Implementing Learning Centers for Literacy Instruction

Implementing Learning Centers for Literacy Instruction
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  • 0:00 The Importance of…
  • 1:03 Step One: Identify…
  • 1:50 Step Two: Gather Materials
  • 3:16 Step Three: Determine…
  • 4:35 Step Four: Introduce Centers
  • 5:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rita Kerrigan

Rita has taught elementary and middle school and has a master's degree in reading education.

Learning centers are an important and necessary part of literacy instruction. Implementing these centers takes time and organization, and students benefit tremendously from the small group activities that take place in them.

The Importance of Literacy Centers

Literacy centers are a vital part of a literacy curriculum. They give students the opportunity to work individually or in small groups to practice reading skills in innovative ways. This allows students to build their independence and ability to work with others while working on key literacy concepts. At the same time, while the rest of the class is busy working in their centers, the teacher is free to work with a small group of students, often giving a guided reading lesson. In a guided reading lesson, a teacher helps students learn how to effectively use reading strategies, such as making inferences, while reading a book together in a small group.

Implementing literacy centers can be very overwhelming and that prevents some teachers from trying this highly effective practice. However, if the implementation is taken one step at a time, it is much more manageable for the teacher.

Step One: Identify Centers and Objectives

The first step a teacher should take when planning literacy centers is to determine what kinds of centers are needed in the classroom. Student assessments, both formal and informal, should guide these decisions. For example, if a teacher notices that many students in the room are having difficulty with rhyming words, it would be a good idea to create a center where students can work together to practice grouping rhyming words. After the teacher decides what kinds of centers to use, he or she should determine objectives for each center. What should the students learn from this center? What are the goals for the students as they work in this center? These objectives will keep the teacher focused on the purpose of each center.

Step Two: Gather Materials

After the specific centers are determined and objectives are created for each one, the teacher should begin to gather or create the necessary materials. It is important to try to keep the general layout of all of the centers similar, even though they may each contain different materials. For example, using the same kind of bin to hold the materials of each center is a good idea so that students become familiar with the bins and are able to recognize and use them easily.

Each center should have a visible sign so that students can locate it in the classroom with ease, as well as a written list of expectations. These will be explained by the teacher prior to the centers starting, and having them visible while students work independently is a wonderful reminder of these guidelines for the students.

The teacher should then gather all of the materials that are needed for each center, including pencils, scissors, glue, etc. Everything needed to complete the activity should be present in each center so that the students do not have to move around the room and disrupt other students working in centers to retrieve materials.

One last material the teacher should prepare is a bin or area for center extension activities. Some students will finish centers quickly, and it is important to have additional activities they can work on to continue to challenge them and prevent them from becoming bored.

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