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Center Starters: Quick and Easy Literacy Centers

Melanie Carter
Curriculum Specialist, Gross Elementary School


By the end of this workshop, Corps Members will have centers to
implement in their classrooms that are appropriate for lower
elementary grades. CMs will create or know how to create a sight
word center, a spelling center, a reading comprehension center, and a
writing center. Handouts will also be given for math activities that
can be done independently in the centers rotation.


1. Introduction and explanation of goals of the workshop (10 minutes)
The main focus of this workshop is to arm you with materials to
begin using in the classroom. Once you choose the management
system best for you and your collaborative, it will be easy to plug in
these items.

2. Explanation and Creation of Centers (60 minutes)
Sight Word Center (12-15 minutes)
Spelling Center (12-15 minutes)
Reading Comprehension Center (12-15 minutes)
Writing Center (12-15 minutes)

3. Clean up and questions (10 minutes)

Resources Recommended
1. Sensational Centers, published by The Education Center, TEC 2869, (this
resource has tons of fabulous ideas for literacy, math, science, and holidays/seasonal centers.
2. Success with Sight Words, ISNB 1-57471-533x (this is where I got the idea for the contract
format, although in this book the contract is more involved)

Sight Word Center
Skill: Recognizing words

Materials needed:
 Brown paper lunch bag
 Index cards, cut in half
 Supply of sight word contracts
 As the teacher, you will need to look at the contract and decide which
options to make available to students. This gives you the freedom to
use the same handout but to limit activities based on materials that
are available to you.
 Grade-level high frequency words list (also available in the literacy
curriculum toolkit, page 65)

Setting up the center:
1. Cut 10 index cards in half. This will be enough words to get you started.
2. Looking at the word list according to your grade level, select 20 words.
Write the words on each index card half.
3. Label your paper bag “Sight Words.”
4. Put the words into the paper bag.
5. Place supply of contracts* at center for students.

Using the center:
1. Student takes a contract and sets a goal for the center.
2. Student then selects 5 words from the bag and writes those words on
the contract.
3. Student then completes activities of his or her own choice, making sure
to check off the activity after it has been chosen.

*In Success with Sight Words, it suggests giving a point system to the activities
listed on the contract, and the student sets a goal for so many points instead of
number of activities for the week. It also has a longer list of activities to
accompany sight words, except the contract would then serve more the purposes of
school-home connections and not be as appropriate for centers.
Name ______________________________________
Week ______________________________________

I will complete ______ activities at the center this week.
I will put my work in my folder.

Words for the Week

_________, _________, _________, _________, _________

Check off each activity you do.

1. Read a story. See how many times you can find your words.
2. Print your words five times in grits.
3. See how many times you can write your words in one minute.
4. Write three or more sentences using your words.
5. Use beans to form your words.
6. Print the words on someone’s back. Make them guess your words.
7. Use crayons to write your words in as many colors as possible.
8. Draw your favorite book character saying your words.
9. Find the letters of your words in a newspaper. Cut out and spell your words.
10. Write three or more words that rhyme with your words.
11. Write a letter to someone using your words.
12. Write a story using your words.

I completed my sight word contract!
Date completed________________________________________
Student signature______________________________________
Teacher signature______________________________________
Parent signature_______________________________________

Spelling Center
Skill: Spelling

Materials needed:
 A copy of a current spelling list (you could use one word family per
 A supply of crayons, pencils, pipe cleaners, yarn, cornmeal, art paper
 Index cards, cut in half
 Brown paper lunch sack

Setting up the center:
1. Write spelling words individually on an index card half.
2. Label your paper bag “Spelling Center.”
3. Place the words into the bag.
4. Display items that are needed for the spelling activities.
5. Post a copy of spelling center ideas at center for student reference.

Using the center:
1. Student removes a word from the bag.
2. Student chooses from list of ideas to spell his or her word.
3. Student should do three activities with one word before putting it back
in the bag and selecting another.

Sample word families:
at, an, am, ip, im, in, ig, it, ug, ut, op, ot, en, ed, et, ap, ad, ell, ill, ack,
y (as in by, my, cry, and not happy, many, very), ee, ick, ish, ee, ick, ish, uff, uck, ank, ink, ing,
ang, atch, unch
Spelling Activities

Choose an activity for the spelling word you took from the bag.

1. Write the word with crayon or pencil.

2. Make the word using pipe cleaners.

3. Write the word in cornmeal.

4. Make the word using yarn.

5. Draw a picture of the word.

6. Read the word to a friend.

7. Use the word in a sentence.

8. Play spelling bee with a friend.
Reading Comprehension Center

Skill: Story elements and sequencing

Materials needed:
 Reading books of varying levels
 A supply of graphic organizers for story elements (fold-up book) and
story sequence (story bug or story scoop)

Setting up the center:
1. Place a variety of books at center (vary them on level and topic, if
2. Display graphic organizers at center.
3. Provide writing utensils, crayons, and scissors at center.

Using the center:
1. Student selects a book.
2. Student reads the book at the center.
3. Student completes the graphic organizer of choice (or, of your choice if
you are focusing on a certain comprehension method).

Please refer to the literacy curriculum for recommended literature, if you are not sure which
books would be appropriate to place at center. Also, it is possible that you have leveled phonics
readers in your classroom that do not correspond with your reading series. If so, they also
make a good choice for lower-level reading.
Creative Writing Center

Skill: Creative writing

Materials needed:
 index cards
 paper bag or other container for index cards
 supply of writing paper and utensils including crayons
 list of ideas to write onto the index cards (see below)

Setting up the center:
1. Print each activity from list of ideas onto each card.
2. Keep cards in a container such as a paper lunch bag at the center
3. Provide writing utensils and crayons at center.

Using the center:
1. Student selects an index card from the bag.
2. Student completes the activity the index card says.
3. Student places work in folder to either complete later or hand in at the
end of the week.

Writing center ideas:
1. Describe yourself. What do you look like? What do you do? Write it down.
2. Write a letter to Santa. Tell him all the things you want for Christmas.
3. What is your favorite television show or movie? Why? Tell me about it.
4. What would you do with 100 dollars? Write about it.
5. What is your favorite holiday? Why is it your favorite? Tell me what you can see, smell, hear,
touch, and taste on that holiday.
6. Who is your best friend? Why is that person your best friend? What things do you do with
your best friend? Tell me about it.
7. What do you want to be when you grow up? Why did you choose this to do?
8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Why would you live there?
Who would you want to live with you?
9. You are the commander of a rocket ship. Where will you take the rocket ship? Who will you
bring with you? What things will you have to bring with you?
10. What would you do if you woke up and the world was upside-down? Tell me about it.
Math Daily Work

The date is ___________________________________.

Yesterday was _________________________________.

Today is ______________________________________.

Tomorrow will be _______________________________.

We have been in school for _______ days.

Math Sentences
Make math sentences. Draw pictures to go with your math sentences.

___ + ___ = ___ ___ + ___ = ___

___ + ___ = ___ ___ + ___ = ___