Reaching Students through Literacy Centers

Continue the celebration of literacy this month by integrating reading centers into the classroom.

By Andrea Ferrero

Teacher reading to students


Literacy development is key to promoting student achievement. Engaging students in reading centers is a wonderful way to promote literacy development and student interest in learning activities. Literacy centers include a range of ready-to-use activities for students to participate in independently, in pairs, or as a small group. Centers may provide practice for previously explored concepts or introduce new skills. They provide an excellent vehicle to differentiate instruction. Most literacy centers fall within the areas of phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension, fluency, and writing development. 



Priming Story Discussions and Retells

Small props programmed with questions or topics for discussion are a fun way for students to identify and discuss key elements of literature. I personally enjoyed using purchased, pre-made foam story cubes, and beach balls.

  • Story Cubes include topics such as setting, character, favorite part, climax etc. Students can roll the dice and answer the resulting question in their reading journals or on an index card at the center. These can also be used to prime dialogue between pairs or groups about the stories they have been reading. My students so enjoyed using these cubes that we used a paper template to create take-home sets.
  • Story Blow-up Balls can be purchased or created by using a permanent marker to write in questions or topics. These are best used in small groups to encourage a game-like literature discussion. For some groups, I have used the story blow-up ball only as a whole class to review a book which was assigned to everyone.

Exploring Sequence, Setting and More with Felt Boards

Felt boards are a textural wonder for young learners. They work as a fantastic medium to retell stories, sequence events, discuss character development, and much more. Over the years, I found that making puppets and accessories for the felt-board was almost as fun on my own as it was with the kids. Printable iron-on paper can be purchased at most craft or fabric stores. These iron-ons could then be easily affixed to felt colors of my choice. The felt scraps that began to accumulate lent themselves to a creative activity center where students could design their own felt board pieces. Stapling or hot gluing felt over firm cardboard pieces is an easy way to create these fun language-development gifts for students. A parent volunteer suggested making a smaller version for home.

Magical Magnetic Activities

Cookie sheets are not just for baking; they can be a unique desktop literacy center when used alongside magnetic letters, words, and/or sentence fragments. Using these materials students can create and share:

  • Poetry
  • Story creation
  • Spelling practice
  • Sorting parts of speech

More reading activities to entertain and engage students:

The Big Green Monster

After reading the Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly, students rotate through a number of related reading centers. This lesson includes a linked center check-off sheet.

Reading Fluency Centers 

In order to develop and formatively assess reading fluency, students work through a wide variety of literacy activities both independently and with support. Activities could include picture detective, vocabulary listing and organization, or story read-aloud and retell.

Read to Me Activities

Second grade reading centers are explained and illustrated in this brief but informative activities list. Ideas include: index card spelling review, independent reading level buckets, defining vocabulary words, and cross-curricular extensions.