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Lesson Plan

Literacy Centers: Getting Started

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Literacy Centers: Getting Started

Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time Introduction: five 30-minute sessions; thereafter: 30 minutes per session
Lesson Author

Vanessa Udry

Tolono, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Session Five and Beyond


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • select reading material independently and evaluate their own understanding of texts by visiting the reading center.

  • listen attentively to audio versions of stories and, in turn, respond to the text by visiting the listening center.

  • use technology to further their understanding of specific reading skills by visiting the computer center.

  • find rhyming words and respond to poems through writing or drawing activities by visiting the poetry center.

  • monitor their own progress and understanding of Literacy Centers.

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Session One

  1. Explain to students that the class will have the opportunity to work in Literacy Centers in the coming weeks. Share the name of each of the centers: reading, listening, computer, and poetry. Further explain that the class is going to spend the next week learning how to complete their work in each center. Tell students that they will go to one center each day for about 15-20 minutes. Explain that during this same time, you will meet with a small guided reading group. (If you desire more time with your guided reading group, tell students that they may get a book from their centers and return to their seats for self-selected independent reading after center time.)

  2. Explain that the expectations for each center are very simple: There will be only three to five rules, and many of the centers have the same rules, including using quiet voices, taking turns, and so forth.

  3. Begin by introducing and bringing the whole class to the reading center area. Explain that students may lie down, relax, and read any book in the reading center tub. The only rules for this center are that everyone reads and everyone is quiet. These rules are important because eventually the teacher will be working with a reading group during centers. This center should be the quietest. It can be helpful to place your guided reading group near this center for fewer distractions. Post the Center Expectations in the reading center area, and read the expectations aloud or ask a student to read them.

  4. Model the correct behavior for the class. Lie down or sit and read a book quietly. Ask a student to join you and model the correct behavior and then an inappropriate behavior. (For example, talk with the student instead of reading). Ask the class what rule you were not following. Discuss why these rules are important.

  5. Next, let small groups of students practice using this center. Have small groups of students rotate through the center, for about 10 minutes at a time, while the rest of the class works quietly at their seats. Monitor the reading center, providing praise and correction when needed.

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Session Two

  1. Begin by reviewing the reading Center Expectations. Explain that the class will learn how to work at the listening center today. Ask students to predict what they are supposed to do at the listening center. Then explain that the only rules at the listening center are to listen, use quiet voices, take turns, and clean up.

  2. Bring the class to the listening center area. Post the Center Expectations in the center, and then read them aloud to students or have a volunteer read them aloud.

  3. Explain that during this center, they will be completing an activity after listening to a story. Explain that today they will draw their favorite parts of the story they are going to hear.

  4. Model how to use the tape/CD player. Show the students the play, stop, and rewind buttons and how to put tapes/CDs in. (For younger groups, you may want to put a green sticker on the play button, a red sticker on the stop button, and a yellow sticker on the rewind.) Explain that everyone should get a chance to work the tape/CD player and that they will take turns during center time.

  5. Next, model how to adjust the volume. Rather than having students use headphones, teach them to turn the volume to a quiet level and listen without headphones.

  6. Then model how to work at the listening center. Ask a few students to join you at the listening center. Show the students how to take turns using the tape/CD player, sit quietly, and listen to the story. After the story is over, model getting an activity handout out of the listening center tub and completing the activity using quiet voices with their group members.

  7. Model the incorrect behavior with another group of students (e.g., talking loudly, not listening). Discuss what behaviors were incorrect and why the center rules are important.

  8. Finally, have students practice using the center in small groups so that everyone gets an opportunity to work the tape/CD player. Have the rest of the class work quietly at their seats. Monitor the listening center as groups of students rotate through the center, for about 10 minutes.

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Session Three

  1. After reviewing the reading and listening Center Expectations, explain that the students will learn how to use the computer center today.

  2. Bring students to the computer center and post the Center Expectations in the area. Read the expectations aloud or ask a student volunteer to do so.

  3. Model how to use the computer. Show them how the mouse moves and how to double click on icons. Model how to find a page that has been bookmarked. (If you have a class or school Web site, you can have a link or list of links on the site that the class always goes to.) Remember that students will have varying degrees of computer experience and ability. Some will be very familiar with computers and need only minimal assistance, while others may have only limited prior experience. It may be helpful to pair less experienced students with more skilled classmates to minimize the need for teacher assistance.

  4. If you are using software, model how to put the CD-ROM in the computer and begin the program.

  5. Ask a student to join you at the center and model how to take turns and use quiet voices. Model the incorrect behavior as well (e.g., not sharing or using quiet voices). Discuss why it is important to follow the Center Expectations.

  6. Explain to students that they will complete an activity sheet after finishing the computer activity. Today they will write sentences about their favorite part of the activity they worked on at the computer center.

  7. Have students practice the center by rotating through in small groups for about 10 minutes each. If a student has to put in software or double click on a program on the desktop, make sure each group has the opportunity to practice these skills. The rest of the students should work quietly at their seats while groups rotate through the center. Monitor the computer center during this time, and provide praise and assistance as required. (Alternately, if you feel students may be ready, have them rotate through the reading and listening centers while students practice in the computer center.)

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Session Four

  1. Review the first three centers introduced to the class this week: reading, listening, and computer. Review the expectations for each center. Then explain that students will learn about a new center today: the poetry center.

  2. Bring the class to the poetry center and post the Center Expectations. Read the expectations aloud or ask a student to read them for the group.

  3. Show students the poem you have prepared for today's session at the poetry center. Explain that they will first read the poem silently. After reading the poem silently, they then will quietly read the poem aloud to a partner or to themselves. Finally, they will read the poem again silently and highlight the rhyming words. Everyone will use quiet voices.

  4. Model how to read the poem and highlight the rhyming words on an overhead projector or chart paper. Provide students with a copy of the poem at their seats. Practice reading the poem together and highlighting the rhyming words together.

  5. Model how to read a poem with a group of students. Everyone can read silently, read aloud quietly together, or take turns reading a part of the poem. Model how to use the highlighters to find the rhyming words, how to mark the rhymes using different shapes, and how to help a group member who cannot find the words.

  6. Model the incorrect behavior also (e.g., not paying attention, not listening to other group members, coloring with highlighters). Discuss why it is important for everyone to read the poem and use quiet voices.

  7. Have small groups of students practice at the center while the rest of the class works quietly at their seats, for about 10 minutes at a time. Monitor the center during this time, and provide praise and assistance as required. (Alternately, if you feel students may be ready, have them rotate through the reading, listening, and computer centers while students practice in the computer center.)

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Session Five and Beyond

  1. Once all the centers have been taught, review expectations for each center. Briefly discuss each of the centers and the activities students will complete during their center time. Remind students that they will be working with their groups and that you should not be disturbed when you are working with your guided group. If students have a question, then they must ask someone in their group.

  2. Place students into their Literacy Center groups. Show students how the reading group labels that you've cut from the Center Signs sheet will be posted next to the center that groups will be doing each day. Demonstrate how students should check the label each day to see which center they will be using. Alternatively, you can create a bulletin board or post this information on a blackboard or whiteboard each day. In any case, explain to students that groups are responsible for knowing which center they are to go to each day.

  3. Take at least one week to monitor the class working at Literacy Centers before beginning guided reading. Once you feel the students can work independently at the centers, you can begin your guided reading groups and instruction.

  4. Introduce center folders and Learning Center Checklists after students are comfortable with the center rotation. Model how to fill out the checklists and where to put papers completed during center time. Let students know that this is how you will be checking on them once guided reading begins. It will also be the students' chance to let you know how well they do and how comfortable they feel with the activities during each center rotation.

  5. Have a classroom meeting about the Literacy Centers. How are the centers going? Do the students need more time or less time? Are there ways to make the centers even better? Student input will improve the centers and make the entire class feel involved.

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  • Prepare materials for students who finish a center early:

    • Provide past center activities for students to revisit, thereby providing opportunities for students to re-read a familiar book or, for those who may have been absent for previous centers, to make up work.

    • Choose and assign center helpers from among those students who tend to finish early. After finishing their own center work, these students can be responsible for helping others in their group who may have a difficult time reading or writing.

    • Provide a special paper in the center folder for students to respond to their favorite part of centers that day or week.

  • Take five to ten minutes each day before centers for center mini-lessons. Introduce how to select a book that is the appropriate level during reading centers. Discuss how everyone reads differently and how not every book will be easy. Brainstorm strategies for deciding if a book is "right for you." Discuss the number of pages and number of words on a page. Students will have to decide what books are correct for them. Monitor students during reading center to see if they are choosing books they can read.

  • For more literacy center ideas to expand your centers or change the existing ones, see Literacy Centres Ideas from CanTeach.

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  • Rely on observation and Learning Center Checklists to assess studentsí progress as they continue to work in Learning Centers throughout the year.

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