I have gotten a lot of questions lately about how I run my free flow literacy centers in Kindergarten. I had this post about how I manage literacy centers in kindergarten, but I have since changed a few things.
Keep in mind, this is how I manage literacy centers in Kindergarten. You may have to experiment to find what works for you and your classroom management style.
I started free flow literacy centers with student choice 5 years ago and it’s the best thing I’ve done!
What are Free Flow Literacy Centers?
Free flow literacy centers means that there are no rotations or transitions. That doesn’t mean that students are doing the same activity for an hour, though!
Instead, students get to choose what they are working on during our kindergarten literacy centers. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s a free for all.
You can choose how much choice you give students during literacy centers. Students can have access to every center every day, or they can have just a few choices each day. Either way, you increase student engagement and buy in.
Personally, I give my students 2-3 choices each day. They have their word work basket centers every day. You will see those closer later in this blog post. They also have a second choice center. These second choice centers rotate every day.
Why Have Student Choice in Literacy Centers for Kindergarten?
Free flow literacy centers increase student engagement and buy in. When students are choosing their literacy center activities, they are picking activities they want to do.
Of course, there will still be some off task behaviors because, HELLO – it’s kindergarten! But in my experience, off task behaviors will be significantly reduced.
Student choice literacy centers in kindergarten also encourage students to take academic risks. Our literacy centers are differentiated into color groups. I try to include some literacy center activities that are on level and some that are a challenge. When students are in control of their learning, they are more likely to try the challenging activities.
What Do Free Flow Literacy Centers in Kindergarten Look Like?
My students are divided into 5-6 color groups depending on how many students I have. Each group is based on what students need to work on in literacy centers. Some groups are still working on letter ID, while others are working on decoding larger words.
As you can see, each color has 6 different word work baskets to choose from in their color. The literacy center activities in these baskets stay the same for a week or two. Basically, when I feel like students are losing interest.
Don’t want to prep all these baskets? I think my literacy binder centers would be perfect for this. Students can have a wide variety of hands on kindergarten literacy centers to choose from, but they are no prep. Just print and put in a binder! I would just change out the activities maybe once a quarter.
These differentiated word work centers are a choice for students every single day. They don’t get sick of this literacy center choice because they have the second choice centers to balance it out.
Second Choice Literacy Centers for Kindergarten
The name second choice centers is a little bit deceiving 1. Because students often have more than one second choice center each day and 2. It doesn’t have to be their second choice.
Some teachers have asked if I require students to complete a basket center before going to their second choice center. Nope!
Students can start at their second choice center and then go to baskets, start at baskets and then go to the second choice center, stay at baskets the entire time, etc.
If the second choice center is limited in how many students can be there at one time, I will limit students to one activity or a set amount of time before they have to give another student a turn.
So what second choice kinder literacy centers do I have?
Kindergarten Classroom Library Center
Our classroom library center is probably the easiest – it’s reading books in our classroom library! Students can read by themselves or with a partner.
I don’t switch up our classroom library at all throughout the year. Our kindergarten classroom library is separated into themed baskets. I love these labels because they have matching book stickers so students can easily put books back where they belong!
If your admin requires you to have work turned in, you could have different book response pages for students to choose from. I would put out one at a time, or use a hanging file organizer to hold multiple options.
Kindergarten Writing Center
I love our kindergarten writing center SO much! Students can be completely independent in this kindergarten writing center because the activities stay the same. The themes change to keep it exciting, though!
I usually change the theme every 2-3 weeks to match what we’re learning in other areas. My kindergarteners love to see the new vocabulary cards and writing options!
For this kindergarten writing center, students can practice labeling, writing lists, writing stories, finishing a sentence, writing cards and letters, or fixing a sentence.
Kindergarten Magnetic Letters Literacy Center
We have HUGE metal A/C units in our room, so I knew I had to make the most of it! I used mine to make our magnetic letters word work center. If you don’t have this monstrosity in your room, you could grab $1 cookie sheets from the Dollar Tree for students to use.
Ideas for your magnetic letters literacy center:
Building Sight Words with Magnetic Letters – I used a permanent marker to write our sight words right on the A/C unit. Students use magnetic letters to build the words underneath.
Magnetic Letters Word Work Mats – I love these mats because I can differentiate them by phonics skill, but the task stays the same.
Alphabet Chart – I’m not sure where I found this alphabet chart, but I know it was a freebie online. I just printed it at poster size. Students match magnetic letters to the alphabet chart. This is a hit all year!
Book Shelf Center
Our book shelf center is different from our classroom library center.. but it’s also kind of the same. Students choose a book and read. That’s it!
The difference is that students are limited to the books on our display book shelf. These books include our monthly read alouds, mentor texts, and books that relate to our theme.
This second choice literacy center is really just my way of giving my kindergarteners more opportunities to interact with books!
Kindergarten Write the Room Center
For our write the room center, my students grab a recording sheet and clip board and.. write the room!
You can have students find letters and trace them, they will search for sight words around the room, or write any word they find. They will love it all!
If you want your write the room center already planned out for you, I love these monthly themed write the room centers. They have differentiated recording sheets to support all levels of students.
Kindergarten Sensory Bin Center
Last year I added a sensory bin as a second choice literacy center and I quickly fell in love! My janitor may not have loved it quite as much. 😉
I switch this sensory bin out monthly. Usually, I put a filler and then letter tiles or magnetic letters in the bin. There were different recording sheet options so students could find a letter and trace it, find a letter and color a picture that begins with that letter, or find letters to build a word and then write it on their recording sheet.
Some sensory bin ideas I used:
- Colored rice with fake apples for September
- Crinkle paper with spider rings and fake netting for October
- Colorful feathers for November
- Tinsel, wrapping paper pieces, and mini ornaments for December
- Cotton balls and sparkly pom-poms for January
- Pink crinkle paper and fake rose petals for February
- Rainbow cut up straws and white Pom-poms for March
Unfortunately, after that we had the shut down! But I found most of my supplies for these sensory bins at the Dollar Tree.
Technology Center in Kindergarten
We didn’t have a ton of technology in our classroom, but we did have a few technology center options.
Our first option was ST Math, which is a program our district purchased. Obviously this isn’t a literacy center. We were required to get in a certain number of hours each week, so we had to fit it in where we could.
Personally, I love using digital centers in Google Slides, Seesaw, and Boom Cards for our kindergarten technology center. I can choose activities that target skills my students need to practice, but still feel like a “computer game.”
Sight Word Center for Kindergarten
I use our editable sight word centers in our word work baskets, but you could also use them to make a monthly sight word center for kindergarten. This would work perfectly if you introduce sight words whole group.
There are 10 different sight word games and centers included each month. Once students learn the sight word games, they can can be independent because only the themes change each month.
I love the 10 drawer cart for these sight word centers. I just took out the stoppers below the drawers so students could take them to their work spot.
Managing Literacy Centers in Kindergarten
We use this chart to show students what their literacy center choices are each day.
As you can see, each group has word work basket centers and then their second choice center. Students can look at this chart to see where they are supposed to go for the day.
This encourages independence and saves my sanity! If students ask me where they are supposed to be, I can just point to the chart.
Each day, I rotate the second choice centers down one. That way, students get to visit each center at least once a week.
On special occasions (days when our schedule is out of wack), I let students go to every center. They can go to whatever they want that day. I keep that a special treat, though, so it doesn’t lose its excitement. If you wanted to, you could let students go to every center every day, though! It’s what works for you and your students.
Questions About Literacy Centers in Kindergarten
These are some common questions I get about how I run literacy centers in kindergarten.
How long does it take you to teach this kindergarten literacy center routine? A few weeks! I want to make sure my students are truly independent and understand the expectations. This blog post explains how I introduce literacy centers in kindergarten.
What are you doing during literacy centers in kindergarten? I meet with my guided reading small groups during this time. Since we don’t do rotations, I have a lot more flexibility. I just call students to my table, meet with them, and then send them right back to their center.
What do you do if students are misbehaving in literacy centers? We stop, leave everything where it is, one back to the carpet, discuss what happened and what we need to do, and then try it again. It’s a learning opportunity! If a student is misusing a center, they lose that choice for the day. They might have to work by me for the day.
What questions do you have about free flow literacy centers in kindergarten? Let me know down below! You might see your question in a future blog post.