Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Easy, Low Maintenance, and Quiet Literacy Centers!

I used to hate literacy center time during the day!   It seemed like I would have so many interruptions as I was trying to read with my small group that I would only become frustrated and not want to do literacy centers each day.  I would have interruptions because students didn’t know what to do at their center, students asking to go to the bathroom, behavior management interruptions as some students would rather sit and play with their pencil than do their assigned work at their literacy center.  I also would have students who would build up an insane amount of unfinished work in their desk from centers each week.  Over the years I have tried so many different center ideas.  I spent so much time planning and copying things for centers each week.  Every year I tried something different for center time in hopes to find something that worked. 
FINALLY, I came up with centers that I love!  They are very low maintenance so I don’t have to spend so much time planning and copying for them.  They require little to no paperwork so my students don’t have unfinished work that continues to pile up in their desk.  AND most importantly they are designed to keep the students engaged, learning, and quiet during literacy center time.
Before starting the full rotation of centers at the beginning of the school year, I spend about a week or two teaching each center carefully.  We set a center rule that if you are at a center where you have to wear headphones then it’s a no talking center.  We talk about why this would be important, how people could end up talking really loudly when they have headphones on, etc.  This rule makes a huge difference with the noise level during center time.  You will see below that many of my centers require headphones.  This simple element helped transform my center time into a quiet and peaceful time. 

We also spend time talking about what a whisper is.  The students know that if they are at a center without headphones then they may talk with their partners – but only in a whisper.  We practice putting our hand on our neck as we talk.  If we can feel the vibration then it is not a whisper.

We also fill out a T-Chart on what the students & teacher expectations are.  You will see in the pictures below each literacy center has the T-chart at the center to remind the students on what they should and should not be doing during center time.
Here is a look into my 8 literacy centers….
Center 1: Writing Center

At the writing center the students choose one item from the board to complete.  For example, the students start off the school year with just simple sentence writing.  They will write one, two, three, or four sentences about a topic.  If they need help deciding on a topic to write about they can look to the writing prompt calendar posted on the board.  As the year goes on I add new writing item choices such as opinion writing, informative writing, etc. I add these items to the board as a choice once we learn how to write them during writer’s workshop.

Click HERE to download my complete Writing Center Board and Writing Papers from my TpT Store!

Click HERE to download my Writer’s Workshop Lessons and Activities from my TpT Store!

Center 2: Computers
I have two student computers in my classroom.  During center time the students at the computer center can access my classroom website.  My website has many different and fun learning websites they can go to.  This is a headphone center, so no talking is allowed at this center.  As you can see, the T-chart lists the step-by-step directions on how they can get to my website.  The students know they can only visit the websites I have listed on my page.
Click HERE to go to my Websites for Kids page!

Center 3: Listening Center
Throughout the years I have purchased books on CD through Scholastic.  As you can see from the picture I have a portable CD player, headphones, and a folder with a worksheet for each individual book.  The center has three books to choose from.  This allows each student their own book instead of having to share and fight over who gets to hold the book, not being able to see, etc.  After listening to the book the students complete some type of story element worksheet over the book they listened to.  Each week the students choose a book at the center they have not listened to before.  This allows the center to only have to be changed every three weeks!  Since headphones are used at this center the students know that this is a no talking center.
*The red and green dots placed on the portable CD players indicate to the students which button they need to push to start, stop, and turn off the CD player.

Center 4: Learning Puzzles
At the learning puzzle center I have the students complete some type of puzzle or activity over a skill that we have learned and are practicing in class.  During center time the students work together to complete the puzzle or activity.  If they finish before center time is up they can rework it or read a book from their book basket at the center as they wait.  As you can see from the picture the puzzle I had in the tub for that week had the students practicing with rhyming words.  I switch this center out every week by simply placing some type of puzzle or TpT activity in the tub. 

Center 5: iPad Games
At the iPad game center the students grab an old iPhone with headphones and begin playing learning game apps!  The phones are filled with math, language, reading, etc. apps that keep the kids learning in a different and fun way.  Yup, another headphone center.  So the students know it’s a no talking center.  Anyways the kids get so wrapped up in their game that they don’t even want to talk to the kids at the center with them. 

Click HERE to read my blog post on how I transformed old iPhones into great learning tools for the students.

Center 6: Meet with the Teacher
In the past, while the students were at their literacy centers I would pull a small group over to read with them.  I usually had three groups.  A group for my high, average, and low readers.  I would usually have some sort of book that we would read together as a small group.  Sometimes I would also have some sort of activity we would do.  This also took a lot of prep time.  I found that even with all my hard work prepping and planning - what I was doing during small groups wasn’t really effective for all my students.  Grouping my whole class into three groups really did not work for me in 1st grade.  Within my low group I would have a WIDE range of reading levels.  As my class size continued to grow each year I had to change the way I was doing my small group time. 
Now instead of reading with a small group of students – I read one-on-one with my students.  This insures that I am hitting the reading needs of that individual student.  During literacy center time I call a student at a time to come read with me at my table.  (I call the students that are at Center 6 first, then pull additional students over from Center 7.)  They bring over one of their books from their book basket that is on their individual reading level and start reading it to me.  While they are reading to me I use that as an opportunity to reteach, remind, and/or practice things we have learned in class.  

 I use this check list to ensure that I am reading one-on-one with each of my students the appropriate amount of time depending on their reading level.  For my low readers I try to have them read to me one-on-one at least three times each week.  My average readers I try to read one-on-one with them twice a week.  My high, independent readers I try to read with them at least once a week.  Since my centers run pretty smoothly and quietly I can easily read one-on-one with 10-12 students a day.
Click HERE to download my One-On-One Reading Checklist from my TpT Store!

Center 7: Read to Self
At the Read-to-Self center the students read books from their book basket quietly to themselves.  Their book baskets are filled with books on their individualized reading level.  I have phones they can read into, word tracker bars, etc. they can use to help them if they would like.  The students reading at this center also get called to read one-on-one to the teacher.

Center 8: Word Work
At this center the students are equipped with a teacher chart, pointer, marker, and eraser.  The students get to pretend to be the teacher.  They practice coding and reading the words.  They call on their “students” to help as well.  This chart came with our Treasure’s Reading series.  As you can see from the picture the words on the chart are grouped by concept.  So after I have taught a certain concept in class, the students practice coding and reading words with that concept at their literacy center.
 In order for the students to know what literacy centers they go to each day they look to the center rotation wheel.  Each section of the wheel has 2 to 3 names written in it.  Each day the students go to the rotation wheel and find their name in order to know what center they go to that day.  When that center rotation is over (about 25 minutes later), the students follow the arrows that are next to their name on the rotation wheel to know what their next center is.  After centers that day the rotation wheel gets turned a quarter turn and is ready for the next day!  We do two literacy centers Monday through Thursday to complete the wheel rotation.  Fridays are the days we do our Fun Friday Centers.  Check out my blog post HERE to read more about Fun Friday.

Click HERE to download my Center Setup from my TpT Store!
To help with bathroom break interruptions during center time I created this restroom break system.  This is a picture of the restroom break system I use.

 When the green sign is posted the students (one at a time) may move their number next to the restroom sign and take the pass and go without having to ask the teacher!  This prevents students from raising their hand and asking to go to the restroom in the middle of your teacher led lessons or interrupting your readers during literacy center time!  You can easily keep track of who is out of the classroom by looking at the numbers placed next to the boys and girls restroom signs.

During my teacher led lessons I’ll switch the sign over to red.  This shows the students that they may not leave the classroom at that time to take a restroom break (unless of course it is an emergency) because I am teaching, giving directions, or doing something important they can’t miss.
Click HERE to download my Red/Green Restroom Break Signs from my TpT store!

to download my Boy/Girl Restroom Break Signs from my TpT Store!

to download my Editable Passes from my TpT Store!

Thanks for reading!


  1. You are so organized, and I love your bathroom idea! Thank you. You use a lot of headphones, how did you acquire so many? Did you have to purchase them yourself?

    1. I started out with headphones that I just picked up at the store. Our library had tons of headphones leftover from old tape listening center players. So I was able to get these nice headphones from our school.

  2. How were you able to teach your kids the rotation and keep up with the time? Do you set a timer?

    1. I teach the rotation wheel and we practice finding and moving centers before we officially start literacy centers. I teach this procedure at the beginning when I am teaching one center at a time.
      I don't set a timer, I usually just keep track of the time. You definitely could set a timer though!

  3. Replies
    1. I purchased my center bins from the teacher store Mardel.

  4. I love this center rotation plan and can't wait to try it with my class. What do your group 6 "meet with teacher" students do while you are meeting one on one? Since you are not meeting with them as a group? Thanks for sharing all of your awesome ideas!

    1. Thank you so much! The other students are reading their book to themselves as I read one-on-one with another student. They will then read that book to me one-on-one.

  5. This is great!! Thanks you do much doe Sharon!