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How to Manage your Literacy Centers

These 4 quick easy tips will help you manage your literacy centers!  Perfect for the kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classroom!


In a perfect world, during our center rotations, our students would be on task and working independently. Can this perfect world happen? The answer is YES! But, it takes a lot of training (your students) and skills to manage your literacy centers!


I know at the beginning of the school year I am so excited to get started working with my guided reading groups! You know the moment when you set up centers and say to yourself: "They can handle this, I'm ready to start." But then you get started, and they act as if they know nothing! Have you had this happen? I definitely have!


In the past few years, I've made sure to spend about 6 weeks of "training" my students.

Center Management Tips

  1. Training- I cannot say this enough.  Practice and practice some more!  Make sure students know what to do and why they are doing it.  
  2. Rotation Board- I use my Digital Rotation Board to keep me on track!  There are 32 different options and I even have timers set up for it.  I also have some FREE rotation cards HERE.
These digital literacy board rotation boards are perfect to keep you and your students on track during center time.  Perfect for the kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classroom!

3.  Ask 3 Before Me- we discuss the ask 3 before me rule.  If a student is not sure what they are supposed to be doing during centers, I encourage them to ask a classmate first.  Check out some of these Pinterest ideas.
4.  Yes/ No Light- where had this been all my life??? I just love my YES/NO lights.  I keep them out on my desk so students know if it is ok to ask me a question or not.  This is an affiliate link.





I hope some of these management tips come in handy and make your life so much easier!
These 4 quick easy tips will help you manage your literacy centers!  Perfect for the kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classroom!

Getting Students to Work Independently during Literacy Centers

Are you finding it difficult to keep students working independently during literacy centers?  I have 7 ideas to help you learn how to be independent!


Getting your whole class working independently during literacy centers when you’re trying to teach small groups can be frustrating. Below, I am going to give you some simple ways to keep your students on track so you can actually (gasp!) teach.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice!

I spend about 6 weeks at the start of the school year "training" my students for centers. It is so important that they can work independently while you are teaching your small groups. We learn how to do each center separately and practice, practice, practice! We build our reading stamina for read to self and read to someone slowly until they can do it for 20 minutes. I use this Reading Stamina Chart to help give them a visual.

Building reading stamina in students takes some time.  This graph allows the teacher to record the reading stamina each day so students can see how they are doing.  Check it out here.
  1. Read to Self

This is the one we start with! When we talk about Read to Self, we discuss 5 things that they need to be doing.

  1. Get started right away.
  2. Reading the whole time.
  3. Read using whisper (3") voices.
  4. Stay in one spot.
  5. Thinking about your reading.
We practice this every day! We start out by trying to do this for 3 minutes. We slowly move up in minutes. If anyone, at any time, isn't doing these 5 things, then we stop for the day. I have a whole outline of how I teach Read to Self in my Facebook Group! I would love to see you there!
  1. Read to Someone

This is the second center that I introduce. We basically follow the rules of Read to Self but I also teach them 3 different ways to read to someone.

  1. One students reads a book, then other student reads a book.
  2. They read the same book together.
  3. They read the same book and one student reads one page, then other student reads next page.
Again, we build our reading stamina as we "train" during the first 6 weeks.
  1. Raz-Kids and EPIC

We use Raz-Kids to give students some books to read. I love that they can record themselves reading too! EPIC is also a great FREE resource to allow students to read and listen to many books. We practice how to do Raz-Kids and do the quizzes.

  1. Read the Room (differentiated)

I have weekly phonics Read the Room center. I LOVE that it is routine, easy to set up, and differentiated! Students know exactly what to do when they go to this center. Again, we practice this a few times before they are ever expected to do it independently.


Read the room can be a fun literacy center.  These phonics read the room centers are differentiated with 3 different levels that are easy to prep.  Check them out here!

  1. Writing Center

I keep my writing center super SIMPLE! Basically, I allow them to work on skills that we are working on during our writing time. Each student has a writing workshop folder and they work on writing narrative, information, or opinion pieces depending on the time in the school year.

  1. Center Rotations

I used to do my center rotations using a pocket chart and center cards. I've recently gone digital with my Literacy Center Rotation Board. I have my pocket chart cards for FREE if you want to check them out!

These free literacy board rotation cards are perfect to keep you and your students on track during center time.  Perfect for the kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classroom!
These digital literacy board rotation boards are perfect to keep you and your students on track during center time.  Perfect for the kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classroom!

I hope this helps you with getting your students independent during your center time so that you can work with your small guided reading groups! Here are some things that might be useful! For additional center ideas, check out this blogpost!

Are you finding it difficult to keep students working independently during literacy centers?  I have 7 ideas to help you learn how to be independent!

Using Assessments to Form Guided Reading Groups

Are you using assessments to form your guided reading groups?  Come and see the 3 different assessments that I use to guide my thinking when forming my groups!

When it comes to forming your Guided Reading Groups do you get stuck? Are you using assessments to form your guided reading groups? Do you wonder what kids should be grouped together?

Using your assessments to create your groups

I know we all have different assessments that we usually HAVE to use in our district. So, you will use what you are familiar with using. Our main source of getting reading levels is by using Fountas and Pinnell's Reading Benchmarks. I really love these books as it allows me as the teacher to really see what students are doing when they are reading. It includes all of the running records and comprehension questions.

Use a Variety of Tools

Usually, one assessment may not give you all of the information that you need. There are 3 main assessments that I use to help create my guided reading groups.


Reading Benchmarks

If you can take a running record and get the student's instructional reading level (90%-94% accuracy), this is going to be the main thing to look at when forming your guided reading groups. You need to make sure that comprehension and fluency are also fairly strong.

Sight Words

Getting an idea of how strong your students are with reading sight words fluently is also something that I take into consideration. Most schools use either the Fry List or Dolch List. I actually prefer Lucy Calkins High Frequency Word List. The words seem to match up with reading levels. Get a copy of these lists HERE.


Looking for a different, more useful, sight word list?  Try using Lucy Calkins High Frequency Word Lists.  They match up greatly with guided reading levels A-H.  Check them out here!

Word Attack Assessments

Along with getting a good running record, I also like to give assessments that help me determine how well they are with word attack skills. These assessments have students reading and writing short vowels, blends, digraphs, long vowels etc. They really help me get a better understanding of what my students are doing when reading and writing words.


Looking for some reading assessments that focus on word attack skills?  These assessments help teachers determine students thinking when reading words.  Many phonics skills are included.

Forming Groups

Now that you have some assessments in place, you can start to form your groups. I like to have no more than 5 groups (this may not be possible with Covid among us) and no more than 6 students in each group. I have a Youtube video that better explains how I form my guided reading groups.


See how I use assessments to decide how to group my students for guided reading!


I hope this helps you with forming your guided reading groups! I have a Facebook Group page you may want to join- Centers and Guided Reading with JD's Rockin' Readers! I would love to see you there!


Are you using assessments to form your guided reading groups?  Come and see the 3 different assessments that I use to guide my thinking when forming my groups!