In this blog post: Read 5 benefits of predictable literacy centers in Kindergarten and 1st grade and discover some ideas for your own predictable centers.
It’s Sunday evening, the Sunday Scaries are kicking in, and you’re remembering that you didn’t prep anything for literacy centers this week. You scroll through Pinterest and TeachersPayTeachers. Finally, you find something and plan to throw it together tomorrow morning before your students walk in the door. You cross your fingers and your toes that the printer works…
Has this happened to you before? It’s definitely happened to me.
When I first started teaching this happened to me all.the.time. I would find a random center activity for my students to complete and call it a day.
Here’s the thing though. Random centers can be fine in the moment, but they aren’t the best.
Let me tell you why purposeful, predictable centers are going to rock your world.
Why Plan Predictable Centers?
The word predictable means that something “occurs in a way that is expected”. Our students THRIVE on knowing what they can expect!
Each day, lunchtime and recess are predictable for your students. They know the routines because you’ve taught them! You’ve practiced with your students and helped them know what will happen in each of these places.
Does that mean there are never any small changes or surprises? No. However, it does mean that students are aware of what’s to come.
When we make our centers predictable, we allow our students to be at ease. They can focus on the task at hand because they know the pattern or formula for what is to come next.
Many kids thrive best in predictable settings.
Think about your day. Is there any predictability in it? Do you know each morning that you’ll wake up, take a shower, make your coffee, and drive to school?
What if the day went entirely different? What if your alarm didn’t go off, you realized you were out of coffee, or your regular route to school was closed? Which day would best set you up for success?
Predictability makes us feel comforted because we know what to expect. Providing predictability for your students will help them to feel the same way.
Still a little unsure? That’s okay! I have 5 reasons why you should plan predictable centers for your students. Let’s take a closer look at them.
5 Reasons to Plan Predictable Centers
They Increase Independence
As teachers, we want our students to be independent. It may seem impossible, especially at the beginning of Kindergarten, but I promise you it’s not!
Your students can be 100% independent in their center routine.
When you plan predictable centers for your students, they already know what to do. Because the work is not brand new, you are able to give students a couple of parting reminders if necessary and then send them on their way to work independently, whether that be with a group, a partner, or solo.
There’s no more need for you to stand with each group modeling and explaining what to do day to day.
Once you’ve practiced and taught students how to complete the center activities, they’ll be able to take the activity and run with it! This saves you time and fosters student independence. Win-win!
It’s Less Prep Time for You!
You already know that I don’t like searching the internet for centers.
There’s truly nothing more frustrating than trying to find a resource, but not finding what you’re looking for, or being on a time crunch because you forgot to prep a center and having to throw something together. No one enjoys that!
By having centers prepped and planned out, the materials are already at your fingertips. It’s predictable for students, but it’s also predictable for you!
Gone are the Sunday night Googling sessions.
Instead, you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that your literacy centers are DONE and ready to go. Spend your Sunday night watching Netflix or reading a good book. I promise you, it’s a good feeling to take back your weekends!
Predictable Centers Enhance Learning
When students complete activities that are familiar to them, they aren’t spending the brain power focusing on how to complete the activity.
Instead, they’re focused on the actual content, which is what we want!
Research shows that students who participated in predictable activities were more likely to recall information and learn new vocabulary words.
The pressure to learn a new activity is OFF and the opportunity to engage with the content is ON.
Predictable Centers Have a Positive Impact on Social Emotional Learning
Did you know that predictability can improve student mental health as well?
Setting regular routines greatly benefits children because they are equipped with conditions to meet everyday challenges with full capacity.Psychology Today
Frequently learning new activities or feeling like they don’t know what to do can be stressful for students, negatively affecting them socially and emotionally. Especially if they already have a lot of change and instability in their everyday life!
When this happens, students spend more of their time worrying about how to do the center or how to engage with the content if it’s too difficult.
When we plan predictable centers, it positively impacts students’ social and emotional learning because it eliminates a source of stress for them. They know what to do and how to do it!
They Line Up With Your Scope and Sequence
So if our literacy centers are predictable, how do we keep them engaging? And how do I know what activity to plan next?
Your predictable centers should build along the same scope and sequence as your phonics scope and sequence!
What students are working on now should be a review of what they’ve been working on in phonics and their SOR aligned small groups.
The literacy center activities will stay the same, but the skills will change and progress. This keeps things new and challenging for students (but it’s challenging in the right way).
My Science of Reading Centers follow the same scope and sequence as my Science of Reading Guided Curriculum. Because of that, it’s simple to move students to the next skill as they reach mastery.
Check Out These Images!
Are you intrigued by the idea of having skills-aligned centers already planned for you? Keep reading to take a peek at some of my favorite predictable center activities.
Take a Peek at some of my Predictable Centers
I always, always, always include clothespin clip cards throughout my bundles to practice different skills. They are amazing for sneaking in a little fine motor practice, and somehow students never get tired of them!
How do they work? Essentially, students use clothespins to clip the correct letter, sound, or word on their cards. It seems simple, but students truly never get tired of these activities.
You can change it up, though, by having clip cards where they clip the pictures, clip a picture that contains the same spelling pattern, or by using clip strips.
Tracing and Building Letters
In Kindergarten, practicing letter formation is going to be crucial for our students! Not only does it expose our students to each letter and how it looks, but it builds a foundation for writing.
I will always have a variety of letter formation activities available for students to practice building, tracing, and writing letters. You can easily change these up by swapping out the manipulatives! It’s still predictable, but it’s also new.
Some of my favorite manipulatives to use are:
- Magnetic bingo chips
- Mini erasers
Dab or Cover the Correct Picture or Letter
One thing i’ve learned over the years is, bingo daubers = instant engagement!
Students will practice dabbing or covering the correct picture or letter. For example, students will dab or cover all of the pictures that start with the “t” sound. This activity is repeated throughout different skills to reflect the current phonics pattern.
I love matching activities because there are so many different ways this can look.
Students can match magnetic letters to pictures. They can match cards that have a picture and word. Or they can connect cards with plastic links!
Cover by Code
Another student favorite is cover by code. They LOVE matching the colorful cubes to the correct spot.
Again, this literacy center activity will stay the same, but the skill will change. Students know what to do as soon as they see the center!
Ready to add predictable centers to your day?
There are so many benefits to planning predictable centers! As you get started searching for predictable centers, you can search for activities that stay the same but progress in skill.
If you want done-for-you predictable centers for the entire year, check out my Science of Reading Centers! Every pack includes 20+ predictable literacy centers that progress through a systematic phonics scope and sequence.
Looking to learn more about literacy centers in Kindergarten or 1st grade? You might enjoy these blog posts:
Want to learn more about the Science of Reading? Start here: