Kindergarten Literacy Centers: Details, Workboard and Routine


Literacy centers are a huge portion of our day. They allow me to teach guided reading to small groups of students and keep students learning and on task. Here is how I use a literacy center workboard, routine and transitions to make this portion of our day work smoothly.

Literacy centers makes a big impression on my kindergarten students’ view of their school day and impact on their reading and writing skills by offering tons of opportunities to practice them.

Literacy Center Workboard Placement

My literacy center workboard (where student names and center icons are located) is visible from just about anywhere in the classroom. I have a total of 4 purple pocket charts side by side that make up this display.

I’m a big believer in making my walls functional, so that wall has bulletin board paper and a duct tape border to make it look like a bulletin board. I have the pocket charts stapled up to hold everything needed for our workboard.

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

Note: Pictured above you see 3 pocket charts on the far wall, but I later added a fourth to improve spacing and make it more visually pleasing.

Literacy Center Placement Workboard Setup

My literacy centers are set up in pocket charts.

This allows me freedom to add icons as we learn more centers throughout the beginning of school and make any changes as I see fit.

The top row of the pocket chart holds index cards. I write 3-4 student names on an index card to form a center group.

Using the pocket strips below, I place up to 3 icons below each set of names. These icons show the students the order of the centers they will be visiting that day.

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

Students are grouped heterogeneously.

This simply means that I don’t put all of the same level readers or performers in one group. Creating groups with a high, average and lower reader gives everyone a role to play and allows me room to put personalities that will work well together.

Groups change about every 9 weeks to ensure students get the opportunity to learn with all different styles of learners and personalities. It helps keeps things fresh on a daily basis.

Literacy Center Rotations

Students go to three centers each day once we are up and running smoothly.

These centers take place all over the classroom.

They go to the very first picture listed below their index card with their group’s names listed on it. They will stay at that center until signaled to clean up.

They will go to the next (2nd) center listed below and repeat again later with their third.

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

Each day the index cards are rotated to the next column of center icons.

This way a student and their group will visit 3 new centers each day. The variety of choices works really well for us. Rotating the name cards is a student job in our classroom.

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

I believe in making centers feel fun so that students are actively engaged while learning, so I have lots of “reading” centers, “writing” centers and “word work” centers.

They each just have a different feel, keeping my kinders on their toes.

Literacy Center Daily Routine

What I’m Doing

I work with my guided reading groups while literacy centers are taking place.

Students come to see me with other students who read with similar strategies or need similar guided practice. They come from all over the classroom when signaled, leaving their center knowing they won’t get to complete it.

We learn early on that this is the reason we have centers, so we quickly adjust our attitudes on “missing” centers. We learn that we have centers to work independently so that the teacher can help us become better readers.

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

I pull one group while a 20-30 minute literacy center is taking place.

Sometimes I will assess, work with a smaller group of 1-2 students who need intense work or just aren’t getting something crucial.

I’m not a center, so that really allows me flexibility to do exactly what I need to do.

What the Routine Looks Like

  1. Students go to their first center for 20-30 minutes and then are signaled to clean up.
  2. We gather to do a read aloud and story discussion. If time allows or I want to be sure to edify something great, then I allow 1-3 minutes of sharing center work before we begin our story.
  3. Following our story, students are dismissed to their second literacy center.
  4. They work for 20-30 minutes and then are signaled to clean up. {Sound familiar?}
  5. We gather {and potentially share} to do phonics or word work and then dismiss to our third reading center.
  6. We complete this for 20-30 minutes and gather to move on with our day.

Transitioning Between Literacy Centers

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

Students learn to quickly read our literacy center workboard independently {although not magically… we work hard to make it happen smoothly}. They learn to utilize the tools and materials of our classroom and classroom spaces to work wherever they can best do their learning.

Signaling Clean Up

Once a center is over, I turn on the Disney song, (affiliate link) “Whistle While You Work.” It is an icon on my computer that is a shortcut directly to play the song in Windows Media Player but of course you could easily play a song from your phone wherever you are in the classroom.

I made it a one-click process so it’s quick for me and easy enough for a kinder to do.

I will often ask a student to turn it on for me when I am still in the middle of finishing up with a group or across the room interacting with students at their center.

Sharing Their Work

Students may often bring their center materials {within reason} to our gathering space if they have something they want to show off.

Most often they want to read a page, show a sight word they discovered or show their final product.

Sometimes I highlight strategies I saw students attempting in groups and connect it with a literacy center where they can do it for more practice.

So, there are some of the details of how we run our literacy centers – how about yours?

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

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    1. Hi Marcia,
      Time is extremely tight in a half day program. I taught it for 2 years before I switched to full day in my last school. When it came right down to it, I had to pick and choose where to spend my time that made the most sense. While we had to cover it “all” I really did allow myself to donate a lot of time to small groups since I felt I could make the most headway with students where they were at and that would benefit them the most. We gave 45 mins – 1 and 15 mins. to literacy centers/guided reading during a half day program. That’s a huge chunk! Here is a post I wrote that may help you consider how to get the most out of the time you do spend with your groups (not matter how much time you decide to donate):

  1. Hi Larissa, Good question. It may depend upon how many groups you break your students into. To be honest, in today’s kindergarten it’d be nice to meet with everyone the same number of times. Right?

    We didn’t start out with this grouping – but it’s what we grew into based on their needs…

    I met with my lowest group M, T, W, F. There were only 3 in that group. That meant that they were also receiving “more” than their peers and helped me provide documentation for RTI support based on # of kiddos per group and number of lessons they received. Then my next group (5 kinders) I met with on T, W, R, F. They continued to need the repetition to master the standards and read on grade level! My next group (6 kinders) met M, W, F. My next group (6 kinders) met T, R. My highest group (7 kinders honestly ranging wide in reading levels) met M, R.

    Here’s a pic I sketched out 🙂

    I hope it can help you start to plan your schedule.
    – Leslie

  2. Also…..IDEALLY, I want to meet with the same reading group three times a week…how do you accomplish this?? and I love the simplicity of moving their NAMEA and not the center…this makes so much sense!!!!

  3. I love love love how you have in between time to check in with students during centered. this is brilliant and keeps them engaged and connected. I am switching to kinder after reading teacher/library teacher for nine years, and I’m just addicted to your blog!!! Thank you for all the hard work you put into your posts, teaching ideas, and materials 🙂

    1. Hi Meghann,
      You’d set it up the same way. You could do with fewer centers (like I had 15+, you could have fewer if you wanted) but anyone could do that no matter the # of days they did in a week. I just really liked the variety.
      But you’d still move their names across the chart each day you have centers. How frequently they get through the cycle doesn’t matter. They would only move through 3-4 days worth of centers in a week. The next time you have centers, you move the names.
      – Leslie

    1. Hi Natalie,
      Good question! If I remember correctly, I was tighter on timing and tried to really keep my groups limited to the time I had set. But we did 3-4 center rotations (I allowed it to be about 50 mins to an hour of our day) which is a huge chunk in a half day program! I didn’t teach math in groups at that time, so I made this part of the day our main focus. I had a similar number of centers and structured rotations the same way.

  4. I love all your ideas. I am looking at your literacy center routine board. What do each of them stand for? I can see the listening center, play dough, computers, but I am having a difficult time figuring out what the other ones are. Also do you have the same centers up for different groups? Thanks for all you have posted….LOVE how you have explained everything.

    1. Hi Karen,
      Thanks so much for your kind words! Here is a list of each center that we had: Each center was the same for the whole class because the choices available at each allowed them to pretty much differentiate for themselves 😉 Plus, the groups were hetergeneous (mixed ability levels), so they could help out each other as needed.
      – Leslie

  5. Hi! I came to this via pinterest. This will be my first year teaching kindergarten and I am trying to figure out how I am going to run reading groups/lit centers. At first I thought I would rotate groups with myself as a center (and my assistant as well), but am starting to play with the idea of being able to pull throughout the period. What do they do when they are done-move on to the next center? Do you have an assistant- what does he/she do during this time?

    Thank you very much!

    1. I would highly recommend that you pull as opposed to making yourself a center. You will have a much better success rate at students managing themselves (at centers) when they are grouped with students of a range of ability levels. When they are done they simply go back to wherever I pulled them from or wherever their group moved onto if for some reason I pulled a group longer than I wanted everyone else to stay at their center. Nope, no assistant most years. I have had one when my numbers hit 27+.
      – Leslie

      1. I guess we’re super lucky! My para will be with me for our full reading block and we are to use them for instructional purposes. Would you suggest her pulling kids as well, or will that be confusing.

        1. You are very lucky! I would have her pull too because that will mean more direct instruction for your kinders (in a small group setting) and it also means less kinders on their own having to be “independent” which doesn’t always work exactly as we’d like. It should give you great flexibility to have that as an option!
          – Leslie

  6. Hi! I came to this via pinterest. This will be my first year teaching kindergarten and I am trying to figure out how I am going to run reading groups/lit centers. At first I thought I would rotate groups with myself as a center (and my assistant as well), but am starting to play with the idea of being able to pull throughout the period. What do they do when they are done-move on to the next center? Do you have an assistant- what does he/she do during this time?

    Thank you very much!

  7. LESLIE are you willing and able to share your icon doc with name/description of what the students are doing at the centers?

  8. I love that the children are in different positions that are comfortable for them to learn. Way to go! I see kids standing, sitting, laying on their stomachs – you are making great readers and writers. Thanks for sharing the pictures. Your room looks great!

  9. It all seems logical but how can I be successful with 33 students? I have TRIED to meet with small groups while the rest are working independently and I can’t seem to get them all in. Thus, my days are not as structured as I would like them to be. Is it OK to only meet with half the class for LA. It doesn’t feel OK but again, I can’t seem to meet with them all. The large group is VERY challenging. Any tips or resources for extra large groups?

    1. Claud, I definitely think that 33 is an extremely large number. I would meet with my two lowest groups each day. Then I’d rotate the others in to see them 1-2 times a week. It won’t feel amazing perhaps, because you know you’d like to meet each group each day, but it will give you quality time to practice specific to each grouping of kiddos. Structuring your groups this way will also mean you are giving RTI services to your kiddos (if you have to adhere to that) since you’re giving them the most time when compared to the rest of your class. Hope these tips can help! Best wishes.
      – Leslie

    1. Hi Amy, That’s the beauty of most centers. Most are open-ended so there isn’t too much that has to get finished. Pokey pinning and ABC center have a must-do component and then an open-ended component for when they’ve completed it. Students return to that center during the next rotation if they didn’t complete their work. They don’t get to move on for the day. Same goes with cleaning up since that’s part of the deal 😉
      – Leslie

  10. Other than the centers that require a friend to “check” the work- like if they have to read something to a partner, how do you check the work that students do without wasting valuable time? I’m thinking I may try to do something with an iPad (students can take pictures of their work and we can view it on our Bright Links projector…but I have to buy an iPad first!), or something else creative that doesn’t take a great amount of time. Also, I know a lot of teachers who either have a “share time” after guided reading/centers is complete or either they have their students write about their centers for the day. Is this something you do?

  11. Hi Leslie!

    I nominated you for The Versatile Award! I just recently stumbled across your blog and am glad I did. I’m always looking for new inspiration and love how blogs provide a little “window” into different classrooms 🙂

    If you wish to accept, the details can be found at my blog, Kindergarten Lesson Plans!

    Have a wonderful week and thanks again for sharing your ideas with all of us in the early childhood blogging community!

    Kayla Johnson

  12. This looks really interesting. Could you give us a listing of all your centers you rotate through? Thanks so much for sharing with us!!!

  13. This looks awesome! Are you full day kindergarten and where did you get the icons?
    This is my second year teaching kindergarten (half day), 14th year in teaching and this is one chart I still need to make. Right now, I’m just telling them. Absolute waste of time…
    Thank you for your help!

    1. Thanks Lacy – it does save time. I used this same format when teaching half day, I just had AM in one color on the front of the name cards and PM in another color. The icons are all my creations 😉 People have asked me to post them…. I really should get on that!

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