1. Free Read: As simple as it gets. Let students
pick any book to read. This is not readers workshop,
but that can be used as well.
2. Rainbow Spelling (This one is at a table or on the
floor. I post the week's spelling words -- and the kids
write them 3 times each with colored markers or colored
pencils. They love this one!). My kids love this, too.
3. Stamp a Word or story. (They take a tub with rubber
alphabet stamps, other stamps, stamp pads, and large
sheets of green bar computer paper to a work area and
stamp any words they want to stamp). Older students
may write a rebus story. Could be messy- make sure you
go over procedures. Also, this will be a slow process,
so don't expect a lot of words to be stamped in a short
4. Listening Center: Make your own to save money. Students
think its fun to hear their own teacher. Students can
be the teacher for the day. They hold the book and operate
the tape recorder. If you have money, use individual
ones. I have my kids journal about the book when they
are done, if they have extra time.
5. Sticker stories-Use all those stickers for stories.
Depending on your students…. Stickers first or
6. Journal Writing
7. Making words center- Have a Mystery word on Pocket
Chart. Students write as many words as they can from
that word. At the end of the week try to figure out
the mystery word. You can also have them pick letter
tiles out of the bag and try to make words from them-
very popular center.
8. Bookmaking Center- Have colored pencils, markers,
crayons, scissors (fancy ones), lined paper, and stapler.
Get shapes from TRC for Front, or ABC teach. I tell
my kids to spend no more than 5 minutes making the book.
Some could stay in the center for an hour and never
actually write anything, just designing books.
9. Writing Center: Use words given by teacher to write
sentences…May be spelling words, sight words,
etc. May have cards for each student and then they write
it on paper.
10. ABC order: Have flash cards of words. Students
put in order. I would have 3 to 5 set of cards in paper
clip to put in order. Have a “teacher” at
each group to check it out. (They may look on the master
list if they have trouble) Best to color code words,
either on colored tag board or words in colored markers.
11. Spelling Center: Different materials: magnetic
letters, flashcards, Stamps, tiles, Popsicle sticks,
alphabet markers, bingo markers, playdough, wikki sticks,
salt in a cookie pan, sand paper with crayon, etc .Plastic
bags ½ filled with finger paint. Write words.
I got a huge crossword puzzle mat from the dollar store,
with little plastic letters. The kids spell out their
spelling words on the mat and try to make them intersect
like a crossword puzzle. The idea is that they will
look for similarities in words.
12. Sequencing: Have words on cards… students
put in order to make a Sentence, or have details from
a story that they read and they put the events in order.
13. Poetry Center: Rhyming dictionary, poetry books
to read and for Examples, blank poetry forms. My poetry
center requests that the children memorize a poem or
part of one, and practice performing or reciting it.
They love this, but may need reminders to whisper to
14. Computer Center- sites for reading online or write
a story. Sites for writing cards and printing.
15. Reading Corner- Bathtub, tent, pillows, chairs,
loft, Have them wear hats, clothes, pretend reading
16. Puppet making: Create puppets and make up a play.
Older students write.
17. Marker Board writing:
18. Card making: For any occasion
19. Letter writing center: Display correct letter form.
Have sheets with lines for correct letter making.
20. Use die cut with poster board to cut out letters
and pictures. Students can use as stencil for ART center
or to illustrate books.
21. Cheap 100 piece puzzles.
22. Laminate worksheets and have students use visa-
vie or dry erase markers to answer and then have a check
23. Magnetic Money: Have money amounts written on cards
and students use money to match.
24. Write the room: Students take their clipboard and
look for the words (letters) they are working on. Ex.
Words that begin with T., blends, nouns, verbs, adjectives,
word families, etc. Don't forget to set rules about
how and where to walk during this time. If you are doing
guided reading groups, it is essential that your Write
the Room students are not distracting.
25. Read the room: Students work in pairs, take a pointer
and go around the room together and read posters, poems,
word wall, etc. Have special hat or reading glasses
to wear (depending on age)
26. Overhead: Use magnetic or foam letters to spell
27. Chalkboards- with chalk or paint with water. *Can
also be done whole class outside on the school wall
using chalk OR paintbrushes and water. The words will
be visible for several minutes, depending on weather
factors, then disappear, so there should be plenty of
space for everyone to work.
28. Message center: OR Post Office: May write to others.
May have mailboxes for students Have a class list of
names. May have a postman for jobs. Especially fun in
29. Literature Circle: Students all read same book.
Discuss: Characters, setting, problem, solution, beginning,
middle, and end.
30. Big Books: Student use pointer to read story. May
have activity, to use Wikki sticks to circle, vocabulary
or sight words, etc.
31. Place manuscript or cursive practice paper into
a page protector and have students practice with dry
32. Use Die cuts for puzzle matching. May use any shape.
Put on part of skill on top and other on the bottom.
Then cut, each in a different way. Great idea!
33. Listen to a story and draw or retell the story.
34. Students read a story into a tape and listen to
it and follow along in book. I will have to try this!
35. Word family wall: Have a post it not with a word.
Students add to it with their own post its. Variation:
synonyms, antonyms, prefixes, suffixes, etc.
36. Photocopy pictures in a picture book. Have students
put in order. Check to see if they were correct with
the real book !!!
37. Poetry Put Together: Put a poem on the front of
a manila envelope. On the inside of the manila envelope,
place the words to the poem printed on small individual
pieces of poster board. Students are to put the poem
together, word-by-word. When finished the individual
ask students to read the poem to a friend or the teacher,
then place words back into the envelope. :-)
38. Alphabet book: Make a book of the letters of the
alphabet and draw an illustration for each letter. Or
cut out pictures from magazines to illustrate it. Variation:
Use unit of study,
39. Fishing for words: On 3"x5" cards print
the students spelling words, fold in half, and fasten
search with a paper clip. Place the cards in a large
fish bowl. Using a toy fishing pole or a long stick,
place a magnet on the string. The students go fishing
for a spelling word to practice. When the "catch"
a word, they take it off their line and write it out
on a piece of paper.
40. Game Day: Students bring games from home. They
can also be used as centers if they are educational,
especially for math. We use scrabble, Monopoly, Wheel
of Fortune, Go For Broke (old game), Racko, and lots
of playing card and dice games.
41. Flashcard printables.
42. Printable game boards in Word.
43. Coffee cans or cookie tins make great storage,
and are perfect movable centers for magnetic words and
letters. Many times "Dollar Stores" have bags
of magnetic words and letters. Depending on the grade
level, students can respond to poetry, write their own
poetry, or simply communicate with a classmate about
a reading assignment or a self-chosen book. To document
the students' writing, ask them to copy it in a writing
44. I also use art and music in my literature centers.
I display famous artworks and have my students respond
in their journals. I also have my students research
the artists and write biographies, newspaper editorials,
etc. The art posters and copies can be bought cheaply
at museums or bargain books stores. I bought a Picasso
art book (colored copies and biography included) for
$4.00. I make similar centers with famous pieces of
music. Students respond to jazz, classical, rock &
roll and other genres by writing poetry, writing their
own lyrics and songs and by writing letters to the artists.
45. Another cheap center that can be used is the overhead
projector. Most classrooms have them and they are fun
and easy to use. For example, an envelope containing
various nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles, word wall
words etc. can be taped to the projector. (Please note:
These words should be on transparency paper and cut
individually). Students can place the words in any order
they want and create their own stories. The students
should write these stories down for documentation, either
in a notebook or for their writing portfolio. If the
students need more structure, start the center by having
the sentences cut into strips and make the story or
poem familiar. Then, have the students put the sentences
in order. If the students really want challenged, separate
the words into individual parts (prefixes, suffixes,
common sound patterns and combinations). Have the students
create poetry and stories by combining word parts. At
the end of the center, compare your original poem or
story that you cut up to the new stories that the students
created. I think that it is best to do this type of
activity in groups of at least two students. However,
the rules and guidelines are up to your discretion.
I have heard of this, but have been hesitant to try
it. I think it would be distracting to other students.
They are trained to pay attention to whatever is on
the overhead, and if there are kids writing on it (which
is fascinating to them, anyway), some kids would sit
and stare at that all morning.
46. *Put file folder dots on unifix cubes. On the dots,
write letters, word endings, blends, etc. This becomes
an easy "making words" center. Just give students
directions and a recording sheet (and make sure they
understand the dots STAY on the cubes!).
47. *Pocket chart centers. Students can sequence a
poem on sentence strips and illustrate it in a poetry
journal. OR you can write words to be alphabetized or
sorted in some way (based on a skill you're teaching)
on sentence strips or die cut shapes. Students put the
words in the chart in the proper order/category, then
48. *Overhead center. Purchase transparent letters/words
(or make your own with transparencies). Students can
manipulate to make words/sentences. OR copy a black-line
master worksheet onto a transparency. Students LOVE
to work problems or follow directions on the overhead.
Have you ever read "What Are the Other Students
Doing While You Teach Small Groups?" It has wonderful,
easy center ideas and recording sheets for each one.
49. For a listening center, I bought cheap $5 walkmen
at WalMart and they are individual listening centers.
I made a stand out of PVC pipe, put the book and tape
in a bag and hang it up.
50. Take a small tissue box and cover with construction
paper. Take 4 envelopes and cut in half. Print nouns,
verbs, adverbs and adjectives on each. Tape one to each
side of the box. Then print sentences (type or handwritten)
on sentence strips or small strips of paper. Underline
a word in each sentence and put those strips in the
box. Then the students have to read each sentence and
decide what part of speech the underlined word is and
put that strip in the appropriate envelope. Nice!
51. Another tissue box idea is to cut 4 envelopes and
print period, question mark, exclamation point and comma.
Write sentences with missing punctuation and the students
have to decide which mark is missing and put that in
the appropriate envelope.
52. Take a carpet square and hot glue a strip of velcro
(the soft side) across. Then take the other side and
print the alphabet in permanent marker (twice for words
with double letters); cut apart and velcro to the strip
on the carpet square. Then the students can pull the
letters and spell their spelling, vocabulary words,
53. Drama Center: *TLW present dramatic interpretations
of experiences, stories, poems, or plays
*TLW identify jobs in the home
*TLW use problem solving and decision making skills,
working independently and
with others in a variety of settings
*TLW develop self awareness through dramatic play
*TLW assume roles through imitation and recreation
*TLW create playing space using simple materials
*TLW cooperate with other in dramatic play
This is the drama center we used during our Farm Unit.
Students could go in and pretend to be farmers, busy
doing "farm chores," like milking cows, tending
This is the drama center we used during our Pilgrim
study. Students built it during centers and then got
to go inside to act as Pilgrims.
This is the drama center we used during our study of
American Indians. Students worked in small groups to
sew the "animal skins" together, then wrapped
the covering around the frame. Once inside, they were
directed to record Indian signs in their own book. They
also pretended to be on a hunting trip, since most Indians
only used teepees as temporary shelters.
Back to Units and Centers
Our Drama center is basically a unit-based "home
center," so this center is available periodically.
Students usually go "inside" the drama center
to "pretend" to be a..... farmer, Pilgrim,
Indian, Eskimo, bear,
marine biologist, whatever we're studying, etc.
Students "build" the drama center as a response
to literature. Then they may go to the center to act
the way a bear would act in his cave, or how a marine
biologist might act in a submarine, or a Pilgrim in
Sometimes we have directed activities for the drama
center, sometimes the students create
their own activities. But "pretending" is
always at the heart of this center. Of course, we know
that the best
pretenders usually make the best authors!
54. Plotting Points by instructional Fair ?
55. My school purchased Literacy Task Cards from Teaching
Resource Center- www.trcabc.com
56. Sight Word Center (which may change to vocabulary
center depending on your students) They can make the
sight words with rubber stamps, magnetic letters and
I have letters written on all sorts of shapes(shells
for June) I use this to reinforce letter and word manipulation.
Plus it works great to help them learn the sight words!
YOU COULD USE YOUR SPELLING WORDS...
57. Overhead I put cloze paragraphs on there a lot(kids
love working on the overhead) I also let the kids map
out their stories on the overhead, stories they have
read or will be writing. This is also where my kids
start to develop their use of graphic organizers, I
make overheads of plot graphs, venns etc. and have the
children do them for a story they have read .Pocket
Chart. I have an activity they work on. For example
this week I have the big book The Big Red Barn (we are
studying farms) I have the directions on sentence strips
they have to choose a farm picture, write at least 2
sentences about it and draw a picture. This is good
for your themes.
58. Puzzle center. Find copies of appropriate word
searches, laminate them, and let the children write
on them with washable markers. When done, they use towels
to clean them off.
59. Graham crackers as "paper" and a plastic
sandwich bag filled with a spoonful of marshmallow crème
as the "pencil". I cut a tiny tip of the bag
(the same way you do when decorating cakes etc.). It
was tricky to fill the bags with the crème but
it worked fairly well. I filled them the night before
and had them ready to pass out this afternoon. I told
the kids to use their tongues as "erasers"
and once they wrote four words to erase them and write
the others. Do a "Eat Your Spelling Words"
activity each week. Last week we used pretzel sticks
to spell the words. Of course this is a whole class
activity, unless you have a para-professional or parent
in your room to help. Otherwise, it's a great idea,
but not an appropriate center, IMO!
60. THE OVERHEAD.............Using magnetic (or even
better because they aren't so noisy!) foam letters to
practice making words from the spelling list or word
wall! Put the overhead on the floor...............it's
much easier for the kids to use!
61. Sight Word Center: (which may change to vocabulary
center depending on your students) They can make the
sight words with rubber stamps, magnetic letters, paint
baggies, sand trays, and I have letters written on shapes
(shells for June) I use this to reinforce letter and
word manipulation. Plus it works great to help them
learn the sight words! YOU COULD USE YOUR SPELLING WORDS...
I also might have them choose 5 sight words to use in
a sentence. I also do Making Words folder here
62. Carpet Center - I got carpet samples from my local
store and I cut out letters from Velcro and the kids
spell their weekly words.
63. Alphabet Center - magnet letters and magnetic board
- students can spell out their words; make word families
64. Bingo - we use number, time, money, sight word
- can use wipe off boards or print from the computer
65. File folder games: from scholastic - both math
and reading. Last year I used file folder enters exclusively
for Literacy centers, because they were so easy and
required no prep or storage.
66. Tissue boxes - take a small tissue box and cover
with paper. Cut 2 envelopes in half and label them nouns,
verbs, adjectives, adverbs and glue to sides of tissue
box. Then type/write sentences with a particular word
underlined and place in the center of the box. The students
need to put the sentence strip in the appropriate envelope
based on what is underlined (i.e. if dog is underlined
it would go in the noun patch)68. Other tissue box -
label envelopes: period, question mark, exclamation
point, comma - on sentence strips write/type sentences
with missing punctuation - students need to place the
sentence strip in the appropriate envelope.
What’s at Walmart for Centers 1. Pocket charts
are $9.97. 2. Plastic letter tiles, plastic number tiles,
and paper money with coins, time, at $6.97 each. 3.
Flashcards from the toy department 4. Plastic tubs for
organization 5. Dry erase marker boards 6. Shower curtains-
writing floor poems or making bean bag games 7. Magnetic
tape: May put on back of pattern block shapes, 8. Large
drip pan/tray to keep driveway clean $7.96. Use on floor
for magnetic shapes or letters. 9. Ziploc Baggies.