3 Steps to Setting Up Your Reading Centers

How to Get Started with Literacy Reading Centers

Does figuring out how to set up reading centers stress you out? Do you have some decision fatigue trying to determine which literacy centers to use in your classroom?

Maybe you’ve searched “reading centers” or “literacy centers” on Pinterest and found hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas for your classroom.

Talk about overwhelming!

If you want help with how to launch literacy centers in your primary classroom, this post is for you! We’re going to cover how to set up reading centers in kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade.

How Do I Get Started With Reading Centers?

The first step you need to take is to choose which literacy centers you plan to use in your classroom. I suggest starting with these three reading centers:

  1. Word Work
  2. Independent Reading
  3. Writing

Before you introduce any of these reading centers to your students, you need to think through exactly what you want that time to look like.

How to Set up the Word Work Center

In the word work center, students practice phonics and sight words in a variety of ways.

Because this post is all about keeping it simple, start with a few low-prep options. This can include activities like:

  • Word sorts
  • Building words with magnets or letter tiles
  • Stamping words
  • Rainbow writing words

Remember, these are just options to get your word work center started. Once you begin meeting with small groups, you can introduce more puzzles, games, and activities that align with the phonics skills you are working on. Then, you add them to the word work center after!

You can read more in-depth about engaging word work routines here!

word work activities in your reading centers and literacy centers

How to Set Up Independent Reading

Clear expectations are the most important thing you need to set up for the independent reading center. Make an anchor chart as a visual or click here to download this free independent reading poster. 

The independent reading center is also a great time to let your students choose new books to read. Before you allow this, make sure to set explicit expectations for when, where, and how students can choose new books to read.

independent reading centers poster
Click to download!

How to Set Up the Writing Center

At the writing center, provide students with the chance to choose what they write about. Provide multiple ideas, resources, and writing paper options to help students put ideas on paper!

At the beginning of the year, your writing center could include:

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

Always start with the basics. 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.

Finally, write down a few journal prompts for students who just still can’t seem to decide!

{You can find this free pencil poster over at The Teacher Wife's blog!}

Final Reminders for Setting Up Reading Centers

If you’re just getting your feet wet when it comes to small groups & literacy centers, use these ideas to keep it simple! Try to pick one or two ideas for each center.

As your students get comfortable with the routine for literacy centers, you can begin to add more options, especially in the writing center and the word work center.

When you’re ready to start making a schedule for your reading centers, read this post all about organizing your small group rotations!

Download the FREE word work starter kit!

This free word work starter kit is filled with ideas for getting your word work activities up and running, plus some incredibly helpful resources! Leave your email below to get this sent straight to your inbox!

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