Saturday, October 18, 2014

The CENTER of the Literacy Block

Centers Create Independent Learners


I love being part of the kindergarten team at my school.  Having been in kindergarten the majority of my 25 years in teaching, deciding it was time to move into a Reading Specialist position was hard.  Thankfully, the kindergarten teachers at my school have allowed me to be a part of their team.  Each week we plan lessons to be taught, reviewed, assessed and remediated.  We also plan an hour for Guided Reading and Literacy Centers.  Students are expected to complete 10 Literacy Centers a week...with 5 additional centers being open ended.  Some centers might be ABC, 123, Science/Social Studies, Listening, Art, Writing, Sorting, Word Wall Words, 4 Square, Rhyming, Poetry, Pocket Chart, Squiggles, Fab 5, First-Then-Last, and many more.  The key is maintaining your sanity, while building their independence.  It can be done!


My school system has half-day kindergarten for non-Title 1 schools.  We have 3 hours to provide instruction each day.  3 days a week there is a 30 minute resource during that time AND we have snack and recess for 20 minutes each day.  All skills are integrated; therefore, math, science, and social studies skills are woven into our centers.  A shared reading poem each week is introduced, recited, read, and reviewed.  (I think that’s another whole post.)  The shared reading is sent home the following week for homework AND it is in the Art Center and the Poetry Center the following week, as well.  Regardless, the literacy block, guided reading and literacy centers, is 1 hour every day.  NO EXCEPTIONS!  It’s non-negotiable.


Here is a picture of centers plans from 2 of our teachers.  Students move independently through 3 centers a day.  During this time, they are also called for guided reading and remediation/enrichment from the teacher assistant.  I am a huge proponent of TEACH THE PROCESS…CHANGE THE PRODUCT!  The process for Listening Center, Poetry Center, Squiggle Center (which doesn’t start until Week 10) and Sort Center, never changes.  The writing requirement might be increased each nine weeks, but the process is the same.  Some centers may repeat the process for several weeks, before the center is changed.  At the beginning of the year, when trying to establish routines, the Math Center is the same for 3 weeks.  The first week, students sort a mixed bag of shapes by shape.  The next week, students sort the same bag by color.  Finally, the students sort the same bag by size.  This establishes independence and encourages success.

Believe it or not, it only takes about 20 minutes to plan for centers each week.  When centers are consistent, strategic and meaningful, planning isn't hard.  The ABC Center will house Read It, Write It for a few weeks...then it will become it's own center and replace the rhyming center.  Read it, Write it is custom-made each week to include the word wall word introduced the previous week.  The math, science, and social studies centers are the only centers that might change each week...because it is based on the math lesson from the week before.  I have detailed directions for the listening center in an earlier post.  Squiggles is added the 2nd 9 weeks and continues throughout the year.

If you would like the a sample of the centers, CLICK HERE.



  1. I love these center ideas! I like the focus on consistency and routines. It must cut out a good amount of "teacher talk" time. I love reading all your posts Cathy. They are helping me stay current during my little motherhood intermission in my career!

  2. Thanks, Ellen. I think our first writing class is what sparked my love for teacher training!