Literacy Centers

I've been planning to work on this page for weeks now,
and can never seem to find the time to get all the material organized,
so I decided that unorganized (not too badly, I hope) is better than not at all.

What follows is a hodgepodge of ideas for Literacy Centers,
and I hope you'll find them helpful.  No fancy pictures or categories,
just a lot of information,  some notes I've written to my mailing list lately,
and the now famous Walmart Shopping Spree Letter :o)

There are also suggestions from other teachers,
and a copy of a special issue of KinderKorner from the fall of 1998,
with lots of ideas for centers sent in by past and present KinderKorner subscribers.  I've left in names and email addresses, so everyone will get credit for their ideas.  I added some suggested books at the bottom of the page.

If you'd like to join the KinderKorner mailing list, send a note to

Thanks for stopping by!


Here's the famous Walmart Letter, about my early July shopping spree and the $9.95 Pocket Charts.  I subscribe to four different first grade mailing lists besides my own, and there are still teachers on every list talking about Walmart all day long ... as someone said today, there's nothing more dangerous than a teacher at a sale.

It feels like Christmas in July :o)

I keep hearing from all you teachers who are already out buying stuff for School, which for me doesn't start until the last week in August.  In July, I usually spend my money on ME, since I don't get another check until the end
of September.  But it was making me nuts reading about $10 pocket charts, so
I went to Walmart this afternoon and did some shopping.

I found lots of great stuff for Literacy and Math Centers, and because we've had lots of new teachers asking about what to put in centers, I'm going to tell you what I got, what it cost, and how I plan to use it.

Here's what I found:

1.  Pocket charts are $9.97.  I opened one in the store to check the quality, and it's identical to the ones I paid around $25 each for over the past few years.  I now own 14 pocket charts :)

2.  I bought a rolling garment rack to use as a pocket chart stand for $5.00!
This is almost too good to be true, so hurry if you want one.  They actually had 3 different types of garment racks.  I saw one for $15.97, one for $16.97, and then this other box that said $9.97, but there was no price on the shelf.  I took it to a scanner and it said $5.  I wasn't sure it would ring up that way.  It did :)  It's white tubular metal, with wheels, and can be used tall or short.  The brand is Mainstays, and the item # on the front of the box is HR17041V.  Even at $9.97, it's a half price bargain :)  I would have bought more, but I have 4 similar ones already.  You attach your pocket charts (it will hold 2, back to back) to the top rod with "o" rings or metal shower curtain hooks.

3.  I found jars of plastic letter tiles, plastic number tiles, and paper money with coins, at $6.97 each.  I bought the letter set, upper and lower case, with 176 pieces.

4.  Flashcards from the toy department (I've bought a lot there before).  They're on high-quality stock, but I usually laminate mine so they last more than a year.  I put them in centers, or use them with open-ended board games (make your own gameboard from a file folder with stickers for the path).

Today I bought --

 * Colors and Shapes (around 50 cards, lots of shapes with the shape name and the color written on the back, plus a lot of 2  sided matching cards).  $1.97

 * Three-Letter Words -- 36 sets of 3 letter words, 54 cards plus a parent card with directions.  Great for my ABC center. $2.14

 * Phonics Made Easy -- 55 cards plus a 2 parent cards.  Short vowels, long vowels, Y as a vowel, 13 blends and 5 digraphs.  Colorful illustrations on one side, and a list of words on the back of each one.  The /ch/ card only has words with one of the 3 /ch/ sounds, as in chick.  My students will love these!  $2.14

5.  Flash cards from the Back to School area, next to the pocket charts.  A
package with 4 sets (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and a memory game) for $3.97.  These are the same size as regular playing cards.

6.  2 "Flip and turn as you learn" books.  Spelling & Counting, and Matching
& Sequencing (a HUGE K/1 skill!).  $3.97 each, and they've *very* high quality, laminated type stock and won't wear out.  Everyone should get these for their literacy centers.

7.  Two sets of "Smart Slates," which are packs of 12  two-sided cards (approx. 8x10) that you can write on with a non-permanent marker and then wipe off.  I got Counting Activity Cards and Writing Activity Cards.  These will be great in centers or in my  Discovery Packs.

8.  Two" What Time Is It" color clings sets, to use on the side of a filing cabinet or window.  They're a large clock, with Colorforms-like stick on numbers and hands.  Kids will love them.  $1.47 each.

9.  In the toy dept -- 2 alphabet placemats, one upper case and one lower case.  Heavy laminated vinyl, with space to practice writing on the back.  Colorful and fun.  $2.47 each.

I spent a total of $62.62, and ended up with enough stuff to set up the following Literacy & Math Centers:

* Pocket Chart

* 3 Letter Words (with flash cards & flip book -- can also use cards in Pocket Chart)

* Alphabet Centers

* Free Exploration (letter tiles)

* Letter Recognition & Writing (placemats)
Note: You could combine the placemats with the tiles for a great visual  discrimination/letter identification matching activity

* Phonemic Awarness (flash cards for letter sounds, digraphs & blends -- can
also be used in Pocket Chart to play concentration, or for sequencing -- lots
of possible uses)

* Matching & Sequencing

* Colors & Shapes

* Counting Activity Cards (24 activities)

* Writing Activity Cards (initial sounds, matching, writing, etc. -- 24 activities)

* Telling Time

* Addition (flash cards -- can also use to make a file folder game)

* Subtraction (flash cards -- can also use to make a file folder game)

* Multiplication (flash cards -- can also use to make a file folder game -- and, yes, many first graders like to do multiplication)

* Memory game -- visual discrimination and matching (can be played in pocket
chart, on floor, or on table)

That's a total of 14 "centers," most of which don't require space except for
storage in a basket or bin.  Every one of those activities could be doubled
or tripled by adding paper and writing instruments (crayons, markers, pens &
pencils, small chalkboards, etc.).  You could also extend them by adding a book or two, and a journal/class book for kids to record their activities in.  None of these centers would take more than 3 to 5 minutes to explain how to use.

So, for just over $4 each, I got at least 14 new center activities for my class.  Not bad, huh?  And I know you can think of many additional activities to do with them.

Here's a short run-down on what they had that I didn't buy (but you might want to get for yourself):

Back to School Section:

* Flannel Board that folds for storage - $8.97
* 50 Counting Cats with 5 cups - $3.97
* 24 piece flannel board story sets (6 to 8 stories in each) - $2.97 - $3.47
* Fraction Circle sets - $2.97
* Sentence Strips - $1.97 (great price!)
* Many more flash card sets
* Closing Pencil boxes - under $1

On the Clearance Aisle

* Shower Curtains for $2 -- great for writing floor poems on or making bean
bag toss games
* Large plastic insects for under $3 each

In the Toy Department

* Time & Money Flash Cards (I have these & they're great -- use plastic coins
to match with the money cards, and little Judy clocks with the time cards) $2.47
* Numbers 1 to 100 Flash Cards -- $2.47
* Cardboard Tray Puzzles -- PreK (pkg of 3 five piece puzzles $2) & more
difficult puzzles in pkgs of 4 for $4.97

Auto Accessories

* Large drip pan/tray that goes under car to keep driveway clean (approx 3x4
feet) -- use on floor or tabletop, or lean against wall for magnetic shapes &
 letters -- $7.96
(I put the self-stick magnetic strips on the back of a whole set of pattern
blocks for the kids to use on one of these boards -- it's a great activity!).

The good news (depending on how you look at it) is that everything fit into
one bag, except for the garment rack.  I could store everything else together
in a dishpan if I wanted to.  So for those of you who want to do centers but
think you don't have room for "all that stuff," these are great.

Hmm, maybe next time I'll tell you about all the stuff I bought at the Dollar
Store for under $20 :o)

Happy Teaching (and shopping)!

Victoria :)

Subj: Portable Centers
Date: 7/21/99 5:43:12 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: KndrCorner

Thanks for your note.  Yes, I do use "portable" centers.  99% of my centers are portable ... I don't like to dedicate space to one single purpose, and I'm lousy at keeping my tables clean enough for the kids to work on.

This first part will sound weird, but kids aren't allowed to read in the Reading Corner ... if they did, no one else would be able to get close enough to reach a book :)

My biggest storage problems are in the summer, when I have to pack everything in boxes and label it, which means I have to take everything out of the tubs and baskets I keep things in and then store the containers, too.  I probably have more than 100 tubs, baskets, dishpans, etc., in all shapes and sizes, and that's where my centers materials live.  During the year, they all have a "home" where the kids can find them and take them to a workspot on the floor, at their desk, or at a table, if they can find any free table space.

I don't own any of the kind of centers most teachers have to make in college ... the ones made from 3 pieces of posterboard taped together, so that they fold open and stand up while holding materials in pockets.  Too big and too limiting on activities, at least for me.

I use a graphic organizer Work Board for my Literacy Centers rotation.  There are 4 color-coded groups with no more than 5 kids in each, and there are as many as 6 different activities each day (I begin the year with 2, then gradually build up to 6 after Spring Break, when the first graders are getting quicker at doing things).

The kids do the work independently -- sometimes alone, sometimes with one or more people in their color group.  There are rules, of course -- you must do the activities in order, and you must follow the rules for specific activities.  For example, the reading activities (song and poetry cards, big books, other book type reading), require them to read at least 3 books/cards.  They can choose to read ALL of them if they want, and then they wouldn't go any further down their Work Board activities that day, which is fine.  What they *can't* do is skip an activity to get to another, but there is no requirement to finish all the Work Board activities on any given day or week.  I have enough different reading and writing activities that they get lots of practice.

I hope this is making sense.  Here's what a typical group's choices might look like on one day, with my comments in (    ):

* Big Books (minimum of 3)

* ABC center (I have 3 tubs they can choose from ... all have flash cards, ABC books, song and poem cards, and other ABC activities ... they must spend at least 10 minutes before cleaning up)

* Write the Room (small clipboards -- about 6x9 -- they can copy any print they see anywhere, and must fill one side of a page, even if they can't read everything they wrote.  I have beginning writers draw pictures to help them remember the words).

* Rainbow Spelling (This one is at a table or on the floor. I post the week's spelling words -- from our basal series -- on a half sheet of chart paper, and the kids write them 3 times each with colored markers or colored pencils.  They love this one!)

* Pocket Charts (They have to read/do the activities in at least 4 charts)

* Stamp a Word (They take a tub with rubber alphabet stamps, stamp pads, and large sheets of greenbar computer paper to a work area and stamp any words they want to stamp).

At the end of the day (or the next morning when I remember -- they remind me!), I move all the cards over to the next group.  By Friday, all four sets of activities will have rotated through all 4 groups, so if we miss a day, everyone usually gets to do all that week's activities.  I have about a dozen activities that are ALWAYS on the chart -- read the room, write the room, pocket charts, ABCs, Rainbow spelling, Book Boxes, Star Author, etc. -- and I pick and choose from the other ones, so that our work board is different every week.

I also have some activities that are done by two groups on the same day, like Pocket Charts, so that the kids get to do them twice each week.  And I put the more academic (in my opinion) activities at the top, and the really fun stuff (stamp a word, stencils, ABC magnets, etc.) at the bottom of the column, so that they have added incentive to stay on task.

If it sounds hectic, it's really not.  I find it's much better to have 15 to 30 separate activities available so that the kids can move at their own pace and in smaller groups.  That way, I rarely have 4 or 5 kids in one spot, talking too loudly, being off-task, or fighting over whatever materials they're using.

When I add new activities (like the neat stuff I bought at Walmart), I introduce the activity on Monday morning right after Shared Reading, showing them where the tub is kept and how to use what's in it, and the card for that activity is already up on the week's Work Board Rotation.  I can introduce up to 8 actitivies in a week once the kids are used to doing Literacy Centers, because the basic rules stay the same (inside voices, treat the materials respectfully, be sure your hands are clean, etc.).  Anyone who doesn't follow those rules gets stuck at their desk reading or writing until Literacy Center time is finished.  I don't usually have many kids breaking the rules, but they do get noisy all too often.

Let me know what questions you have,

Victoria :o)

Date: Sat, 3 Jul 1999 05:22:40 EDT
Subject: Literacy Centers

Every few weeks, the discussion of centers comes up again :)  I'm sending the info from a special edition of KinderKorner from last Fall, when we devoted an entire issue to Literacy Centers (this was back when I had to cut and paste the whole thing together every day, whew!).  I'll be adding these -- and more -- suggestions to the KK website very soon.

Victoria :)

*** Forwarded message starts here ***

Most teachers I know use Literacy Centers in their classroom in one way or another.  Some use them during traditional Developmental Centers time, choosing time-honored centers like the Listening Center or Magnetic Letters.  Others fully integrate Literacy Centers into their Language Arts time, as an important component of literacy instruction that keeps kids  reading and writing all morning long.

I fall into the second group of teachers.  I have over 30 different Literacy Centers that I use on a rotating basis, while I do individual instruction and guided reading.  My language arts period lasts from 9 a.m. until 11:20 a.m.  There is a 10 minute recess in the middle, and after recess the students begin Writers Workshop.  Whenever one of my students has free time, they choose from a literacy activity.  Our afternoons are spent doing math, social studies, and science, and we use reading and writing in those subjects, too.  My kindergarten and first graders read and write all day long, and have a great time doing it.

I know how easy it is to get overwhelmed by the huge amount of information available to teachers, and the seemingly insurmountable task of getting all these activities set up.  After the first Wright Group workshop I attended 5 years ago, I wanted to changed EVERYTHING I was doing before Monday came around again.  Even though I had been told -- repeatedly -- that it takes 2 to 5 years to get everything in place, I thought I could do it all at once.  More importantly, I thought I HAD to do it all at once, or I would be shortchanging my students.   Nothing could be farther from the truth!

The best advice I can give you regarding any change in teaching is to start slowly, so that you and your students have time to adjust to the changes you're making.  Small children need transistion time, and they also need LOTS of modeling and time to learn the right way to use each of your centers.

While some teachers may be able to start a whole bunch of new activities at once, others can't -- their students aren't ready for it and/or they only have a certain amount of time and money to invest in making changes.  It's OK to add things one at a time, if that's what works best for you.

My other suggestion is to ask for help.  Ask other teachers how they're doing something and what makes it work.  Ask your principal, PTA, and parents to donate materials.  Ask your husband and children to help you collect the things you need to get your centers set up the way you like.  Apply for grants to enhance your students' literacy.  I've received over $1000 in mini-grants in the past 3 years, and I'm applying for two different $1000 grants for next year (one is from my school district, and the other is a reading association research grant).   Talk to your district and your local reading association for grant information.

Have fun trying some new centers, and let us know which ones your kids love most!

From: <A HREF="mailto:Txtchr">Txtchr</A>

Literacy Centers
My children really love writing around the room.  They put paper on a clip
board and get a pencil and can write anything in the room that they wish.
Sometimes when they pair up, one may even use a pointer and tell the other
what to write.

They also love stamp and sticker stories.  They use the stamps or stickers
(appropriate to the unit) and write rebus type stories using stamps/stickers
and words.  I usually put a limit of stickers to be used so they will not go
nuts with the stickers.

Using the overhead is fun too.  I have many rebus type stories for the
overhead.  They use the pointer or fly swatter to do activities just like I
do with them.  Puppets to retell the story using a backdrop is fun too.


From: <A HREF="mailto:ReganHar">ReganHar</A>

Literacy Centers- This is my favorite and one of my most successful: While
doing a unit on Jan Brett stories point out to the children the way she has
borders on her later books. You can also compare some of her earlier
illustrations with such books as The Mitten, Armadillo Rodeo and others that
show her beautiful illustrations on the borders. Talk about how the borders
show what will happen next. Then when the children go to centers have some
pre-made sentence strips with words such as Mom, Dad, happy, sad, dog, cat,
Me, etc. The children then write the word in the center of a white piece of
construction paper with a black crayon. They then draw pictures around the
word that illustrate the word with black crayon again. Then, using
watercolors they paint the illustrations. Mount on a larger piece of colored
construction paper with their names on the border.

From: <A HREF="mailto:LMBtwins">LMBtwins</A>
My students love to write in their journals. Each day I have one student
write their journal entry on the overhead. The student reads the journal. I
ask their permission to have the class edit it. The student gets to correct
the errors and we reread it out loud. The students often choose this activity
during free language art centers because they like it so much.

I also have a making words center set up in a pocket chart. Throughout the
week the students go up to the pocket chart when they have a few minutes and
they try to make words out of the scrambled Mystery Word. On Fridays we go
through all of the words that the students came up with and we decode the
mystery word. It's a great activity for your average and high students.

From: <A HREF="mailto:Watsool">Watsool</A>

I teach first grade in Keller TX.  One of my student's favorite literacy
center is our Bookmaking center.  In the basket of materials I have numerous
writing utensils (map colors, colored pens, markers, crayons, etc.), a tablet
of story paper and a stapeler.  The children are allowed to make a book about
anything they want.  This is the one center that students rush to get to work
at it.  I have seen some of the most amazing books the children come up with.
 I am looking forward to getting some more ideas.

From: <A HREF="mailto:Lnk1010">Lnk1010</A>

As for literacy centers in my room, one that I do each week is research.  The
students cut out letters from the newspaper and magazines for the letter of
the week.  After we are done with the alphabet they will research words I
choose.  They can either find the entire word or find the letters to spell it
on their paper.  This is a variation from the program Success in Reading and

We also keep individual Book Bags in the library.  I have them hanging on a
drying rack, one for each student.  They are just one gallon ziploc bags.
Then when we make individual books, they go in the bag.  Students may read
them with pointers during centers and they are also good for when parents
come in, they can read one-on-one with the studnets by just grabbing the bag!


From: (LLLisaN)

Writing centers (children need to write sentences uses sight words)

Whiteboard center

Putting the alphabet in order.  Children put together the mixed up letters in
a pocket chart

File folder books. Children  save all the easy reader books we have made in
class.  They read them as a center.

Yarn center.  Give kids yarn they use it to make letters and words. Great for
spatial skills.

From: (Susan E. Clark)

1)  Spelling center-  I have all kinds of different materials with
 letters on them (magnetic, flashcards, rubber stamps,
 popsicle sticks, tiles, alphabet markers, bingo markers,
 etc.)  I also have playdough and wikki sticks.  With
 those, they spell their spelling words.

2)  Book Match-  Find a book that relates to your theme.  Write
 the words from the book on sentence strips and cut  apart
all the words. Place the words in a random order  in a pocket
chart.   They have to match the words to  the book, so it reads
just like the book.  Hint!!!  Don;t  chose books that are very

3)  Poetry Place-  I have a rhyming dictionary, many poetry
 books, samples of different types of poems, magnetic
 poetry kit (words that can be used to form poems:  I  got
it at Target), and different types of blank poetry  forms.  I also
do a poetry match, just like the book  match.  That I do line by
line though.

4)  Sign Language center-  This is one that I have done on my
 own!!  My kids are so into sign language, I made a  center
under my cubbies.  I put a poster with the  letters, flashcards,
and books.  Many of my students  go to it by choice daily.

5)  Anything on the overhead!!!  I do mostly math problems from a
book called Read it!   Draw it!!  Solve it!!  I give them actual
abject to use on the overhead to make it more  fun.  A sample
problem would be:  There are 9 ants  going to the picnic.  6 of
them are blue.  The rest are yellow.  How many are yellow??

From: <A HREF="mailto:ELDteacher">ELDteacher</A>

My favorite center is Read the Room/Write the room

VERY VERY SIMPLE....  for read the room, the student may work alone or with a
partner,  he or she gets a pointer and reads anything he can find in my room.
 Poetry on the wall charts, the lunchline list on the door, the abc charts,
the conduct chart ( a big favorite for some odd reason  :-) ), the word wall,
the story starters, the pocket chart, directions for other centers, student
work on bulletin boards, etc.....

the room is similar,  using a clipboard, the students copy text from anywhere
they can find it  :-)

The children have their choice of pointers or clipboards, depending on
whether they choose to read or write,    and they simply go around the room
deciphering all of the print they can.  I know this sounds way too
simplistic, but am passing it along for new teachers who may not have
discovered the joy of this activity.  The first week or so require some
HEAVY_DUTY modeling from the teacher,but after that it's an easy one.

I try to use creative pointers for  Read-the'Room, but the lids really love
just to use my old fashioned, everyone has one, classroom pointers!!  :-)

 I also am constantly on the lookout for paper that can be used for write the
room.  Sometimes we use newsprint, but lots of times we recycle the backs of
old newletters, dittos, notes from th office, etc.  I am letting my students
use colored pencils for this activity this year for a little bit of added

From: <A HREF="mailto:PSobrero57">PSobrero57</A>

Here's one that helps familiarize the kids with each other's names.

I stick a school photo of each child on its own quart sized zippered baggie
(Hefty One Zip Slider bags are best -- the kids can actually close these bags
-- I use them for everything now).  Then inside the baggie I include a strip
with that child's name AND I include the individual letters that make up that
child's name.  ("Making Words" type letters would work fine.)

The kid unzips the bag, takes out the name strip, puts it on the baggie above
the child's picture, then "spells" the name with the indivual letters below
the picture.

You do need to stress that the children  s p r e a d  this activity over a
big space so the letters don't get into the wrong baggies.  OR you could have
the child spell a name, then clean it up, open another baggie, spell that
name, clean it up.  But it IS rewarding for the kids to see all their work
spread out in front of them.  It takes two kids about 15-25 minutes (with
some talking) to spell my class of 20 names.  The first few days it is slow
going, then it picks right up.

From: <A HREF="mailto:Proftot2">Proftot2</A>

I have developed an interactive word is one of my literacy centers.

There is a long bulletin board--about 10 yards long in one side of my that is my word wall.  Above it I have the actual word wall with the
heavy duty words we have to learn and all the names of the class members,
pets included.

On the interactive wall:

1.  An author place--with pictures of the characters we are studying...
(currently Kevin Henkes)  and a place to write comparisons of books

2.  a velcro abc board with capitals, lower case letters, and pictures to

3.  a changing display of skill-type pictres and words for children to
manipulate--short vowel words, long vowel, blends, contractions, compound
words, ending sounds, to name a few

4.  a write-on word family page...i post the word family at the top and the
children write words on postits and stick them on:  for example.   --at
--an, etc.
children write appropriate words.. cat, fat, hat, that, sat.  I change it
each week.

5.  a color words chart, purchased

From: <A HREF="mailto:MMD1027">MMD1027</A>

Some of the more popular centers I use in my classroom (2nd grade) are:

* In our reading corner I have a small plastic kids pool lined with body
pillows.  Our theme is "Dive into a Good Book."  The kids love to partner
read in the pool and complete mini-book reports (Author, Title, one thing
that happens, and whether they recommend they book) on the books they chose.

* I have a small tent (called a Mega House) where children can chose a book
and listen to it on tape while they read using a walkman.

* Stampers- I have tons to use for illustrating stories, letter ones to
practice spelling or vocabulary words.

* Puppet making- children work together in small groups to create puppets and
write their own short play which they present to the class.

* Wikki Sticks to practice spelling words

* Writing center using dry erase boards.  It seems like even the most
reluctant writers open up when using the boards.

From: <A HREF="mailto:KATHIT1065">KATHIT1065</A>One of my favorite centers
is my writing center. I keep different sizes of pens, pencils and paper there
along with picture dictionaries and illustrated word cards. I make the word
cards on my computer each month.I make a variety of blank books for our
themes and have them available for my young writers to write books. I have
also collected a lot of rubber stamps for the children to use at this center
to make cards for people. Children often want to make "Get Well" cards for
sick family members and this is the perfect place to make them.

Currently, many children have been making "Happy Thanksgiving" cards and
Indian books. Blank books in the shapes of tepees or canoes provide a lot of
motivation for November. Cute seasonable notepad pages make interesting
covers for a variety of books. I had a turkey notepad that I used to make
several blank books for this month. Just tear off a single page and cut 3 or
4 blank pieces of paper to staple to it -Instant Blank Book! The notepad page
makes a wonderful front cover!

From: <A HREF="mailto:Woods98">Woods98</A>

Some things that are poplular with my class this year are:

the Listening Center....
I have recorded many of the books that I read to  the class.  They seem to
like to listen to ME reading the stories because they know it is me!! So, I
have asked parents if they would like to record stories for the children.  We
have a group that is now doing this and the children love it.  They love
listening to their Mom or even their Dad. I have now also  suggested that
even Grandparents or aunts, etc, might like to do this . The children seem to
be using the listening center much more because they or a classmate know who
is reading the story.

The Writing Center.....
I made clipboards for each child.  These are just made from sturdy heavy
cardboard that was donated. I cut it to size and covered with contac paper
and hot glued a clip clothes pin on each board. The children go around the
room and copy words that they can read.  They must read them to a friend and
to me and then print each word out again.  They love doing this.  I have also
let them go out into the hall to look for words.

Another popular center...
We use a child size hanging shoe holder.
I drop plastic letters ,that I want to review, into the pockets.
The children take turns choosing a pocket , reaching into it, feeling the
letter, and naming the letter or its sound.
They love playing this game at center time.


How about adding a wet sand tub to the list of literacy centers?  Here's how
I did it -
I got the kids to help me take some sand out of the sand table and put it
into a large plastic tub.  We then added water.  I gave the kids some
alphabet cookie cutters and they proceeded to make molds with the wet sand.
I'm going to try doing this with the Jello Jiggler ABC molds next.

From: <A HREF="mailto:PSobrero57">PSobrero57</A>

Here is a ABC activity for matching upper and lower-case alphabet letters.
You need to have access to an Ellison Die Cut machine (with various dies) and
purchase some "fun foam" at the arts and crafts store.

Purchase some tan foam to use with the "Gingerbread Man" die or some light
blue foam to use with the "Snowman" die.

Purchase pink or red foam to use with the "Tiny Hearts" die.

Cut out 26 copies of the Gingerbread Man (or Snowman) and 26 Tiny Hearts.

On each Gingerbread Man (or Snowman) write one of the upper-case alphabet
letters, on each Tiny Heart write a lower-case letter.  Use a Sharpie
Permanent Marker so the letters don't smear when handled by children.
(Before you write the letters on the Gingerbread Men, figure out where the
children will end up putting the hearts, so you will know where you should
write the letter.  You will want to be able to see both letters when the
center is completed.)

Children lay out Gingerbread Men in ABC order then match the correct lower
case alphabet letter to each capital letter by placing the corresponding
heart on each Gingerbread Man.

Have fun!  (I stole this from Amy Love, who is a wonderful teacher in Suisun,

From: <A HREF="mailto:Sandi116">Sandi116</A>

I am a first grade teacher who is always looking for new literacy centers.
One activity that the children really like is the puzzle center. I find
copies of appropriate wordsearches, laminate them, and let the children write
on them with washable markers.  When done, they use towels to clean them off.

Another station that is very popular with the children is the magnetic letter
station. My big whiteboards in my classroom are magnetic.. The children go up
and practice their spelling words, etc. on the boards. I recently purchased
some foam magnetic letters, which have been very popular. They are colored
and a little larger than some which is appealing to the students!

From: (April Pulliam)

Hi everyone,  I tried something with my spelling words today.  I used graham
crackers as "paper" and a plastic sandwich bag filled with a spoonful of
marshmallow creme as the "pencil".  I cut  a tiny tip of the bag (the same
way you do when decorating cakes etc.).  It was tricky to fill the bags with
the creme but it worked fairly well.  I filled them the night before and had
them ready to pass out this afternoon.  I told the kids to use their tongues
as "erasers" and once they wrote four words to erase them and write the
others.  They loved it!  I am trying to do a "Eat Your Spelling Words"
activity each week.  Last week we used pretzel sticks to spell the words.

Any ideas would be appreciated for eating our spelling words each week.

From: <A HREF="mailto:Njdcmd">Njdcmd</A>

Writing Station- Making Cards

One of the most favorite centers within my classroom has turned out to be the
writing station.  I take a piece of posterboard and cut across it five inches
across.  Laminate the two pieces of posterboard then staple the small part to
the bottom to make it look like a large envelope. This has helped with

Then I put all kinds of stuff to help the students make cards.   I put in
stickers...a bunch of titles such as Happy Birthday, I Love You, Thank
You,Get Well, etc.  (This helps the students with recognition and writing the
words they really want to use. ) In addition I add anything from yarn,
pom-poms, wiggly eyes, letter and picture stencils, etc....I have various
sample cards for the students to look at for help, if needed.The kids could
probably stay at that station all day if they could.  They make cards for
their family, teachers around the building, and students within the room.  Of
course the students are now starting to recognize more words off the word
wall and incorporate them into their card making.

From: <A HREF="mailto:K Tchr CF">K Tchr CF</A>

This is an idea for all centers.......(heard about this at a workshop many
years ago)........... I make paper (plain, colored, lined, etc.) and writing
tools (markers, pencils, pens, etc) available to the children at all times
(in the kitchen, by the computer, near the blocks, etc.) to record their
thoughts and ideas no matter where they are or what they are doing.

Another idea for literacy centers...  I put picture/word cards in the writing
center.  I change them periodically depending on the season, month, holiday,
or unit of study. I like to use these cards to create memory games too.  Just
have to have two sets!!

Another idea, but it is really not a literacy center......(this idea came
from a friend of mine)........I write each child's first name in red on a
sentence strip, last name in green on a sentence strip, birthdate (another
color), address (another color), and telephone number (another color).  I
photocopy their school pictures and glue that to the back of their own cards.
 I use these cards when introducing each concept to the class.  For instance,
at the beginning of the year, each child comes up  each day when his/her card
is next.  He/she tracks each letter and says the letter names in his/her name
and then reads his/her name.  The rest of the class does it with that child.
Since we do this for every child almost every day, each child learns all the
other children's names quickly!!  Then I had last names and all the rest.
Also use these when I am working with individual students on these skills.

From: <A HREF="mailto:LAMSWarner">LAMSWarner</A>

Regarding Literacy Activities --

One of the tasks my children (kindergartners, ages 4, 5 and 6 at the
beginning of the year) do when they get to school each day is their Special
Word Card.  They draw a picture on an index card (color-coded depending on
what color table they sit at) and I write the word that describes their
picture on the other side of the card.  Of course, I model letter formation
and have them help me figure out how to spell the words.  If it takes more
than one word to describe their picture, then we also get into spacing
between words.  They each have their own Special Word Box (plastic index card
boxes that I purchased at Office Max) that they keep their cards in.  At
least once a week we take time to "read" our special word cards to the other
children who share a table with us.  When it comes time to write in journals
(usually not until after Christmas), they have a great word bank built up of
words that they know -- makes writing a bit less intimidating for those who
are nervous about it.  They love sharing their words with their parents visit
when they visit, and are very proud of their own card file box!

From: <A HREF="mailto:DDolan2">DDolan2</A>

Have the children take a clipboard and paper and look for words of skills
that you are working on............examples:  words that begin with "T";
blends; nouns; verbs; adjectives; word families like the _at, _it, or _ug
family and so on!  the list goes on and on!!!

Also, my kids love READING THE ROOM.  They work in pairs and take a pointer
and go around together reading posters, poems, word wall, etc!!!

THE OVERHEAD.............Using magnetic (or even better because they aren't
so noisy!) foam letters to practice making words from the spelling list or
word wall!
Put the overhead on the's much easier for the kids to

From: <A HREF="mailto:ZigGem">ZigGem</A>

1.  The "Make A Book" Center.  This is where the children can create various
kinds of books.   There is paper of all sizes, textures, shapes etc.  to help
in there book making.  The children really love it, and it gets them to write
and to read.

2.  Read the Room Center is another one of their favorites.  The children
even use glasses without the frames when they go around to read.  The
children get to read all of the charts, wall books, word walls, etc.  The
children have a great time when in this center.

3.  The Magnetic Board Center is another favorite.  Using the magnetic board
and the magnetic letters the children get to create words and sentences.
Very motivating!

From: <A HREF="mailto:Town32">Town32</A>

Here are the names of two books that I use to develop reading centers in my
classroom. It is not all inclusive..but new to me this year....

What are the other kids doing...while you teach small groups? Creative
Teaching Press--the book has 30 centers that you can easily use in any
classroom. Some can be the same for weeks at a time... others you can change
to go along with a specific skill or theme. It was about $20

The next book I just purchased. I am going to be making a few of the
activities into centers this weekend. It is called....Develloping Literacy
Uning Reading Manipulatives.  2333.  $15.95 from Creative Teaching Press.

Just before I came onto the computer I checked my mail and found a Hammett's
catalog. Inside there were two games that I thought looked interesting for a

1.  magnetic playsets--children could use the props to write a story or could
work with a partner to tell a story-- there was a construction site, ocean
set, ballet studio, and the one that I am going to go look at tonight....Fun
with Letters. They are each $7.99. If they look good I am going to see if the
parents will each buy a set for their child to use at home.(Parents in my
school will often ask for gift ideas around the holidays) Then I will buy 6
sets to use in school. I am going to look and see if I can add color to the
vowels.  (I don't know about anyone else BUT I am tired of the management of
the paper letters.....!!!)

2.Wonderboard Fun-With-Letters Magnet set---99lower case, 26 uppercase and 7
blank tiles. Cost  $11.95.

3. I also I lucky to have a few games and software to go with some of our

The Hammett's catalog also had a few of the games that I use for centers..
Goodnight Moon game
I Spy Memory Game
Green Eggs and Ham
The Cat in the Hat

4. I am going to look at the new Clifford the Big Red Dog Make a Match Game
$12.95   and the Really Amazing Animal Game  $19.95.

Although the center areas stay the same the activities can vary depending on
skill, theme, story read alouds.

1. Students respond to stories in a response journal
2. Sudents write  about stories we have read and make a bulletin board
     ie:  Caps for Sale  Students cut and trace a monkey pattern. Make and

     hat for each monkey...cut out   Then on the belly write the following
     My favorite part was when....
      We paint a mural with a large tree. We hang each monkey.
3. We make books following the pattern of stories
     ie: Mrs. Wishy Washy
     Students made an acordian style book with pockets.
     They were adorable..predictable story line ..the students made
     a horse, a pig, and a duck. Tied them to string and stapled each to a

We use ideas from Month by Month Phonics for this center and making words.

Students play games using magnets, stamps, chalkboards, shoelaces, pasta,

standard activities  (some of the books on tape are children in the class or
their parents..I have begun to ask parents to tape stories as a "birthday"
activity for their child. I send home a book and tape for those that would
like to participate)

standard activities--books and pocket chart activities

We use games that I have made or games that I have purchased. Mailbox has
some very good file folder games that you can laminate and use as a center.

Children have a chance to read their stories to a buddy.

Using software and the Living Books from my collection and the school library

This is just a general outline. I try to have 4-6 centers open at a time.
While students are at centers I meet with book clubs. Sometimes these are
homogeneous groups other time a mixture of abilities..It depends on what I
have available to read.

Victoria's Centers (some that weren't mentioned) ...

*Rainbow Spelling (kids write spelling words in colored pencil or markers on
large computer paper)

* Interactive Pocket Charts -- I use 6 to 8 pocket charts at all times, and
am adding some desktop ones as a new poetry center -- use for reading,
singing, matching, Word Sort, Word Building, etc.  My kids use special magic
wand pointers.

* Various collections of ... Big Books -- Song & Poetry Cards (on 1/2 sheets
of poster board) -- Thematic & Seasonal Book Baskets -- Individual Book Boxes
for students -- poetry books, jokes & riddles -- Picture Dictionaries --
catalogs, magazines, shopping ads, menus, maps -- Weekly Reader posters (they
love them because they're big!) -- Daily Letter on chart paper, stapled
together weekly -- Browsing Box of leveled books from school bookroom

Yes, I have baskets and boxes EVERYWHERE and don't have a lot of extra
floorspace, especially when the kids are all busy reading and writing!

* Chalkboards (for writing & painting w/ water)

* Message Center -- for sending notes/cards to other students

* Library Corner -- reading glasses (no lenses), stuffed animals, LOTS of
books on all topics and all levels

* Stamp a Word -- Stencils -- Sticker Stories -- Pattern Stories -- Frame
Writing -- Publishing Center for Illustrating Books

* ABC center -- flashcards, mini books, flip books, etc. -- very popular and
it fits into 2 boxes just slightly bigger than shoeboxes!

* Word Cards -- a huge variety of flashcards, etc., for reading, sorting,
building sentences -- lots were discards of old PhonoVisual stuff and other
abandoned things, the kids love the word families and rhyming cards!

* Bingo and Word-O

* Word Hunt -- kids get a letter or digraph and see how many words they can
find that start with or contain it

* Author Study -- lots of books by featured author

* Computer -- always 2 kids work together

* Floor puzzles

* Dramatic Play -- baskets of book & props (Mrs. Wishy Washy, etc.) -- a real
favorite is my inflatable wading pool w/ flippers & masks & water theme books

Lori Vig very generously sent me this information and said I could post it here.  You can visit her terrific website, Mrs. Vig's First Grade Page, at

Date: Sun, 25 Jul 1999 06:35:05 EDT
Subject: Literacy Centers

Here are the literacy centers that I have used, they are not on Victoria's
page, so I thought I would pass them on! Lori

Literacy Centers

1. Literature Circle: A group of students will read a literature selection
together and discuss their favorite part. Once they are comfortable with this
process, they can map the story on large chart paper, make puppets and put on
a play for the class, etc. This allows children to own literature.

2. Browsing Box: Each guided reading group takes the books read during group
and puts them into a browsing box they can look at the books as a group. This
is an effective because the students are dealing with familiar text
independently. Each day three students choose book to read from their
browsing box to share with the entire class. Once they read the book and read
it to a partner they write about the story they read. (see attached form)

3. Independent Reading: Children can choose a book  from our class library,
they complete a book review which is kept in a three ring binder in our
library for others to look at.

4. Buddy Reading: I have a box of two copies of books at all levels. The
students read with a partner, this can be familiar or unfamiliar texts. Then
they work with their buddy to draw or write about their favorite part.

5. Writing Box: There are several options here, writing paper, picture and
word prompts. In the beginning of the year, this is a nice place to use
frames with sight vocabulary.

6. Journal Writing: I like to give the each student a picture to glue in
their journal and then they write about it.

7. Pocket Chart: I have an activity they work on. For example this week I
have the big book The Big Red Barn (we are studying farms) I have the
directions on sentence strips they have to choose a farm picture, write at
least 2 sentences about it. and draw a picture. This is good place to use
your themes.

8. Phonics Center:  Phonics based literature, games, worksheets and flash
cards. I also have different activities on cards and have them in an index
card box.

9. Handwriting Center: I usually have a frame with blanks. I also
have laminated alphabet cards for the class to practice either by tracing
over them in a marker or play dough. They can also use wikki sticks; pipe
cleaners, etc., to make letters. This is a good time to write seasonal poem
and not use whole class time for different holidays.

10. Overhead: I put cloze paragraphs on there a lot (kids love working on the
overhead) I also let the kids map out their stories on the overhead, stories
they have read or will be writing. This is also where my kids start to
develop their use of graphic organizers, I make overheads of plot graphs,
venns , etc., and have the children do them for a story they have read.

11. Sight Word Center: (which may change to vocabulary center depending on
your students) They can make the sight words with rubber stamps, magnetic
letters, paint baggies, sand trays, and I have letters written on shapes
(shells for June) I use this to reinforce letter and word manipulation. Plus
it works great to help them learn the sight words! YOU COULD USE YOUR
SPELLING WORDS... I also might have them choose 5 sight words to use in a
sentence. I also do Making Words folder here.

12. Poetry Box: I have poems that are laminated, and another set that are the
words cut apart. The kids put the words together and glue them and illustrate
it. I also have pieces with magnets on the back for them to put in order too.
I also have their poetry laminated and poetry books, rhyme games etc. My kids
keep a three ring binder of poems in there are poems we have done in class,
and original works. I also put all the poems we did in group there the kids
use pointers and can stick wikki sticks or highlighting removable tape over

13. Listening: This is always followed up by a writing activity. I also put
books on tape recorded by our "guest speakers" principal, custodian, nurse,

14. Read and Write the Room: The kids use pointers, etc., to read the print
that is hanging in the room. They also carry a clip board to hunt for certain
words or letters in words and write them down.

15. Big Books:  The kids use pointers, etc., to read the books. I sometimes
put a post it outside a book a want them to read. I might put a post it that
says circle all the Days of the week in this story. So they use pipe cleaners
or wikki sticks to do that, and might write them etc.

16. Computers: (I only have 1....) I usually have a living book or Ed CD ROM.
They have a log to record what CD they did and three things new they learned.

17 Stamp a Story: Kids use rubber stamps (I have tons) to make a picture, and
write a logical story to go with it. (this is a favorite!)

18. Build a Sentence: Kids choose sentence parts out of a bag they put them
together to make a silly sentence which is copied onto a sentence strip and
illustrated) I have them color coded beginning words (a, the) on yellow,
nouns on green, verbs on red, describing words on pink.

19. Deal a Story: I have cards I purchased that allow kids to choose one of
each color to write a story kids love this!  I also add cards for
themes we are doing.

20. Post Office: I have all sorts of neat stationary etc. for the kids to
write letters on. I have a laminated class list and names of teachers there
too. On rings I have words that would be used to write letters like dear how
etc. I have the Wee Deliver Program so I got a rubber stamp and sorter and
small mailbox. Plus it is great to learn names for the postal worker of the

21. Tape- A- Story: I have blank tapes from Crystal springs the child can
tape themselves reading, this is nice to bring home and for record keeping
too. They can even ask to put it in our listening center also.

22. Book Making: In the beginning of the year I use this as the center for
kids to make those reproducible books we do in shared reading. (like
Scholastic’s My Books) Then my kids will begin to publish their own original
books, these have a special spot in our library and can be used for DEAR
time, be sure to include a blank page for comments!

23. Non Fiction Center: I have available lots of nonfiction emergent readers
(from Scholastic and Wright group) I have a card that goes with each book
that has some questions to answer. I made this center because I felt like my
kids did not do enough with nonfiction, this is one of the last centers I
introduce. writes:

> I have used page protectors with dry erase markers.  Slip a piece of lined
>  paper with numbers or letters or even the child's name, into the page
>  protector.  They can practice tracing the numbers, etc.,  then use a sock to
>  erase and try again.  Put the pages in a folder with brads and use it in a
>  center.

Subject: Re: First Week Learning Centers.

Sally and I sound a lot alike.  I do very similar things. One management
tip:  those little hand held tape recorders....they are great.  I bought five
of them.  They are strategically placed at each center that has any activity
in it.  The children's' conversations are recorded so that I may listen to
the discussions later.  I listen for learning, discovery, questions, and
misunderstandings in learning.  It is also great for keeping the kids on
track in their discussions.  Now I don't penalize for tangents or the
occasional "what are you doing this weekend?"  But I make sure there isn't a
whole lot of that going on.  It's worked for me.

> Another simple idea... the little pads that you write on and lift up the
>  plastic and the word disappears.  I have the theme of The Hundred Acre Wood
>  in my classroom.  There were little pads like this with Pooh and friends...
>  about $1.37.  Great for practicing word skills, math, etc.

Simple things.  coloring books, dot to dot.  I have mine write words on the
blackboard with water-  Large paint brushes strengthen fingers and with
water no mess.  Match nuts and bolts using several sizes.  Use tongs and
tweezers to pick up and move things like cotton balls again it strengthens
fingers.  Get a large plastic box I have a square under the bed type and
fill it with sand, or rice.  You can put in measuring cups and spoons. Also
get stencils or make patterns that they can trace around.  This is a good
place to put seasonal things.Beth- teaching First Grade and loving it

> In my first year I made lots of games by using the die cut.  If your school has
> one you can cut out all sorts of shapes and program them with activities.  You
> can take the shape put a math problem on 1/2 of it, cut it a jagged pattern and
> the answer on the other half.  Do several cutting each in a different way.  You
> can do this with any skill.  You can also use the die cut shapes to make games
> boards on poster board or in a file folder.  Die cuts are wonderful.  If you
> don't have one you can cut shapes by hand - just a lot more work!

Boni Fulgham
First Grade

Here are some books to help you plan center activities.

Quick and Easy Learning Centers
If you're looking for ideas for Literacy Centers, this is a great place to begin.  Easy to set up, easy to use, centers for emergent readers.
20% off Scholastic's price

A Poem a Day:
180 Thematic Poems and Activities That Teach and Delight All Year Long

I have several pocket chart poetry centers.  This book has Poetry for each and every day of the school year, with corresponding activities.  Filled with great, easy-to-use today  ideas!
20% off Scholastic's price.

Quick and Easy Learning Centers
Word Play

More easy to manage centers.
20% off Scholastic's price


Phonemic Awareness, Songs and Rhymes
By Wiley Blevins

Live Audio Tape, Reproducible Song and Rhyme Sheets, and Easy Lessons That Prepare Kids for Phonics

Great in the Listening Center!

20% off Scholastic's price

Phonics from A to Z:
A Practical Guide
By Wiley Blevins

 Topics include the stages of reading development, alphabet recognition, and phonemic awareness.   Lots of ready-to-use lessons, word lists, games and learning center ideas.
20% off Scholastic's price.

Quick-And-Easy Learning Games ~ Phonics
By Wiley Blevins

Another outstanding resource that makes phonics fun to teach and learn.

20 % off Scholastic's price

Pocket Charts for Emergent Readers
Terrific interactive pocket charts for beginning readers.
This practical guide includes easy-to-follow directions for making more than 30 interactive charts using poems, songs, predictable stories, and more.
20% off Scholastic's price.
The Pocket Chart Book

Wonderful activities tie in to all your favorite themes throughout the year:  snowmen, penguins, rainbows, kites, friends, birthdays, Christmas and Thanksgiving, losing a tooth, butterflies, wishes, and more.  Something I especially like about this book are the sections on Pocket Charts for Making Things, Pocket Charts for Math, and Pocket Charts from Poem to Project.  They make terrific centers!
20% off Scholastic's price.

Building Literacy With Interactive Charts
A Practical Guide for Creating 75 Engaging Charts from Songs, Poems, and Fingerplays
Especially helpful to teachers setting up Literacy Centers and designing an
integrated curriculum, balanced literacy classroom.
20% off Scholastic's price.

Quick and Easy Learning Centers
20% off Scholastic's price

Instant Math Storymats:
With Hands-On Activities That Build Essential
Primary Math Skills
20% off Scholastic's price

Quick and Easy Learning Games ~ Math
20% off Scholastic's price

Ready Made
Interactive Pocket Charts

From Scholastic

Click on the Theme Below

Nursery Rhymes
Farm Animals
Harvest Time
Creepy Crawlies
Rain Forest

Interactive Bulletin Boards
Graphing, number games, shape stories, attribute boards, and more.
Designed to change as learning takes place.
20% off Scholastic's price

Instant! Interactive! Incredible!
Math Bulletin Boards That Teach ~ Grades 1-3
20% off Scholastic's price


Looking for more ideas?

My bookstore pages have lots of information on how I use various materials in my classroom, and on activities you can do with your students.  The thematic pages are complete unit resources, with lots of poems, songs, and links on each page.  Make yourself comfortable and take a look around!

Choose from the categories below.
Underlined subjects are links, the other ones are coming soon!

Top 10
Must Have
Phonemic Awareness
Integrated Curriculum
Balanced Literacy
Mini Books
for Emergent
Pat Cunningham Books &
4 Blocks Books
Writer's Workshop
Guided Reading
How to
Trade Books
and others
Pocket Chart Resources
 Songs and
About Me
Back to School
Marvelous Math Books
Read It!
Draw It!
Solve It!
What's In A
Literature for Math
I Love
Monthly Themes
Their Way
Bears Everywhere
Down on the Farm
Rain Forest
Going Buggy!
Spring Has Sprung!
Come Into
A Camping We Will Go!
Under the Sea
A Rainbow of Colors
I Lost
Me & My
 Special Books for Special People
reading for pleasure
Coming Soon!

Click below to go directly to to browse for books.




This page went online on July 24, 1999.

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are copyright by Victoria Smith, 1998 & 1999.
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