Once students reach “upper elementary,” literacy centers drastically change. Sight words fall off, Playdough letters disappear, and testing concerns get real. However, keeping your literacy center activities engaging and effective is a MUST. Reading centers are the perfect time to enhance independent practice.
That’s why I’m going to share what I do for my literacy centers. I want this blog post to serve as a place where we can collaborate and share ideas, because quite frankly…. upper elementary centers ain’t easy.
1. Must Do, May Do
To begin, I use a weekly checklist. I do this to encourage independence, responsibility, and each student knows what their reading center activities will be for the week. I assign specific “Must Do” tasks and expect that these will be completed by Friday.
If students finish their must do reading centers before Friday, then they go to the “May Do” list. On Friday, I quickly check over their centers and approve their “Must Dos,” if they are all acceptable, the student may have “Free Friday.”
In September when I first introduce this, I start by giving them a few quick centers, so all students can experience a “Free Friday.” I want it to be an incentive to encourage students to work efficiently and to be on task while I’m meeting with my guided reading groups. However, I also set high expectations for their independent work. Students are told not to “rush” through their reading centers, because 1. I will return it and 2. they serve as a class participation grade.
2. Free Friday
I’m pretty strict with Free Friday. My students must have completed all their work putting in their BEST effort. During Free Friday, I let them play educational games (online or board games), Kahoot, study for spelling (whiteboards, word search, quiz a partner, etc), read to self or a partner, draw something they learned this week, free write, etc. As long as it’s educational in some way and not too disruptive..it’s a GO.
3. My Must Do Centers
The reason you’re probably here….my “must do” centers change weekly, but I will always have Fluency & Comprehension and Independent Reading.
- Independent Reading – We do this together. I usually set a timer for 10-15 minutes. The best way to improve a child’s reading is to just let them read.
- Fluency & Comprehension: My students practice their fluency with a partner. Then they answer questions about the story. These questions are aligned with our weekly skill (point of view, main idea, etc) and ask students to cite text evidence.
- Close Reading Companion – This is an activity from our reading series (McGraw Hill Wonders). The Close Reading Companion is a workbook that asks students to annotate the text and answer questions/draw conclusions based on their annotations.
- Google Classroom: We have a weekly EQ that all of our stories are based around. For example… “How do you make friends feel welcomed?” During that week, we read A Cricket in Times Square and At the Library. On Fridays, students will go onto Google Classroom and answer the essential question using text evidence to support their answer.
4. My May Do Centers
- Vocabulary – I am in LOVE with this vocabulary bundle. I keep a folder with all the different options and my students PICK what vocabulary activity they want to complete.
- Writing: This center changes depending on what my students need. Usually, my students receive a short, mediocre paragraph and their job is to revise, add detail, and improve that paragraph. They are essentially rewriting the paragraph and adding significantly more detail. Other days, I have them answer a prompt, free write, or edit grammatical errors.
- Test Prep – This center changes constantly… it should really be called my review center. I put a variety of different activities to review previous skills. For example, I may include an activity to cite text evidence, color by question activity, or figurative language.
- Task Cards – Students complete task cards online or quietly at their desks. I also provide students with an answer key to check their answers when they’re done.
- IXL.com – A recommendation from my district. It asks your students PARCC simulated questions. I allow students to pick what practice test they want to work on depending on what they need help with.
In the beginning of the year, I introduce all of my literacy centers one at a time. I keep everything stored in folders where they are readily available for students.
To prevent interruptions while I’m meeting with my groups, I choose two “helpers” and also abide by the “Ask 3 Then Me” policy.
Throughout the week, students store all of their work in their “Center Folder.” I keep all my center folders in one specific spot. On Friday, it’s their responsibility is to make sure all of their work is on the right side with their checklist on top!
Are you an elementary teacher completely rocking your reading centers? Leave a comment below with your tips, tricks, and ideas.
Centers are definitely different in upper elementary. I used the Daily 5 centers in my classroom before my district adopted Lucy Calkins. Now, we have a reading workshop model, so we don’t do reading centers anymore. I love the must-do, may-do idea, though! I need to find a way to work that into my math centers.
How do you keep up with all the papers? I like the idea of controlled choice and documentation. Just wondering if laminating cardstock in order to reuse papers would be helpful?
Absolutely! I usually make many copies at the beginning of the year or have them use those plastic slip covers depending on the skill/week
I love the “must do”s and “may do”s.
Mrs. Sadler says
This is a great list! Thanks for posting.