Setting Up Your Reading Centers - Simply Creative Teaching

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Setting Up Your Reading Centers

Have you ever been to a professional development where you left and felt like you had 1,000 things to do? It’s can be so stressful figuring out how to get your reading centers and literacy stations ready! Recently I spent some time working with a few teachers on setting up their classrooms for small group centers & rotations, and I could tell one of them was making a huge mental list of all the center ideas she felt like she needed to get ready for the year.

Teachers, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to do it all! Honestly, you can’t do it all. Plus, it’s extremely important that you practice the procedures for all of your rotations before students have independent rotation & center time. If you give your students too many options, you risk having them struggle remember the expectations for each one!

Let’s walk through the simplest ideas to help you with setting up your reading centers and literacy stations for the year. Here’s your challenge: For each rotation, try to pick ONE (maybe two) ideas you want to implement from the very beginning.

Setting Up the Writing Center

I never dictate what students have to write when they visit the writing center; however, I provide multiple ideas, resources, and paper options to help them put ideas on paper!

At the beginning of the year, my writing center includes:

  1. Lined paper options and/or composition notebooks
  2. Pencil poster: “What Do Writers Write?”
  3. Monthly themed journal prompts

As you can see, I start the year off very basic. I walk students through where they can write (lined paper or composition notebook), and I use this giant pencil poster for students to get ideas of what writers write. {You can find this free pencil poster over at The Teacher Wife’s blog!} Finally, I write down a few journal prompts for students who just still can’t seem to decide!

Prepping the Listen to Reading Center

The listening center is one of my favorite reading rotations. Even as an adult, I love listening to books! Why do you think the audiobook industry is booming?! As a bonus, it’s extremely to plan/prep!

My listen to reading center has one option: Epic Books for Kids!

If you haven’t heard of Epic, it contains thousands of books for kids, and it’s FREE for educators. It’s such an easy app/website for students to use! They have an exclusive “Read to Me” section where students can easily filter to find books they want to listen to!

At the beginning of the year, I teach my students how to use Epic to find books they want to read during the listen to reading center. There are thousands of books, so you never have to worry about students running out of books to listen to!

While Epic is great for the listening center, it’s also great to use at any time during reading!

Prepping the Word Work Center

This is an example of a puzzle activity I would add to the word work center after students have completed it with me at during small groups!

I always feel like the word work center is where teachers have an overload of options! There are so many ideas out there, but this post is all about keeping it SIMPLE! I start the year with students reviewing sight words, and as the year goes on students use new words that match sight words and phonics skills.

Here’s a few of my favorite options you could choose from:

  1. Magnetic letters: students make words with magnets
  2. Play dough words: students make words with play dough
  3. Rainbow write: students write words with a rainbow of colors
  4. Stamping: students stamp out the letters for words

Remember, these are just options to get your word work center started. As I start meeting with my small groups, we play various word work games and puzzles that match phonics skills we are working on. Once students have done new activities with me, then I add them to the word work center later!

Prepping the Partner Reading Center

My students always love reading with a buddy, and this center is all about setting up the right expectations and procedures so students are successful.

First, I teach my students that they must sit EEKK with their buddy. EEKK stands for “Elbow to elbow, knee to knee – book in the middle so we both can see!”

I like to hang a buddy reading poster or anchor chart for EEK. This helps remind students of the expectations we’ve practiced so that this time is successful!

Final Tips for Setting Up Reading Centers

Finally, if you’re just getting your feet wet when it comes to small groups & center rotations, use these ideas to keep it simple! Remember to try to pick one or two ideas for each center.

As your students get comfortable with these centers AND the overall process setting up your reading centers, then you can begin to add more options, especially in the writing center and the word work center.

Best of luck! If you need help getting your math centers off to a great start at the beginning of the year, you’ll want to check out this post here!

You can also sign up to receive your FREE Small Group Workbook to learn in great detail how I create a flexible schedule and set up my centers for success!

Pin any of these images to save the ideas for later:

Learn how to get your reading centers ready for the year! These ideas will help teachers plan and manage literacy centers. Ideas for ELA centers including the listen to reading center (listening center), read with a partner (buddy reading), word work center, and the work on writing center. These activities will help teachers at the beginning of the year establish expectations for literacy centers and rotations to maximize learning.
Learn how to get your reading centers ready for the year! These ideas will help teachers plan and manage literacy centers. Ideas for ELA centers including the listen to reading center (listening center), read with a partner (buddy reading), word work center, and the work on writing center. These activities will help teachers at the beginning of the year establish expectations for literacy centers and rotations to maximize learning.
Learn how to get your reading centers ready for the year! These ideas will help teachers plan and manage literacy centers. Ideas for ELA centers including the listen to reading center (listening center), read with a partner (buddy reading), word work center, and the work on writing center. These activities will help teachers at the beginning of the year establish expectations for literacy centers and rotations to maximize learning.

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