Setting up literacy centers in Kindergarten can be overwhelming! Where do you begin? What is the best way to set up your Kindergarten literacy centers for a successful year?
It can be overwhelming, but that’s why I’m here!
Hopefully, these tips and ideas will be a helpful place to start as you begin setting up literacy centers for the year.
Questions To Ask Before Setting Up Your Literacy Centers
Before you begin setting up your Kindergarten literacy centers, you will want to ask yourself these questions. They will help you plan out the perfect literacy centers routine for you and your classroom management style.
- Do I want rotations or free flow literacy centers with student choice?
- Will I want to differentiate my literacy center activities? How will I do that?
- What is the best way to group students for centers?
- What literacy center activities do I want to have in my classroom?
- What are the best literacy center activities for the beginning of the year?
- How will I organize and store my literacy centers both when they are in use and when they are not?
- Where do I want students to work during centers?
- How will I end a rotation or end our center time?
- What is the best way to introduce literacy centers in Kindergarten?
I know that big list of questions might seem overwhelming!
Today I am going to walk you through how I set up our basket literacy centers (word work) for success. However, you will be able to find blog posts for how to set up your other literacy centers linked at the end of this post.
What Are Basket Literacy Centers?
These are our word work centers, but I call them basket centers because they are, well, in baskets (or plastic bins)!
I prefer free flowing literacy centers without rotations in my classroom. In my experience, this is one of the best ways to increase student buy in and engagement. You can read more about how I run free flowing literacy centers with student choice here.
However, if you decide that rotations are best for you, the basket literacy centers would be your center rotations. You would just put out one basket at a table or literacy station.
So they’re kind of a big deal!
Setting Up Your Basket Literacy Centers
When setting up literacy centers in Kindergarten, you will want to consider what space you have in your classroom, how many activities you want to have out at one time, and the best way to make them accessible to students.
I love this cubby organizer that came with my classroom. Each compartment fits a plastic shoebox perfectly.
I differentiate my literacy centers in Kindergarten by color groups. Students in different color groups have different literacy center activities in their baskets based on what skills their group needs to work on.
So each color group has 6 word work basket centers that they can choose from.
If you don’t have space for shoe boxes but still want to differentiate your literacy centers, you can use mesh bags. You can keep all of one color’s centers in a single basket or put bags with different levels at a single station.
These basket centers are a choice for my students every single day. Only the second choice center changes (writing center, magnet center, etc).
Where Will Your Students Work?
Do you want to have designated areas for your students to work or do you want to let them work wherever they want?
I allow my students to take their basket center anywhere in the room so long as they are not distracting anyone else. They can work on the floor or at a table.
I do put a limit on how many students can be at one table, just because it can get out of control. 😉
Literacy Center Activities for the Beginning of the Year
When setting up your literacy centers at the beginning of the year, you will want to carefully plan out what literacy center activities you put out.
You will be spending most of the first few weeks of kindergarten establishing procedures and routine.
It is important that your kindergarten literacy centers are predictable and self-explanatory. You will also want activities that create buy in and make students look forward to literacy center time each day.
I know many people recommend having toys in your beginning of the year literacy centers.
Personally, I do not recommend that. I want my students to understand right away that this is a time when we are working on teaching our brains to read.
This can still be fun and include play, but it’s purposeful.
By beginning with all toys and then making a quick switch to “work,” we’re sending mixed messages to our students about what this time actually is for.
So what activities should you use in your beginning of the year centers?
When setting up literacy centers in Kindergarten, there are a variety of activities that I use that are fun but purposeful.
Alphabet toys – One of my all time favorite literacy centers for the beginning of the year is alphabet matching toys. Learning Resources has multiple options including popsicle letters and llama letters.
Alphabet letter formation activities – We are working hard on learning the alphabet those first few months of kindergarten, and I like to let my students experience letters in many different forms.
Some of my favorite alphabet letter building activities include:
- Building letters with connecting cubes
- Popsicle stick letters
- Building block letters
- Chain link letters
- Pin push letters
- Playdough alphabet mats
- Pom-Pom or bingo dauber letters
- Mini-eraser letters
- Geoboard letters
Name Activities – Many of my students come in unable to recognize their name. I want to make sure that they have time to practice and be exposed to their name in many different forms.
Printable literacy centers – It’s important to be critical of your printable literacy centers and make sure that they are a good fit for your kindergarteners at the beginning of the year.
I developed my low prep kindergarten literacy centers to be a perfect fit for where our students are.
Some of the centers I will put in our beginning of the year literacy centers include find and cover letters, magnetic letter matching, and clip cards.
Introducing Literacy Centers in Kindergarten
Once you are done setting up your literacy centers in Kindergarten, you will want to think through how you will introduce them to your class. Take the time to introduce each routine and center, as well as practice and build up stamina. If you do that, your literacy center time is going to rock!
You can read more about how I introduce literacy centers at the beginning of the year here.
Read more about setting up the rest of your literacy centers here:
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