Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reading Centers

Reading is one of my favorite things to teach in first grade.  I love the 90 minute reading block that we have everyday and I love how independent the students are during this time.  One of the things that helps reading run so smoothly is that the students have a strong understanding of the routine and the centers.  Another thing that I love about the centers that I use is that it takes about 2 minutes to set each one up.  I absolutely adore all of the cute centers that people use in their classrooms, but where do they find the time to prep all of those centers?  I wanted to take the time today to tell you about three of the centers that we use at the beginning of the year that the students are able to complete independently and that are easy for teachers to prepare.

Chalkboard Center
Yep, all of our first grade classrooms have a chalkboard.  We have all the upgrades in our rooms: whiteboards, document cameras, projectors, desktops, wireless internet, laptops for each teacher...and a chalkboard.  For the first two years I was there I never knew what to do with it, so I just covered it with paper and used it as another bulletin board.  Then, I decided to use it as a center - and it has been my students' favorite center every year since!  You would not need a chalkboard to use this center - just any magnetic surface (or even a small pocket chart would work).

I use the chalkboard center as a phonics/spelling center.  If the phonics/spelling skill for the week is short a, that is what the students will work on at the center.  In the demographic that I work with, many of the students do not practice their spelling words at home.  This center gives the students practice reading the words, spelling the words, writing the words and discovering patterns between the words.

At the center the students need four things:
1) the pictures
2) the words
3) magnetic letters
4) chalk (or any writing material that would work for the board you are using)

The students put up the pictures, put the matching word next to each picture, spell the word using magnetic letters and then write each word using chalk.  Here is what the finished product looks like:
Isn't it precious?
The students love this center!

I also have an accountability sheet that they complete afterwards.  I put it in a sheet protector and the students use a dry erase marker to fill it out - this just helps me save paper.

Here is what the center looked like when he was all finished:

You can grab this center by clicking on the link at the end of this post.
Right now I only have it made for short vowels and blends, but I will update it as I finish the others!

Writing Center 
At the beginning of the year many of our students struggle with writing a sentence.  Because of that, it makes it hard to have a successful writing center where students can work independently for 20-25 minutes.  So for the first few weeks of writing center I use it as a handwriting practice center.  

 The students love this center and it helps with their handwriting!  They trace the word three times and then write it by themselves in the box.  Then, they trace a sentence that uses the word and write it independently in the box.  The words on these pages are all high frequency words from our reading series.  This center is the same every week, all that changes are the words and the sentences.

I let the students use one marker for this center - it helps them stay interested, it helps them to slow down and it helps them see what they are writing.

You can grab these centers (for free!) by clicking on the link below:

Pocket Chart Center
I love this center!  It really helps the students listen to the patterns in the words.  I use this center as a review center - so if we worked on short a last week, that is what the students will be working with at the pocket chart center this week.  

Here is how it works:
The students put up the header cards.  Then, they sort the pictures under the corresponding header.  For their accountability sheet (which I also put in a sheet protector), they have to use what they know about the patterns to spell the words and use three of the words in a sentence.

Of course I forgot to take a picture of this here it is on my living room floor:

Click on the picture below to grab the pack with the chalkboard center and pocket chart center.
Again, at this point I only have the short vowels and blends made, but I will update it when I finish the others.

What centers do you use in your classroom that your students love?  I would love to hear about them!


  1. Omg Katie- I love the word building station! I do similar (easy to prepare) centers that stay the same, but the content changes. I love it and may have to share about mine after fall break! =) Hope you're enjoying fall break!

  2. Thank you! I would love to see your centers, too.