Play-Based Literacy Centres for Kindergarten – Grade 1

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Play-Based Literacy Centres for Kindergarten – Grade 1

Ann George Greater Victoria School District

Organization of Materials

  • clear tubs, open tubs, clear freezer bags for easy access to materials

  • easy access shelving

  • give children responsibility for the activities and materials whenever possible

  • make the literacy centre materials available for free play as well

  • update as needed – e.g. add current spelling list


  • various ways to group children – academic need (academic peers or a mix of more

capable but nurturing students with less able students), social groups, randomly

  • post a schedule so children always know their work group and activity

  • introduce new materials to whole class at first, allow free exploration time the first few

activity sessions

  • increase duration of literacy centres over several sessions

  • various approaches to scheduling:

    • 5 centres – set up same 5 activities every day for two weeks, children work at one centre per day, rotate centres daily, the second week allows children to revisit and practise known activities

    • 3 centres – rotate through all 3 centres in the same session, schedule 2 or 3 times per week

    • same centres twice per day – assigned centres in morning, children have free choice of centres in afternoon

    • 24 centres – put children in pairs, one activity per child, do one task in morning, switch tasks in afternoon

Literacy Centre Ideas

  • shaving cream on table tops (if scent is an issue, do this outside on plastic placemats)

  • washable markers on table tops – write words, letters, sentences, wash when done

  • finger paint on paper

  • gel bags (a small amount of coloured hair gel and glitter in freezer bags), write letters with finger on outside of bag, can use with a light table

  • letter sort – a variety of letters (wood, plastic, paper…) to sort by colour or letter name or attribute (tunnel letters, curved letters, straight letters, zig zag letters…)

  • object sort with a variety of objects and an alphabet – match objects to initial letter

  • tactile letters – trace over felt, sandpaper, cornmeal, ridged plastic letters

  • cookie sheets with coloured sand, rice, cornmeal, salt – print letters and words on individual sheets, create a sentence with each group member contributing one word

  • letter magnets and cookie sheets – sort letters, order alphabet, spell words

  • letter match – match upper case letters with lower case

  • Alphabet Soup game –plastic letters or tiles or magnets in a “pot”, recording sheet

  • alphabet pasta – letter sort, spelling (or use for Alphabet Soup game)

  • stir sticks/popsicle sticks – straight letters

  • shoelaces with beads (for weight) – curved letters
  • pipe cleaners or Wiki Stix (curved and straight letters)

  • letter beads, shoelaces – order alphabet, spell words, create sentences

  • geoboards – letters, words, word families

  • pegboards – letters, words

  • playdough, cookie cutter letters – roll “snakes” to form letters, stamp letters

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom book, tree, Velcro letters

  • alphabet puzzles (can add sand timers for those needing a challenge)

  • bingo – picture, letter, sight word, double (play two cards at once)

  • commercial alphabet and word games – sight word dominoes, concentration

  • Roll A Letter or Word – letter or word dice, recording grids

  • wooden letter blocks – order the alphabet, build words horizontally and vertically

  • Lego – letter and word building

  • wooden letter train – assemble in alphabetical order or link cars to make words

  • body letters – can also spell words (in groups)

  • printing practice – laminated sheets with dotted letters to trace

  • spaghetti letters – draw one continuous “spaghetti” line (including straight and curved parts) in black, trace over any letters that appear in the “spaghetti” using a different colour for each letter

  • grid letters – trace over letters formed by a grid using a different colour for each letter

  • laminated letter or word puzzles, dry erase markers and erasers – alphabet mazes, letter or word searches, words hidden in pictures

  • newspaper, highlighters – highlight letters and words

  • letter, word, sentence sort – sort cards and place under appropriate headings

  • letter search in illustrations – read a book, search for letters in pictures (e.g. Why Can’t I Fly?)
  • book with matching puppets – retell the story

  • sequencing – put picture cards in order, tell the story to another child

  • felt board #1 – felt letters in alphabetical order, spell words

  • felt board #2 – book with matching felt shapes, retell the story

  • painted rocks #1 – upper and lower case letters on opposite sides of rocks, order alphabet, spell words

  • painted rocks #2 – book characters on rocks, retell story (e.g. Grumpy Bird)

  • character match – match name cards with pictures of characters from a story

  • story retelling – a book with a few simple appropriate props

  • chalkboards – letters, words, sentences, illustrations

  • framed glass (white paper, lined paper, themed paper) or whiteboards, dry erase markers and erasers – letters, words, sentences, stories, illustrations

  • room or hall search – using clipboards and recording sheets, search for letters and words, words with specific initial letters, words containing specific letters

  • pocket chart – initial letters matched with pictures, rhyming words, assembling sentences and poems

  • match word cards with pictures, use plastic letters or magnets to spell the words

  • paper chains #1– read pre-made alphabet chains, using both ordered and scrambled alphabets

  • paper chains #2 – write known words on paper chain links, or write word families, or write sentences (one word per link) and read to someone else

  • word families – laminated cards with word family stems ( _ad _og _in _et….), create lists of words for each stem, read to another child
  • word wall – read the classroom word wall to another child

  • sight words on rings, sand timers – read words before timer runs out

  • Read-A-Friend – clip sight word cards (clear nametag sleeves with clips) to one child’s clothing, second child points to words, third child reads words

  • sentence strips with the same words on individual cards – reassemble the cards to form the sentences

  • poem sort – reassemble cut up poems, line by line or word by word

  • greeting cards – supplies (including vocabulary) to create cards

  • letter stamps #1 (oversized) – for poster titles and captions

  • letter stamps #2 (smaller) – stamp the alphabet in order, spell words, make sentences

  • words from names – make lists of words using the letters in classmates’ names (Liam – a, I, mail) (Isabella – I, is, a, as, bell, ball, sell)

  • lists – make lists of words – beginning with specific letters, ending in silent e, animal names, wish lists…

  • alphabetize lists of words – sight words, spelling words, colour words, friends’ names, toys, vocabulary lists….

  • Fill-Ins (cloze) – laminated poem, sentence or message cards with words missing, fill in blanks

  • word bags – pick a few words out of a bag, use them to write a silly sentence

  • scrambled words – reorder letter cards to create words, read to a friend

  • scrambled sentences – reorder word cards to create sentences, read to a friend

  • scrambled stories – reorder sentence strips to create stories, read to a friend

  • word web – print a word in the centre of a web, write related words around it

  • listening centre with a book, draw or write a response to the story
  • iPad centre – animated Tumblebooks stories (provide book, too), draw or write a response to the story

  • Reading Train – three to four pairs of kids sitting side by side, one pair in front of the other, each kid reads a simple levelled text to partner, at “conductor’s” signal partners on right side move forward to new partner, continue until are back at original partner

  • reading centre – create an unusual space such as a tent, add pillows and stuffed animals, include a wide variety of reading materials – levelled books, fiction and informational texts, class made books, poems, oversized books

  • writing centre – include a variety of writing papers and writing instruments, a collection of pictures and interesting objects, thematic and seasonal vocabulary lists

Outdoor Literacy Centre Ideas

  • sticks, twigs, wood chips – build letters

  • sidewalk chalk

  • bucket of water and an old paintbrush – write letters, words, lists, sentences quickly on the pavement before the writing evaporates

  • sandbox – write in the sand with sticks or stamp letters with sand molds or cookie cutters

  • skipping rope spelling – make letters and words with skipping ropes

  • skipping – recite the alphabet (one letter per jump), or say a word for each letter of the alphabet (apple, bear, cat, door, egg…)

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