playdough make the best word work center

One of my favorite balanced literacy centers is our word work center. I give credit to my co-teacher because she was using playdough as a learning tool in her classroom and I wasn’t. Now, I’m not in competition by any stretch – it was just one of those moments where you look at what you’re doing and feel the twinge of “I need to improve.” It felt a bit like a kick in the pants because I am a firm believer in students being able to manipulate (which kinders think feels like play) to learn literacy and how much more manipulative can you get than playdough?

Two summers ago I was determined to create a word work center that taught students some key things and not just how to play with playdough, which I knew if not carefully constructed, they would default to. So I toiled away…

This center features a poster explaining what their goals and choices are. Each activity has the standards posted next to it (hard to see). The star designates that at this center students have choice as to which activity they’d like to do. (Our class agenda features the star for “choice time” (play time) so the symbol translates well).

This is a sample of the workmat that students use to stamp the sight word and then roll out the letters in playdough to form the word. I change out the sight words every nine weeks to match the ones we’re working on. So, the activity never changes, but the materials change which helps keep the center keep from feeling stale.

We have one set of lowercase abc stampers from Lakeshore. They are great quality and I want my students to focus on lowercase since that’s what they’ll see most often in print. We have four tupperwares of playdough and a few plastic rolling pins.

This is a sample workmat where students stamp the missing letter from the ABC order. At the beginning of the year I choose only cards that feature the last letter missing, then we move up in difficulty to the middle of the strip is missing to the beginning of the strip is missing.

Students stamp rhyming words (and essentially word families) using the pictures as a clue. I took the photos off of starfall (love that site!) and align when my students use these mats to coincide with when we focus on the matching vowel or vowel pattern.


This is a sample student workmat that students use to form the letters using playdough “snakes.” I add black and gray dots to show how many strokes and where to start.

I have to admit, I try to work smart to create centers that will last a long time and differentiate themselves!

If you like what I do here on KindergartenWorks, then be sure to subscribe today. I look forward to sharing ideas with you weekly.
- Leslie

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About Leslie atKindergartenWorks

Leslie is the author of KindergartenWorks. She teaches kindergarten students how to be pretty incredible along with teaching them to read, write and think for themselves. She enjoys graphic design, learning new things and sharing with teachers. Google+

  • Ashley Nichols

    WOW!! I LOVE this!!! Is all of this on TpT??? I have to have it! It is the perfect addition to my Word Work Daily 5 choice!!! :)

  • KindergartenWorks

    I love getting mail – Thanks Ashley! The poster, rhyming/word families and parent playdough letter are all downloadable free if you click on the pictures. I sent you a quick note on facebook just to let you know I’ll be glad to work at putting the other pieces together to share!

  • Kathleen

    LOVE this!! I would love to see more! I am with Ashley on this one! I need to have it! Keep making them – let us know when you post them!

  • KindergartenWorks

    I’ve packaged the materials together on TPT based on your requests. Thanks ladies! Here is the entire pack – enjoy and we’d love to see pictures of your kinders learning!

  • lovetwoteach

    I just bought your Playdough Word Work Pack on TPT, and OMG!!!! I LOVE IT!!!! I would love to feature you guys for a giveaway on my blog. I think more teachers need to know about your stuff. I am using it in my first grade class!!!! Great stuff! Let me know if you would be interested in a giveaway on this pack. My email is:


  • KindergartenWorks

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • KindergartenWorks

    Wow – thanks Kristen! So glad you love it – my kinders do too! I sent you an e-mail tonight. We’d love to be a part of what you share with your followers. Fun!

  • Caitlin

    I can’t find the spell the 3-letter word sheets. I bought and downloaded the set on tpt but don’t see them. Am I just missing them?

  • KindergartenWorks

    Hi Caitlin,
    On page 4 – click on the image for the CVC stamping word sheets (bottom row, middle picture). That should take your directly to the download so you can see what I created for personal use within my classroom. Let me know if you need any more help via e-mail (!

  • Stephanie

    I LOVE YOUR CLIPART!!!! Where do you get it from??

  • KindergartenWorks

    Thanks Stephanie! It all depends… Some I make from scratch, most that I find, I modify to fit my kinders’ needs :)

  • Lauren

    I love these activities! I just bought them and can’t wait to share with my students!!!

  • KindergartenWorks

    Thanks Lauren – I hope your kinders love them like mine do!

  • Mrs. Morris

    I love this! I wish I had thought of this when I was teaching Pre-K!

  • Mrs. Berg

    I love how you created work mats for the dough stampers. I teach first grade and have this in a center as an early finisher activity. The work mats are great for giving them more direction as to what to stamp. LOVE IT! Thanks for sharing =)

    First Grade School Box

  • KindergartenWorks

    Thanks Mrs. Morris and Mrs. Berg! So glad to hear that it gives your first graders the “focus” they need. Mine sure do sometimes!

  • Pam

    Hi I just bought your playdoh word work. I love it!! But I can’t get the freebies :( (The poster, rhyming/word families and parent playdough letter are all downloadable free) I clicked on the picture but nothings happens. I have signed on to my account. Could you send them to me by email?

  • Cindy

    I am going to have to find a more powerful word than THANKS to show my appreciation for your hard work! But for now…THANKS Leslie!

  • Lindsey W

    Thank you so much for inspiring me to order the stamps and put this in place right away in the fall! I love it! In the past all I had was my kids making letters and I had not thought about the rest of what I could do! Do you have the mini letter books and cards on TPT or on google?

  • Leslie @KindergartenWorks

    They are all in a pack on TPT, Teachers Notebook and AtoZ. You can get them wherever your preference lies! Thanks! So glad you’re excited!

  • Leslie @KindergartenWorks

    Cindy, Thanks spells volumes. You’re welcome!

  • Leslie @KindergartenWorks

    They are all in a pack on TPT, Teachers Notebook and AtoZ. You can get them wherever your preference lies! Thanks! So glad you’re excited!