Classroom Expectations posters on a white board

Science of Reading and Literacy Centers Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of The Science of Reading and Literacy Centers!

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If you missed the first post on the Science of Reading, click here to catch up!  In today’s post we’ll look at some simple changes you can make in your classroom to teach small groups with a Science of Reading focus while simultaneously fostering independence in your students.  For more information on how to implement structure and excellent classroom management strategies in your classroom I highly recommend *The Daily Five and *The First Six Weeks of School.

One thing I want to make clear is that neither of these books are curriculum. What they do offer are management strategies that will significantly impact your classroom for the better.

Building Independence in Your Classroom

Here are a few key points to keep in mind as we discuss literacy centers:

  • Explicitly teach everything.
  • Set clear expectations for routines, procedures, behavior, and academics.
  • Build community, respect, and trust.
  • Believe that your students are capable.
  • Help students build stamina.
  • There is power in choice.

Structuring Center Time

The Daily Five offers a wonderful framework to help structure your literacy center block.  I will briefly review the framework and some key ideas from this book, BUT I will also say that I do not use each of these activities or routines as they are suggested in the book.  My process is slightly different and I’ll share that near the end of the post.  These ideas and concepts, however, are a great place to start when using literacy centers and aligning them to the Science of Reading.

In this book it is suggested to have five different categories of activities from which students may choose when working independently.  These tasks stay consistent throughout the year.  Basically this means the students will complete the same activities under each overarching area, but with more rigorous skills as the students progress throughout the year.  Each activity is differentiated for every level of student.

For each activity:

  • students are explicitly taught the expectations.
  • a list of expectations is posted in the classroom for students to reference.

Some ideas for expectations include:

  • Gather all materials.
  • Choose a seat.
  • Work quietly the whole time (i.e. using a whisper voice).
  • Stay on task  (This requires teaching students how to build stamina and persevere.)
  • Complete one task before moving to the next task.
  • Clean up and put away all materials before moving to the next activity.

Daily Five Expectations and Procedures


Overarching Areas (Each activity in The Daily Five will fall under one of these areas):

  • Read to Self: Reading a good-fit book (books stored in a book box or bag)
    I-PICK books- I choose a book.
    Purpose- Why do I want to read it?
    Interest- Does the book interest me?
    Comprehension-Am I understanding what I am reading?
    Know- Do I know most of the words?
  • Work on Writing: Writing notebooks, writing journals
  • Read to Someone: Read to a partner, check for understanding
  • Word Work: Word patterns, word families, (using stamps, markers, magnetic letters, etc.)
  • Listen to Reading: Listening center

After teaching procedures for each activity and students have built their stamina such that they can stay on task for extended periods of time, it’s time to start centers.

During centers students will complete the activities in any order they choose. Students will have a choice over which activity they start first, second, etc. and teachers will track / monitor activities to increase accountability.  Additionally, students choose the books they read, the activities and materials that best meet their goals, choose a place to sit, choose listen center books, and choose the writing genre and topics they write about.

The key to implementing these strategies is the explicit teaching (teach, model, practice) of each procedure and routine, building students’ stamina so that they can be successful for sustained periods of time, monitoring students, and meeting as a whole group to discuss building stamina.

For a deep dive into The Daily Five, I recommend visiting The Daily Five Website and purchasing The Daily Five Book.

How I Structure My Center Time

First off, I do set up activities and follow the explicit teaching of each activity and building stamina that is suggested in The Daily Five.  However I use a Must Do / May Do list on the board for students so they know what activities are set up for the day. I change out the activities depending upon the phonics, reading, or writing standard we are practicing, but I make sure they are all activities I have already taught and students are successful with independently.

Classroom Expectations


My Must Do/ May Do activities fall under these categories:

  • Word Work: This is the the category that will focus on the Science of Reading activities.  I recommend creating activities based on phonics, phonemic awareness, onset/rime, syllables, blending, phonological awareness, orthographic mapping, phoneme-grapheme mapping, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.These are only a few ideas you might find in a typical word work center: Stamp a Word, Word/Picture Sorts, Phonics Fluency Strips, Phoneme Addition, Deletion, and Substitution, Rainbow Writing, Magnetic Letters, Roll and Read (Fluency) and a variety of other activities.


To purchase some Science of Reading activities I use, click the links below.

Science of Reading Word Work Activities


  • Silent Reading: Students have book baskets. I choose books for them based on their foundational skills (based on information from DIBELS).  I also allow students to choose picture books, even if they are unable to read them independently. This might not “align” with the Science of Reading, but it is very important for students to be able to look at picture books to build their interest in reading. In the book baskets students have a maximum of 10 books at one time.  I use these awesome book baskets from Target. They usually have these in their dollar spot section in June / July right before the official Back to School season starts.

Book Basket from Target

  • Listening Center: Students listen to a book at the listening center and complete a comprehension activity about the book.


  • Writing: Students write a personal narrative, opinion writing, or informational text- sometimes they choose topics, sometimes I assign them based on our units of study.

First Grade Writing

  • Curriculum (Phonics / Reading / Comprehension): I also assign various pieces of our curriculum for students to complete, typically as a Must Do activity.

While students are working on their Must Do / May Do list, I am pulling small groups for direct instruction, remediation, and practice with foundational reading standards. We use a variety of strategies including Elkonin Sound Boxes.  Students in my small group also read our core curriculum decodables so that they may practice and apply what they have learned.


Implementing this structure in my classroom has transformed the way my classroom runs. My students start building independence and responsibility within just a few weeks.  In my next post, I’ll break down my activities in more detail. Stay tuned!

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