Writing  

5. Big Books

Students cooperatively read a big book, poem, or anchor chart. Try echo reading, taking turns, or reading together. At the end, students take turns being the teacher by asking each other questions about what they read. 

You know they always love “being the teacher”!

Materials Needed

Support

Provide books or poems that have been previously read aloud to the class so that students have some familiarity with the words and story details. 

Benefits of This Center

  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension

6. Smelly Spelling

This center is such a hit! Students write the spelling words in isolation or in sentences using smelly markers.

Hang your spelling words for the whole month. Keep all of your materials in a basket to keep this center easily organized.

Materials Needed

Support

For students who need additional support in spelling, they can write only the words in isolation instead of creating entire sentences about the spelling words.

Benefits of This Center

  • Phonics
  • Spelling patterns including phoneme substitution, addition, and deletion
  • Writing Skills

7. Library

Students select a book from the classroom library and complete a response sheet about it.

reading-response-pages-literacy-centers

Teacher Tip: Download this comprehensive reading response sheets bundle to use with any book or grab these FREE reading response sample pages to start with.

Materials Needed

  • Previous read-alouds and other books
  • Pencils
  • Response sheets
  • Work sample

Support

Students choose a book that has already been read aloud. They could also listen to a story using an app or website.

Benefits of This Center

  • Reading fluency
  • Comprehension
  • Writing Skills

8. Writing Center

In the Writing Center, students select a writing paper and practice writing.

literacy-centers

Materials Needed

Support

Use work samples showing different levels of work and word cards to support a variety of writing skills.

Benefits of This Center

  • Vocabulary
  • Writing skills

9. Dramatic Play

Students engage in creative play at this center. They can use the writing materials to make signs, notes, menus, and more!

dramatic-play-literacy-center

Materials Needed

  • Hands-on materials for creative play and conversations
    • Dinosaurs
    • Animal figurines
    • Building sets
    • Play food
    • Veterinarian set
  • Word Banks
  • Laminated writing pages
  • Dry erase markers 

Support

Use work samples and word cards to give students ideas and support their writing skills at this station.

Benefits of This Center

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Creativity

10. Pocket Chart

Using word cards, students can sort, match, or play Hide and Seek to practice sight word knowledge or phonics skills. 

center-rotations-pocket-chart

How to play Hide and Seek with a Pocket Chart:

  1. One student hides the character behind a card.
  2. The other students use the pointer to tap a card and read the word. 
  3. After reading, that card is removed until the hidden character is revealed.
  4. Switch roles and play again!

 Materials Needed

Support

Provide different pairs of students with different cards that are most appropriate for their reading skills.

Benefits of This Center

  • Word recognition
  • Word analysis

EXTRA Center: iPads

If you have more than 20 students in your classroom, you will need more than 10 centers. Use iPads to fill that gap while still providing high-quality learning experiences!

Students work on iPads using an assigned app. Multiple partner groups can do this center at once!

Materials Needed

  • iPads
  • Headphones

Support

Select apps that allow for different skill levels.

Benefits of This Center

  • Technology skills
  • Listening

With center rotations, you can be confident that you will create a dynamic and engaging learning environment that fosters so many important literacy skills. Centers minimize prep work for you and allow students to thrive through their cooperative learning in pairs!


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Emily Yerty

Emily Yerty

I’m a teacher who believes in creating a classroom kids love and activities that keep them engaged all day!

21 Responses

    1. Thanks Megan! I felt like if I quit Daily 5 that it meant I wasn't doing it right. Now I realize my class this year just had different needs. I hope you found some ideas that will work in your classroom too!

  1. This is so helpful! My first graders (and I!!) am really struggling with Daily 5 also. Can you share how you organize rotations of this? Do they rotate weekly? Is there a chart you use so they know where they're going? Thanks again!

  2. Sometimes you just have to change to do what is best for everyone in your classroom, including you, right Meagen?! I use the blue chart with the picture cards to rotate my groups. Beside each line of pictures I have a card with 2 student names (I didn't want to put their names in my post). I rotate the name cards every day so each day they are at a new set of centers. During the week, they do repeat some of the centers, especially ipads. I am working on making a set of center cards and posters now so look for those soon!
    Thanks for reading my post!

    1. My students are accountable for their behavior at centers every day. If I observe them being silly or off-task, they must redo that center rotation during a later time. The centers are designed to be open-ended so the expectation varies for different students. I might expect some to write three sentences after reading a text while I might expect others just to record a list of key words. After each center, they put their work samples on their desks and I do "center checks" two or three days per week. I reward students who did outstanding work. I also choose work samples to talk about before our next center rotation the following day. I have found that positive reinforcement often pushes them to do more than the minimum! It worked out really well for my group this year!

  3. I’m VERY excited about using these center signs in my classroom in the fall!! But when I click on the picture, I cannot find the resource on your TPT. Help!!

  4. Such a great read! In my first year of teaching I kept 10 centers throughout the whole year. (I teach kindergarten) and this past year I switched halfway to 5 centers only and I just felt I wasn't providing a variety for my students. Glad to see through others that having a lot of centers is okay! I am going back to 10 centers always this year. I had one question about your library nook. I noticed you have a black shelf for some books in the middle of the seats. Where did you get that? 🙂 Thanks

  5. I would like the center "I can" signs too!!! They would be perfect with your other resources. I love the real life photos for my English learners!

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