One of the great joys of teaching at the elementary level is watching a young child learn to read. It is amazing to witness the “light going off” and the world of reading coming alive for each of our students. One of the ways that we help encourage the process of learning the multitude of phonics rules, decoding, encoding, writing, comprehension, and so many sight words is through the targeted practice achieved during literacy centers. During our literacy block our students visit literacy centers where they complete activities or work designed with a specific purpose in mind. Since students in each classroom vary greatly in their literacy needs and ability levels, these centers give multiple opportunities for children to read, write, and participate in meaningful literacy experiences. Let’s first take a closer look one of our second grade classes during literacy block and then examine how these centers are a benefit to the whole class.
During a recent visit to Ms. Stuart’s second grade at NSCS in Lynn, students began their literacy block with a whole group “read aloud” of The Three Snow Bears by author Jan Brett. Over the past week the students have been reading and story mapping literature that is similar to the original story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in anticipation of comparing and contrasting the differing versions through use of a Venn Diagram. After discussing the characters, setting, events, problem, and ultimate solution of this version of the story students then broke into small groups to work on their literacy centers. During this time some students focused on activities that reviewed trick words and words that were in the stories, while other students worked independently on Lexia Learning online. The final group of students had the opportunity to work closely with Ms. Stuart on reading, comprehension, and phonics rules such as “R” controlled vowels. Within the span of just an hour students were able to read (independently and with the teacher), practice vocabulary, discuss the story, review phonemic skills online, and collaborate with team members on activities linked to the concept for the day!
Literacy centers will be different in every classroom depending on the skill and concept being taught. Overall however, researchers and education experts can agree that there are many benefits to Literacy Centers. Here are a few. . .
- Literacy covers so many things including reading, writing, listening, comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary. Literacy centers allow teachers the ability to weave these skills together at a level that each child can manage through lessons at each center.
- After a teacher has introduced a new skill or concept, literacy centers can reinforce that skill/concept by giving each student a chance to practice and apply that knowledge at a level that is appropriate for him or her.
- While students are working either with a partner, group, or independently at each center, the teacher has the opportunity to work with guided reading groups or observe, listen, or answer questions about what is being learned. This informal observation of students allows teachers to see where students are in the learning process. Since students work at each center either individually or with other students, skills such as collaboration, cooperation, and self-discipline can occur as well.
- Literacy centers keep students engaged and motivated as they explore, invent, discover, or create. These activities foster connections to the literature, concept, or skill.
- Since students have many practice and application opportunities during literacy centers, they can take risks and build their confidence without the fear of failure that often occurs in a large group setting.
- In using centers, teachers are able to differentiate instruction to meet each student’s needs and respond to their reading more effectively.
While literacy centers can be done in a variety of formats and methods, teachers, students and the entire classroom community benefit from them on a daily basis. Ask your child what they learned during literacy centers today.