5 Things You Won’t Hate About Year-Long Literacy Centers

Let’s get real about literacy centers. And more specifically, literacy centers in kindergarten.

We all understand the need for “centers” because we want our students to be occupied and (ideally) learning on their own so that as teachers, we can meet with small groups of students.

5 Things You Won't Hate About Year Long Literacy Centers

But when did “centers” become one of these things:

  1. The students doing the same thing every day without the option of choice
  2. The teacher makes, laminates, cuts and instructs students on new literacy activities every week or every other week

If you choose either path – great. I’m not saying it’s wrong or bad. But let me share what I’ve come to discover.

I’ve discovered that there are 5 things you won’t hate when you take a long term approach to planning and making literacy centers.

Now if you’re ready – let’s start to think about keeping the same centers all year long…

Literacy Centers in Kindergarten

First, let me share what I believe makes the cut for a good literacy center with kindergartners.

Good literacy centers for kindergarten should:

  • Be open-ended
  • Have some choice involved
  • Be familiar or routine based
  • And the center gets bonus points if students can self-differentiate it

If one of those components is lacking – it can create headaches.

5 Things You Won't Hate About Year Long Literacy Centers

I also believe that literacy centers don’t have to be something you “plan” for after the first 20 days of school. For real.

Can you imagine (for those of you who plan and put together activities for your centers each week) how much time you’d get back when all you have to plan is your guided reading group lessons?

What I’m not saying is that there is a complete short cut with literacy centers. Whether you take a Fountas and Pinnell approach, Daily 5 approach or even my approach – there is still work some involved for the teacher.

I just believe in working smart and doing as much work on the front end of the year as possible.

How Year Long Literacy Centers Are Awesome

Okay, now let’s get to the thick of it. Here are the reasons why I think figuring out how to make centers that last all year long is worth the payoff.

Laminating Less

Laminating is awesome. Well, laminating is awesome… until it isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get a secret thrill from laminating stuff just like any teacher, but I don’t like to spend time laminating stuff that won’t be used literally all the time.

5 Things You Won't Hate About Year Long Literacy Centers

When you pick long term literacy centers, you laminate a whole bunch upfront to get things rolling but you shouldn’t really have to laminate anything for a center’s activities hardly ever again.

Laminating less means I can do other things while binge-watching Netflix {wink}

Work Up Front

When I roll out my literacy centers during the first 20+ days of kindergarten, I’m teaching them everything they pretty much need to be successful in literacy centers.

With year-long centers, it’s easy enough to tweak and fine-tune what students do in centers with little bits of time. You can use sharing time afterward, show student-led examples of differentiation and keep expectations high that they will grow with the materials as their skills grow.

I don’t choose to take instructional time to teach centers after those 20 days. And there really isn’t a need to.

For me, that meant more time doing the thing I really love to do – teaching.

Additions Are Easy

Right, so what if you wanted to add a center later in the school year? With long term literacy centers, it’s usually no big deal.

5 Things You Won't Hate About Year Long Literacy Centers

You can invest a little time getting it up and running and training your kinders on how to be successful. It makes the time spent getting started (or validates the time spent making it) worthwhile knowing they will be doing it for the rest of the school year.

I mention this because I know some of you add some of my literacy centers in after the school year is underway. That way it’s not such a huge undertaking upfront. I get that.


Remember the bonus points for centers that differentiate themselves (or with very little done on your part?) I think that is part of the beauty of year-long centers.

You have to set it up so that as your kinders grow from knowing no letters – to knowing all of the letter sounds – to reading at a first grade level that your center materials can grow with them. As much as possible. But don’t let the sound of that be overwhelming.

With a little thought, you can extend or exchange what the students are currently doing with specific things they are working towards.

5 Things You Won't Hate About Year Long Literacy Centers

Detective center? Add some vowel digraph pages to their detective notebooks.

ABC center? Have them create their own stamping page from a sight word list (or spelling list) you created together in reading groups.

I have had readers who were at strong second and third grade reading levels. We had a few conversations about ways to change up the work they were doing at centers and away they went. Happy as clams to be differentiating the work themselves – and challenging themselves.

Forget the Themes

You don’t have to have an ABC order activity with apple cards, jack o’ lantern cards and turkey cards. You can, but you really don’t have to.

If you were waiting for someone to give you permission to stop doing that, consider your permission granted. {wink}

If you thought everything in your literacy centers had to have a theme – it really doesn’t.

I’m not saying you have to ditch themes in your classroom lesson plans! Far from it. I recommend keeping your themes and using them to integrate content across all subject areas (reading, writing, whole group, etc.).

It’s actually how I liked to pull my whole group lesson plans together since I hid the curriculum my school picked out for us.

But, when it comes to literacy centers… not having themes can actually make life easier. It releases you from having to match everything and you can just find things that work. Period.

Kindergarten Literacy Centers

Those five things are pretty awesome. But I know they don’t begin to share the bonuses of having year-long literacy centers – nor do they tell you how I think about and make my year-long literacy centers.

Here are some additional ways we can talk through working smart with year-long literacy centers together.

How to create smart year long literacy centers kindergarten

If you’re new to this idea, you should start with how to create smart literacy centers that last all year.

You’ll understand why I make things open-ended, offer choice and why I picked so gosh-darn-many centers.

KindergartenWorks :: Kindergarten Literacy Centers {Details, Workboard, Routine}

Let’s cover the details of creating a workboard and routine for year long literacy centers.

I like to share how I think, organize and teach on this website. So – I definitely have to share how to organize Centers in kindergarten the easy way.

And here are my favorite kindergarten literacy centers that I’ve written about to date.

You can click any one to learn a little bit more about how it works, the Common Core Standards it covers and why my kinders loved it.

There you have at least 5 things you won’t hate (and probably will love) about taking on year-long literacy centers in kindergarten.

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

5 Things You Won't Hate About Year Long Literacy Centers in Kindergarten

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  1. I did your retelling center idea last year and it was a big hit. The kids loved it and it was so easy to keep up.

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