I have a confession to make… I hate rotations. I hate the chaos and confusion that inevitably happens, even when I take the time to teach.. and re-teach.. and teach again. So when I started giving my students choice in their literacy centers, yes it hurt a little to let go of control, but it also solved all of the problems I had AND instantly increased my students’ engagement. Win!
Best of all, this system allows me to easily differentiate my centers too! Obviously, you differentiate with any center system you use, but this made it so much easier for me. P.S. I also have Instagram Stories all about how I run these centers saved to my IG highlights if you’re an auditory learner!
Is It Just a Free For All?
No! Every day students get to choose between baskets and a second center. I will go into more detail about what each of these are in a moment, but the second center choice will rotate down each day – so the pink group has magnets today, but the yellow group will have it tomorrow.
My students are grouped into differentiated groups with pink being my lowest and purple my highest. These groups change throughout the year and students grow. These groups are also not necessarily the same as my guided reading groups!
Differentiated Center Baskets
Each group has the choice to go to baskets every day. They can spend the entire morning doing baskets or they can go back and forth from baskets to their second choice center. I don’t require students to do a basket before going to the second choice center either.
Grab the colored circle center labels here.
So what’s in these baskets? Well, it depends on the group and what they need to work on. I use centers from my Themed Centers Bundle, my Differentiated Centers, my Editable Sight Word Centers.. basically a mix of everything!
Some groups need to work on letters and letter sounds, some need to work on sight words, some need to work on specific phonics skills, and some need to work on reading comprehension. Any of these things could be in the baskets! Here’s some examples:
This student is working on beginning sounds using this roll and cover center from my turkey themed centers. I try to make the centers as hands on and fun as possible because students will most likely be doing them multiple times throughout the week.
Second Choice Centers
One of our second choice centers is the magnet center. I have this GINORMOUS a/c unit in my classroom that is just wasted space, so I used that for my magnet center. However, you could easily just use cookie sheets or an oil drip pan!
I only allow 2 students to be at this center at a time, so if they don’t switch themselves out, I just tell them to switch after a while if someone else wants a turn. No big deal!
I wrote sight words on the a/c unit with permanent marker and they can build the words underneath with the magnets. I also printed an alphabet chart I found at poster size and they can match magnets to that. In the blue basket are magnetic word work activities.
Another second choice center is the writing center. Again, 2 students can be here at a time, so I limit them to doing one page and then they have to switch unless no one else wants to go there.
I use my thematic writing center packs for this center and I try to choose themes that match with what we are learning about. At the writing center, there are multiple activities they can choose from such as labeling, writing a story, writing a list, etc!
Another second choice center is to go to our classroom library – this one is always a favorite! I have students who will choose to spend the entire center time here and, honestly, as long as they’re engaged with books, i’m ok with that! Another one of our second choice centers is a technology program (the penguin icon on the rotations board), but we don’t have that at the beginning of the year. Instead, I have 2 groups who can go to the library.
Another second choice center is to go to the bookshelf, and then this rotation also has a third choice – write the room. If students are at the bookshelf, they can only choose from these books and students in the classroom library cannot read these books. That makes it a little more special.
For write the room, I try to keep it as simple as possible! I have sheets of paper with just lines on it. Students take a paper and a clipboard and they walk around the room looking for ANY word to write! You want to write the months of the year? Great! Your friends’ names? Ok! It never gets old!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are you doing during this time?
I am usually pulling my guided reading groups. I just call the kids from that group, they leave their center where it is and come to my table, and when we’re done they go back to their center. No rotations means I can fit more groups in because there’s no wasted time! I also progress monitor during this time and sometimes I just walk around and see how kids are doing and talk with them.
How do you get your students to do this independently?
A LOT of modeling and practice at the beginning of the year. I am going to have a blog post all about this (and I already did an Instagram story about it that you can watch now), but I teach them how to use the baskets first and slowly build up stamina. Then we slowly introduce the other centers. It takes about 2-3 weeks!
How often do you change out the activities in the baskets?
About every 2 weeks, although sometimes its every week and sometimes its longer. It just depends.. usually on how busy I am! Changing the centers isn’t always changing out every basket, either. Sometimes I leave 2-3 the same and I might move the activities from one color to another color.
I hope this helped you get an idea of how you can easily run literacy centers with student choice in kindergarten! What other questions do you have?
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