As a kindergarten teacher, managing literacy stations/centers was trying.
With a classroom full of young and energetic students, it required constant organization, patience, and flexibility.
Creating engaging and developmentally appropriate literacy stations required careful planning and preparation.
And so much time.
I felt like all I was doing was lesson plans and making materials for kindergarten centers.
Also, managing the rotation and transition of students between stations required clear and concise instructions as well as effective time management.
Worn out from too much center changing and tired of having to manage bickering students instead of my small group, I knew there was a better way.
I developed this system after many years of experimenting.
Organizing Kindergarten Centers for Literacy
To start print two copies of the kindergarten centers labels for all of the stations in color if possible.
Then cut out the labels and back them onto colored construction paper matching the outside border of each label.
Match a blank 8 ½” by 11” piece of matching construction paper to each label.
Next laminate and cut out.
You will also need pictures back on cardstock of each student in your classroom.
Stations are paired in groups of two with one station at the top and one at the bottom.
In the middle of the two station posters are the laminated blank matching construction paper.
Then in the middle of the two pieces of construction paper, add the pictures of 2-3 students.
Students are placed in pairs or groups of no more than three to cut down on personality conflicts, goofing, and general mischief.
The groups can change after an entire round of stations is completed.
How to Stop Spending Hours on Kindergarten Centers
Students complete only two stations each day which would be the station at the top and the bottom of their pictures.
Have students begin at the station at the top and then half way through your designated station time move to the station below.
I allot 45 minutes total with 20 for each station and the additional 5 for rotating and organizing.
Each group is moved to the left except the group at the far right who move to the first box on the left.
The extra set of signs is used to identify each station around the classroom.
I worked on procedures and rules for this heavily.
All items in stations should be activities that that students can do independently without teacher help or interaction except the Teacher Trail.
The Literacy Station Posters can be used to label the independent student activity areas in your classroom regardless of how you run your rotational activities.
Students will use any alphabet activities you want to add.
This can be homemade or store boughten.
If you have an alphabet set including commercial phonics sets, abc arc mats, abc sorting, or playdoh abc mats, this is the perfect place for them.
Big Book Boulevard
Students are given the opportunity to read the Big Books that have been read aloud in whole group. The use of pointers and props are perfect for this activity.
I try to have about 10 Big Books available that we have read together and no more so the students can focus and keep things tidy.
Helpful hint: Store big books that aren’t on the easel in a tall laundry hamper for easy access and as a great way to prevent book damage.
The Book Nook is your classroom library.
The one displayed in the picture has books sorted by category.
You can do this or simply display the books randomly.
Add books that support your current classroom theme, holidays, students’ special interests, or the class Big Book.
Adding bean bags and small rocking chairs to this area makes it even more fun.
Students work on computers with education websites such as starfall.com, sesamestreet.com, etc.
Typing lists are also provided in this rotation and will include names, students’ individual addresses and telephone numbers, color words, and sight words.
Utilize headphones and earbuds if at all possible.
Use this station to house your puppets and props that are used in story time.
The students are encouraged to act out their own stories or reenact stories from books.
They are also taught how to be the actors and the audience members.
Homemade sock puppets, cardstock made puppets like the ones pictured below in Crazy Color Creatures, or store purchased puppets are great for the students to use.
If you have a puppet stage, I do recommend taking the curtain off so you have easy viewing access to all part of the classroom.
Provide students with a variety of materials including but not limited to markers, colored pencils, crayons, gel pens, and glitter sticks for drawing.
Change the materials out after your entire class has circulated through the stations.
Crayon Melt is also in this station which consists of a hot plate plugged in and turned on low, and covered with aluminum foil.
The student uses a piece of white paper and places 2 small pieces of wood to hold it down and allow the student to place one hand on the blocks while drawing.
The heat from the hot plate melts the crayon wax and creates a smooth painting feeling while drawing.
The finished picture has a stained glass like effect and looks beautiful hanging in the window like my example with Crayon Melt and Caroline Koehler written above.
Encourage students to write about their pictures and insist that they write their names on their projects.
These pieces are great to display on a brag wall.
Students can play a variety of games including the classic children’s board games (Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Hi-Ho Cherrio, and Guess Who?, Tic Tac Toe).
There are several “beach towel” bagged board games that are great for the classroom like the Tic Tac Toe one shown below.
Teacher made board games or card games are great also.
I love Pigs in the Pen (the box and dots game) and Fishing for Learning for this station.
Any book on tape/CD/mp3 player will do.
Teach how to follow along on a digital or paper book while the audio is playing.
Make sure all students are trained in using the players.
As in the Book Nook, make this a comfortable spot for enjoying a book by having some nice chair, floor pillows, or early childhood sized loveseats.
Students use magnets to create words and sentences.
New lists can be given weekly in this kindergarten centers set up.
Ideas include color words, sight words/popcorn words, students’ names (first and last), addresses, phone numbers, easy to sound out words, word wall words, and alphabet arches.
Think that overhead is useless these days?
The students love to use the overhead.
Magnetic letters, traceable overhead sheets, premade overhead pages from catalogs, etc. are great for students to work with.
An easy cooperative learning activity at the beginning of the year is to have partners trace each others’ shadows onto the board.
One tip- don’t let them write on the overhead!
Have it project to the dry erase board and have them write on the board with dry erase markers.
It can be easily erased where as the overhead is messy.
Pocket Chart Path
There are a number of premade activities for pocket charts but homemade activities include sentence strips are my favorite.
Pull out the repetitive sentences from the books and put your students’ name cards out so that they can change the characters to their own names as seen in the picture on the right.
Pocket charts are also great for ordering lines from books in which you can give a print “map” of how the lines should look.
Individual words and letters are great to use for the pocket chart to spell out names, sight words, months, holidays, etc. or sort words by initial letters as in the picture on the left.
The students in my class learn a poem each week.
They have poetry books at this station where each student has an individually labeled composition notebook for every student in the classroom.
Students are supplied with the printed poem and are tasked with cutting out the poem, gluing it into their personal poetry book.
Then, they illustrate the poem, and take turns reading the poems throughout their books.
They may take these home either at the end of each grading period, semester, or school year depending on your organization strategies.
Utilize those nice wood puzzles you have and the paperboard puzzles in boxes.
Make your own puzzles or print off puzzles and have your students cut and make their own puzzles to take home.
Build on your monthly themes and make fun and easy puzzles like the one pictured below.
Make sure you establish the rule that the puzzles must be cleaned up and demonstrate how to do this.
Read and Roam
This is very similar to write and roam but the students will be reading the classroom or designated area with their one or two partners.
Providing lists such as read the calendar, read the word wall, read the 100s chart, etc is very helpful.
Give students with hand pointers like flashlights, wands, rulers, flyswatters, silly glasses, and binoculars.
This adds to the excitement and active engagement of this very popular station.
Create spelling lists for the students to practice.
Common lists include class names, teachers’ names, color words, number words, sight words, word families, word wall words, months, days, etc.
Changing the materials for students to write on is key.
My favorite recording tools for these kindergarten centers include
- small wipe off boards
- bulletin board letters
- letter tiles
- magnetic drawing boards
- paper (colorful and white)
- wiki sticks
- alphabet stickers
Students use alphabet stamping for this station.
This consists of pictures that represent sight words, phonetic words, or word families.
Stamps that have pictures on them can also be a fun change for this station.
When I use picture stamps I encourage students to create a story or scene with the stamps and write about it.
I use this as an extra writing station.
The students can make cards, make books from starter sets.
I create different books that have several pages and all start with I can ____ or I am______ or I like_____.
Also, students make their own original books from stapled paper.
If you have an audio recorder, students can orally tell stories.
Adding stickers for students who don’t enjoy drawing is also engaging.
Another twist is having the students work together with one being the author and one being the illustrator.
Teacher Trail is your small group station to work on skills for kindergarten centers.
This includes alphabet knowledge, fluency, phonemic awareness, phonics, reading comprehension, word recognition, and vocabulary.
If your school district has a commercial language arts set, this is where you can utilize some of the scripted activities.
Any of the activities that you place in the other literacy stations can be taught, practiced, and mastered in this station.
This allows them to be independently completed when an adult is not present.
Word Family Track
Word Family Track can be used with any word family.
Commercial sets such as the picture on the left or teacher made sets such as the picture on the right using the hundreds chart are engaging.
To use the hundreds chart for spelling, print off 15 copies of each alphabet letter and order them as pictured.
Then put picture cards on the opposite side and have the students spell out the words.
Word Work Station
Provide reinforcement for working with words from small group or whole group activities.
Reading rods, letter tiles, letter beads, and teacher created themed letter as pictured on the left are great for students to make words.
Focus on easy to sound out words, color words, and student names.
Write and Roam
Students are provided with clipboards and are “roaming” or walking around the classroom or area that you designate looking for words to write.
Premade scavenger hunts are nice.
- looking for words that start with a certain letter
- words that end with a certain letter
- words that have three letter words (or any number of letters)
- words that have a capital letter
- words that have two vowels (or any number of vowels)
Changing out the writing tool for this kindergarten centers activity also keeps it fresh and interesting: pencils, markers, gel pens, red pens, etc.
This station can be leveled very easily for diverse learners but includes any writing or fine motor building activity.
Stencils, story starters, rainbow words, tracing pages, pyramid spelling pages, book responses, holiday crafts, etc.
So, now that you know there’s a better way, hop on it!
Gather your materials and start having fun with kindergarten centers time.
Download my set of kindergarten centers signs and make your days smoother.