Thursday, March 21, 2013

Getting Organized for Literacy Centers!

Literacy Centers (Stations) are a big part of my Kindergarten class.  

But they are hard.  

Every year you have a new class, with new kids and new issues.  Sometimes you have a dream class who can do things by themselves.  Sometimes you have a class with a really wide range of abilities.  Sometimes you have a class of kids that have learning/behavior issues.

Every year I dread starting centers.  I know it will be good once they get it.  But getting there can really stink.

So here are my tips for a good experience:

#1: Be prepared

Yes, the old Boy Scout adage applies to everything.  Don't try to just jump in.  It will go so much smoother if you are really deliberate in what centers you choose and how you introduce them. 

#2:  Introduce Centers slowly

Introduce one center at a time.  Too much too fast will have your students confused and uncertain about your expectations.  I had ALL of my students do each center as a whole group before we moved on.

#3:  Be VERY CLEAR about your expectations

Kindergarteners need boundaries.  They live for rules.  But if you don't give them guidelines they act like monsters.  Tell them explicitly what you want the center and their behavior to look and sound like. Model it.  Act it out.  Have them model it.  Do it until you are blue in the face and then do it again. 

#4: Be FIRM and consistent

You know the saying: "Give them an inch, they will take a mile"?  Yeah, it really applies here.  If you let one student get away with not following your center rules then soon it will all be mayhem.  Be consistent with your rules!  I give them once chance to make a good choice.  I see them fooling around during their center then they are OUT. 

#5: Be organized!

If you don't want 100000 questions about what students should be doing, then you need some sort of chart.  Here is mine:

I have my students in colored groups.  Then they can follow through with their different assignments.  At the end of the day I move the names down one.

Notice how I have photographs?  This helps them find what Center they need to go to.  It also eliminates the "What is Build-A-Letter again??" questions while I am trying to work with a group.  This is really important.

I also label the bins with matching photographs, so they can easily find their materials.

There are some centers that have a coordinating paper to write on.  I keep all of those in labeled file folders organized in a dish rack!  The pencils and spacers, white board markers, and tissues are all there too!  No more running all over the room looking for stuff!

Centers are an integral part of my Literacy block in Kindergarten.  Without them I wouldn't be able to get the results that I get.  But getting them right takes time and patience and a ton of planing. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kindergarten ABC Literacy Station Ideas!

I love literacy stations!

I love giving my students a variety of materials and ways to show their understanding.  I also strive to make LA as fun as possible.  So, here are some of my favorite ABC station activities!

Lowercase Letters with Snap Cubes

Students use the connecting cubes to build the lowercase letters! Great fine motor practice!  Check them out HERE!

ABC Matching Mats

Great resource for identifying letters and sounds.  Students grab a magnetic letter and find the matching picture on the mat.  They can either color the picture or just put the letter on top.  Easy!  Both freebies can be found here on my TPT store.  

Alphabet Puzzles

Students use ABC puzzles to practice matching upper and lowercase letters, or putting letters in order. We ordered most of these from Lakeshore!

Magnet Letters

Students use dollar store cookie trays and magnetic letters to spell words/names.  

ABC Books

Students practice identifying letters and reading the variety of ABC books we have.

Missing Letter Stamps

This is a new one!  Students use letter stamps to fill in the missing letters on the chart.  You could switch it up and do all uppercase or all lowercase (but make sure you have the right stamps!).  Here is the FREE Missing Letter Stamp paper!


Students use the shape blocks to build their letters.  Go HERE to find this awesome freebie courtesy of Confessions of a Homeschooler.

Write the Room

Students use the paper with a clipboard and walk around the room to write words/names they recognize.  My rule is they have to be able to read it back to me!  Look HERE for the FREE Write the Room paper!

Read the Room

Students find words in the classroom that begin with every letter of the alphabet.  Go HERE for the FREE worksheet!

Digging for Letters!

I filled a bin with rice and toss in some foam letters (I used dollar store foam ABC puzzles).  Students reach in and dig to find the ABC's.  As they find the letters they color in the matching letter on the paper.  The kids really enjoy searching through the sand!  Click HERE for the FREE paper!

Handwriting with White Boards

Students use white boards to practice writing their letters correctly.  You could go high tech and do it on the SmartBoard!

Big Book Center

Students find the letter of the week (this week it is Yy) in our laminated magazines and big books.  They circle the letters and then erase with a tissue when done.  As the year progresses we move to Sight Words and even Punctuation marks!

Magazine Words

Students find words starting with the different letters of the Alphabet and cut them out of magazines.  This one keeps them busy for a long time!  Click HERE to grab the freebie!

ABC Order

Students can use magnetic letters to put letters in ABC order.  So easy! Find this resource HERE!

I hope you got some new great ideas for your Literacy Stations! 

You may also like my posts on my literacy station organization, Word Building activities for iteracy stations, or Sight Word activities for literacy stations!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sight Word Literacy Station Activities

literacy center sight word activities

As a Kindergarten teacher I LOVE centers. It give my students the opportunity to practice what we have learned and keeps them busy so I can do my Guided Reading groups!

Typically I use a lot of alphabet activities in my centers because as we all know, if they don't know the letters and sounds they won't be able to read.  But this year - WOW!  My students are much more advanced than I am used to.  It is like I'm teaching First Grade!!! So I have had to come up with new centers that are at their level, and I made a bunch!

Many of my students are beginning readers, so I made a ton of Sight Word activities to help them practice.  Here are some of my favorites!

**NEW** Mystery Sight Words

This is NEW! My students go crazy for this literacy station activity!  Students find the initial sound for each picture and it spells a mystery sight word!  My kiddos are obsessed with recording sheet, so I give them a paper to write the words down.  You can use a marker or magnetic letters!  Check it out HERE!

Sight Word Finger Paint

Take a gallon sized zip-lock bag and add a few squirts of paint and some water.  You don't want to add too much paint or when they trace the letters they won't see anything!  Then press out the air, seal it up tight and tape the edges.  Easy!

literacy center sight word activities

Fine Motor Sight Words

Students use plastic tweezers to place small puff-balls to make their sight words.  Those pincher muscles are extremely important for their fine motor development to help with handwriting.  Find the center paper HERE.   I also have a longer version with all the Dolch Pre-Primer words HERE!

literacy center sight word activities

Kinesthetic  Sight Words

Not all students learn the same way, and some need to feel the words to learn them.  Add some fine sand into a pencil box and give them an un-sharpened pencil.  They can trace the sight words in the sand!  And the pencil box keeps the sand neat and tidy!

literacy center sight word activities

Build-a-Sight Word

Students use connecting cubes to build their sight words.  These take a lot of fine motor strength and a good amount of time!  Find the center paper HERE!

literacy center sight word activities

Watercolor Sight Words

I write the sight words on small sheets of white paper with white crayon.  The students use water color paint to find out what the mystery word is!   I keep them in a soft pencil pouch (4 - one for each student!) so that I can keep track of who does what.  I also write the word really small in pencil so I can double check!

literacy center sight word activities

Sight Word Practice

Students use a pencil, crayon, colored pencil, and marker to practice writing one sight word.  It is amazing how excited they get to write in something other than pencil.  Really they are pretty easy to please! :)  Get the sight word center paper freebie HERE!

literacy center sight word activities

Sight Word Jenga

This is one of my favorites.  I took a used Jenga game (cheap at yard sales and thrift stores!) and wrote sight words on each end (you could even do the sides!).  Students have to be able to read the sight word before they can push/pull out the block.  Fun! I also have the students write the word they pulled out on a recording sheet!  Check this freebie out HERE!

literacy center sight word activities

 Sight Word Cookies/Pancakes

This is a cute one.  Students take turns to use a spatula to bring cookies/pancakes to their plate.  But they need to be able to read the word first!  I printed the words onto brown construction paper, laminated the whole sheet and cut out the circles.  They won't last forever, but that is OK!  Find the sight word paper HERE!

literacy center sight word activities

literacy center sight word activities

Sight Words with Letter Tiles

This is similar to the Read-Make-Build mat I linked on a previous post.  Students use letter tiles to build a sight word and then a wipe-off marker to write it!

Check it out on TPT Here!