Teaching About Reindeer--and a Subitizing Game!

reindeer theme in kindergarten with subitizing

I love teaching about animals! I love watching kindergarten students' curiosity and interest grow as they investigate and soak up new knowledge, and animal themes often seem to spark that kind of enthusiasm. During the month of December, it can be really fun to teach about reindeer. This can tie in with Christmas if that's something you do in your school, but can also just be an animal unit with no holiday integration.

In my TPT store I have a Reindeer Unit with a nonfiction PowerPoint slideshow and lots of vocabulary and writing resources. The PowerPoint (which is also included in PDF format) makes a great read-aloud and can be used across several sessions, as it is packed with beautiful photographs and information.

Reindeer PowerPoint Slideshow, Craft, and More       Reindeer PowerPoint Slideshow, Craft, and More

While you're teaching about reindeer, here are some fun antler facts you can use to impress your kiddos:
-Antlers of a male reindeer can measure up to 51 inches tall. That's taller than most kindergartners!
-Female reindeer antlers are usually smaller, measuring up to about 20 inches.
-Reindeer shed their antlers once a year. Males lose their antlers in the late fall or early winter and grow new ones in the spring. Females lose their antlers each summer.
-Reindeer use their antlers to dig for food in the snow and to protect themselves from predators. Male reindeer also use their antlers to impress female reindeer.
-Antlers are made of bone.
-Antlers grow out like branches and each tip is called a point.

Learn more about reindeer and their antlers with this article from the San Diego Zoo.

reindeer antler subitizing game

Integrate math into your reindeer them with this fun subitizing game! This game is open-ended and allows your students to get up and move around while developing their number sense. This game can be used as part of a larger lesson on composing numbers, but also make a great (and simple) transitional game or movement break.

How to Play:

After teaching students about antlers, invite them to use their hands to make antlers on their own heads. Have them practice making different numbers of "points" on their antlers using their fingers. 

Depending on your students' levels, you can start simple with directions such as, "show five (or three, etc.) points on each antler."

Then move to bigger numbers that will require students to use both hands. You might say, "Use both antlers together to make seven points." You can then have the students walk around and stand beside a reindeer who is showing seven in the same way they are (or a different way). For example, some children might be using four and three, but others five and two. Continue, using other numbers between two and ten, letting the children roam to explore the possible number combinations.

The first time you play this game, you may want to jot down the combinations students discover onto chart paper to reference during a follow-up conversation.

Other variations to try: 

Have students choose their own number of points on their antlers. Have them search for and stand beside other reindeer that are showing the same number of points. This is a great sorting activity! 

Once the students have had time to practice this activity, you can speed things up. Try having the students stand up and quickly show the number of points you call out. Scan the group each time to check for accuracy. After they have shown several numbers, say, "migrate," and have the students move to a different part of the room (you could have them move from the carpet to their seats or from one side of the room to another). This gives them a chance to move around and while giving a little vocabulary practice. Then have them show several more numbers quickly before migrating again. Depending on the dynamics of your classroom, it may help to have a child who has trouble peacefully "migrating" stand beside you to help call numbers and watch for accuracy.


I hope these ideas help you keep your students engaged and busy this December! Please feel free to share your reindeer teaching ideas in the comments!

Reindeer antlers hat for kindergarten



Thanksgiving Activities: Easy as Pie, and Just as Sweet!

Pumpkin Pie Poem, Craft, and Fine Motor Task Box

Time is just zooming along and Thanksgiving is right around the corner! I wanted to share a few easy activities that are perfect for kindergarten in the days before the holiday.

This simple pumpkin pie craft is perfect to use as an independent art center. When having kids use watercolor paints, I've found that using Dollar Tree cookie sheets with a folded piece of newspaper helps make for quick set-up and clean-up and contains any spilled water nicely! Using pumpkin pie spice (or even just cinnamon) adds a sensory element and a bit of extra fun to this activity.

paper plate pumpkin pie craft using watercolors and pumpkin pie spice with a cotton ball for whipped cream

This pie craft makes a quick accent to a Thanksgiving bulletin board. You could have the students write about who they'd like to share a pumpkin pie with to add a literacy element to your board.

Click to grab this writing page to go with the pie craft!

Pumpkin Pie Thanksgiving Bulletin Board

I wrote this little pumpkin pie poem for shared reading practice. If you copy it onto chart paper, you can have students come up to circle or highlight sight words, word chunks, letters, or rhyming words.

Pumpkin Pie Poem for shared reading in kindergarten

Here are some examples of ways children can interact with the poem. (Side note: if you don't already have it, look for removable highlighter tape. You can use it again and again, and the kids love it!)

Pumpkin Pie Poem

I've also got a pumpkin pie freebie on TPT for you. This Fine Motor Skills Task Box freebie lets children practice counting and subitizing while building a pumpkin pie! This is a great complement to my other fine motor skills task boxes, but it can also be used alone as an early finisher activity or a simple math center.

 Fine Motor Thanksgiving Freebie

I hope these pre-holiday days go smoothly in your classroom! If you're in need of any other Thanksgiving or umpkin resources, you can find these (and more) in my TPT store:

 Turkey Informational Unit    Thanksgiving Placemat   

Freaky Friday Week 3...Differentiated Pumpkin Readers!


Freaky Friday Dollar Deals 

I hope you've enjoyed the last two Freaky Fridays and were able to grab some fantastic dollar deals! We've got another round of deals this Friday (Oct.19) with 40+ stores participating.

You can jump to all of the deals by clicking below, or scroll to the bottom of this post to see all of the participating stores. This week, I'm offering my Differentiated Pumpkin Readers for $1! Keep reading to find out more about how you can use these in your classroom.


This week I've marked down my pumpkin readers. These paper-saving books cover three pumpkin topics (pumpkin life cycle, pumpkin parts, and pumpkin uses) in three different levels, giving you a total of nine books. Each book only requires one sheet of paper (printed double-sided).

Informational Printable Pumpkin Books

Assembling these books is easy. Just copy double-sided, cut each book in half horizontally, slide the top half behind the bottom half, fold in half, and staple.

differentiated pumpkin readers assembly

You can use these books, which also have an interactive component, in your guided reading groups. They are also great to send home for parents to work on with children since they incorporate reading and comprehension in one sheet of paper. Because these readers are leveled, you can provide students with the book that will give them just the right amount of challenge while letting all children learn about the same themes.

Leveled Pumpkin Readers

To help you keep track of which book is which, I have included a small triangle symbol on the cover of each.

one triangle = One short sentence per page, repetitive and predictable text
two triangles = One sentence per page, varied sentence structure, more high-frequency words
three triangles = One or two sentences per page, more complicated concepts and vocabulary

Head on over to TPT to grab these books for a dollar and don't forget to take advantage of the rest of our Freaky Friday Dollar Deals!

Differentiated Pumpkin Readers


Freaky Friday Week 2...and a Brand New Resource!

Freaky Friday Dollar Deals

Are you ready for week two of Freaky Friday 2018?

For one day only, some friends and I have each chosen one item to mark down to a dollar! Click below to see all of the deals, or scroll to the bottom of this post to take a look at each participating store!



Freaky Friday Dollar Deals

This week I have created a brand new resource to include in our promotion. This science and literacy resource is fun for fall, when scarecrows are on our minds, but can also be used any time of year. In fact, this is a great one to keep in your back pocket for a time that you need a hands-on, easy-to-plan science activity.


The Crow and the Pitcher - Freaky Friday Deal

What you will get is a PowerPoint slideshow storybook of Aesop's fable, "The Crow and the Pitcher" along with printable recording sheets for a science exploration. I have adapted and illustrated this story to help students understand the concept of displacement of fluids. I've also included turn-and-talk discussion questions, teaching points, and exploration ideas. With four suggested hands-on explorations (and recording sheets), you can pick which will work best for your students. 


The Crow and the Pitcher - Displacement, Hands-On Science

For this activity, you will need to gather a few materials ahead of time. You will need plenty of pebbles. If you don't have any that you can pillage from your own garden, you can pick up a bag of pea gravel or river pebbles from a local home improvement or gardening store for a few dollars. You will also need clear plastic disposable cups--any brand will do--and a few Sharpies (or just one if you want to do all of the marking yourself). Depending on which labs you choose, you may also need some slightly larger rocks, some marbles, craft pom poms, and plastic manipulatives (such as connecting cubes or counting bears).

For more details, or to grab this while it's a dollar, head over to TPT!

And for more great resources, check out the other stores that are participating in Freaky Friday!  Please click each store to see what they are offering as their $1 deal for the week!


It's Back! Freaky Friday Week 1!

Freaky Friday Dollar Deals October 2018

Fall is in the air and that means it's time for Freaky Friday! For the past five years, a wonderful group of 40+ TPT sellers that I'm a part of has celebrated October with weekly dollar deals. This Friday, October 5th, is the first Freaky Friday of 2018!

For one day only, each member of our group has chosen one item to mark down to a dollar. Click below to see all of the deals, or scroll to the bottom of this post to take a look at each participating store!

 Freaky Friday Dollar Deals for October 5th

This week, I have chosen my Fine Motor Skills Task Boxes for Fall to include in the sale. This set includes five seasonal fine motor activities that fit conveniently into plastic pencil boxes! Using materials that many teachers have on hand, such as pattern blocks, links, and craft pompoms, these activities are simple enough for young children to complete on their own. (Read about why fine motor practice is so important here.)

 Fine Motor Skills Fall Task Boxes

These tasks are great for morning work, busy bins, or early finishers. The activities are designed to allow students to build their finger strength and dexterity while practicing academic skills and having fun. Children and teachers love the independence these boxes afford! (Learn more about my fine motor skills task boxes here.)

I hope you find something you love in this week's collection of deals and that your fall is getting off to a great start!

 Fall Fine Motor Skills Task Boxes
These Fine Motor Skills Task Boxes include visual instruction cards to facilitate independence. 


It's Apple Time! Ideas and Freebies for an Apple Theme in Kindergarten


One of my favorite things about fall has always been that there are so many opportunities for thematic teaching (which I love!). An apple theme allows for easy integration of science, math, literacy, and even social studies.

Read on for some simple and fun apple activities!

Apple Science
An apple theme invites some fun (and tasty) hands-on science activities as well as opportunities for learning about life cycles and the needs and parts of plants. Consider having a taste test with a few different varieties of apples while discussing the senses and using vocabulary such tart, sweet, and crunchy. Explore the parts of an apple and follow up with an anchor chart labeling activity. Another interesting exploration involves testing different ways to prevent cut apples from browning when exposed to air.

This simple video shows children how to set up an apple browning experiment. Follow it up with some observational drawing and writing in a science journal!


Here's a very informative video about the life cycle of apples. It includes many interesting facts about apples and orchards, as well:


This short animation provides an amazing visual to help children understand the life cycle of an apple:


In my TPT shop, you can find this Apples Unit which includes a PowerPoint and many other printable materials for crafts, writing, and more!

Apple Life Cycle Wheel, Informational PowerPoint Slides

Apple Math
To incorporate math into your apples theme, consider opportunities for estimating (seeds in an apple, bites to the core), measurement (using a balance scale to compare with classroom objects), and graphing (who likes green, red, or yellow apples best?). Children can also make up math story problems with an apple theme which their classmates can solve with drawings.

Here's a simple game children can play alone, with a partner, or in a group. Using mini-erasers, round counters, or craft pompoms, have students roll a die to fill their bushel basket ten frame. Find the free printable here (or by clicking on the picture).

Apple Counting Game with Dice and Mini-Erasers

This counting song is a fun one--write the words on sentence strips and have the children replace the numbers as they sing and read!


For more apple math, check out this set in my TPT store.

Apple Math Printables Counting Numbers 0-20

Apple Literacy
An apple theme provides lots of opportunities for building literacy skills. There are many wonderful informational children's books about apples, and apple science pairs perfectly with informational writing. Another simple reading activity is to write apple sentences incorporating sight words for students to read with a pointer. Having children help compose (and write) the sentences during shared writing or small group time is even more meaningful!

Sight Word Sentences about Apples in a Pocket Chart

In my TPT store, I have these Differentiated Apple Readers. This set includes books on three apple topics each written for three different levels. These are great for small group work and for practice reading at home. (Scroll down and sign up for my newsletter to get a free differentiated Johnny Appleseed reader set!)

apple readers mini-books differentiated in three topics and three levels

Apple Social Studies
A great way to bring social studies into your apple theme is to learn about Johnny Appleseed. Children love reading and writing about this folk legend!

This video from Cool School does a great job of giving kids interesting facts about Johnny Appleseed:


You can get this set of differentiated Johnny Appleseed readers for free by signing up for my newsletter below.

Johnny Appleseed mini-books, free download

Thanks for reading! Sign up below to get the download link for your freebie (you will have to confirm your email address in order to get to the download link. If you don't see the email in your inbox, please check your spam or junk folder. If you don't see the sign up form at all, and you are reading on your phone, try switching to "web view" at the bottom.)


Working with Emergent Writers: Labeling Ideas and Tips

write and wipe sleeves, address labels, magazines--Literacy Center

Kindergartners begin school with a wide range of literacy backgrounds. This can make it difficult to know where to start with writing. Some children are just learning what a letter is; others are already recognizing and writing simple words. Labeling is a great writing activity that reaches all students and provides valuable experience with language and letter/sound relationships. (This post contains an Amazon affiliate link for TYH Supplies Dry Erase Pockets.)

Labeling their pictures is a natural way for emerging writers to begin using print. Labeling allows students to integrate many literacy skills (print concepts, phonics, letter formation) while cementing their understanding of print as a representation of spoken words. In addition, students at varied stages of spelling development can feel successful when labeling their drawings.


Labeling Activities

Here are some classroom activities to help you teach and reinforce the practice of labeling.

Self-Portrait
Have students draw pictures of themselves and label with their names. Show them how to draw an arrow (or just a line) to indicate that the name is a label for the person in the picture. If you want to make the idea of labeling more concrete, try giving each student one blank address label to stick onto their self-portrait paper. Have them write their name on the label and draw a line or arrow to their picture. Extend this name-labeling activity to include pictures of families, pets, and friends.

Label the Classroom
Pre-make labels for the items in your classroom that the students see and interact with daily (computer, flag, window, whiteboard, door, etc.). Be sure to make the print large enough to be seen from around the rom as the students will reference these labels throughout the year. As a group, work on reading and placing the labels.

Procedures Anchor Charts
Make anchor charts using shared writing and drawing. When discussing playground rules, have students brainstorm pieces of playground equipment to draw on the chart. Model drawing these pieces. (If you don't think you're good at drawing, do it anyway. What a great way to model perseverance to your students!) Have the students help label the drawing. Then work together to compose a list of playground rules or procedures. This activity can be repeated for the cafeteria, media center, and other parts of the school.

Labeling with Technology
If you have a Smart Board or some other type of interactive board (or even just a projector for your computer), try displaying pictures for your children to label. You can find pictures on the internet that reflect your current theme or students' interests. Have students identify the items in the picture and call on volunteers to come up and label them. You can also do this with photographs of your students that you've taken while they play or work. This can be a great springboard to narrative writing.

Labeling Center
Use pictures from old magazines or calendars for a labeling center. Stick blank address labels onto the pictures in places where a label would be appropriate and draw arrows. Then put these pictures (along with lined paper if desired) into write and wipe pockets to use with dry erase markers. You can also use pictures printed from the internet (sites like Unsplash.com and Pixabay.com have a lot of options). If you don't have dry erase pockets, you can use simple sheet protectors or can laminate the pictures.

dry erase pockets, labeling picturesdry erase pocket, labeling picture, literacy center


Tips for Working with Emergent Writers

Accept your students where they are.
Many children will be very reluctant to take risks in writing if they think their teacher expects correct spelling. Encourage children to use the knowledge of letters and sounds that they already have and acknowledge even small efforts. Children who are overly concerned about spelling will be prone to copying words and/or using the simplest words they can in order to achieve perfection. Create a safe writing environment where children know their best efforts are enough. 

Don't give in to the "How do you spell?" questions!
For children who are afraid to make mistakes, telling them how to spell a word sends the message that you want them to spell conventionally. Instead, encourage them to use the tools they have (sound knowledge, environmental print, word walls) and praise their effort.

Ask for support from parents and family members.
Explain to parents that learning to write is much like learning to talk. Just as we don’t expect perfection from our babies when they babble and manage their first few words, we should greet attempts at writing with excitement and encouragement.

Use student work as a model. 
If you have a document camera and a projector, it is easy and motivating to show the class a quick example of the skill you’re working on. “Look! Veronica has labeled the picture of her sister with a T because her sister’s name is Teresa and that begins with the /t/ sound!” If you don't have a document camera, you can highlight student work during carpet time. Be sure to focus on effort and growth when using students as a model, rather than on perfection and mastery. This builds confidence and pride!

Most of all, show excitement for writing! Your enthusiasm will be contagious and, before you know it, you will have a room full of eager authors!

For more literacy center ideas, check out this blog post:
How to Create Literacy Centers in Kindergarten: 7 Inexpensive, Open-Ended, Ongoing Center Ideas



Fine Motor Skills Task Box Freebie!

Free Fine Motor Skills Task Box Activity

If you're looking for ways to integrate fine motor activities into your school day, I've got something for you! As I discussed in this earlier post, making time for activities that strengthen fine motor skills is so important in any early childhood classroom. As academics and technology have been pushed down into earlier grades, some of the play activities that naturally develop motor skills have been displaced. Teachers must be very purposeful in their planning to ensure that they are educating the whole child in a balanced and age-appropriate way. With this in mind, I designed Fine Motor Skills Task Boxes (see them here or read more about them here) that can be used by young children independently throughout the year. These boxes allow children to engage in fun, hands-on activities while strengthening their little fingers and practicing age-appropriate skills.

If you'd like to try a fine motor task for free, keep reading!

Fine Motor Skills Bins

My Fine Motor Task Skills Task Boxes are self-contained activities that fit into pencil boxes. Each activity was designed to use materials that teachers tend to have on hand. Because these activities are simple and include picture directions, they are perfect for students to work on independently. This makes them ideal activities for morning work or early finishers. Many children even pick these activities during free choice times!

In my TPT store, you can find a variety of fine motor sets, but I have just created one new activity that you can have for free when you subscribe to my email list. (I will use your email address to send you occasional newsletters filled with ideas and resources. I will never sell or give your address to anyone else, and you can unsubscribe at any time.) Scroll to the bottom to sign up right away, or keep reading to see what you'll get.

Playdough Creations Fine Motor Task Box

Free Playdough Task Cards and Labels

This task box activity includes a box label, a picture instructions card, and 16 playdough task cards. The task cards are numbered and can be attached with a binder ring. The first cards have students practice making simple shapes with playdough (a ball, a snake, a disk...) and subsequent cards have them use those shapes to make more complicated models. These cards help children build their confidence, which allows their creativity to really flow!

Fine Motor Skills Task Box Play-Doh Cards

To put the box together, simply print the label, instruction card, and task cards onto cardstock, laminate them, and cut them out. Then, punch a hole in each task card and connect them (in order) with a binder ring. Attach the label to the top of a pencil box and the instruction card to the inside of the lid. You can use tape or hot glue to attach these, or, if you think you might like to switch out the activity later in the year, Velcro is a great option. Put the task cards and a small container of playdough into the box and you're ready to go!

Fine Motor Skills Task Box Playdough Freebie

Fine Motor Skills Task Box Playdough Freebie

Thanks for reading! Sign up below to get the download link for your freebie (you will have to confirm your email address in order to get to the download link. If you don't see the email in your inbox, please check your spam or junk folder. If you don't see the sign up form at all, and you are reading on your phone, try switching to "web view" at the bottom.)

Let me know in the comments or by email if you have any questions or thoughts you'd like to share.



Fine Motor Skills at School: The Why and How

fine motor skills, rolling playdough
Teachers of young children are noticing a discouraging trend in their students. More and more children seem to be entering school with poorly developed fine motor skills. As the academic expectations of kindergarten grow, pushing out time for play, children who enter school with insufficient hand strength and coordination to use scissors or hold a pencil are at an increasing disadvantage.

Research shows that well-developed fine motor skills in young children are a predictor of academic success. It makes sense that children with dexterity and hand strength would be more successful in a classroom that requires writing and drawing, but researchers have found that the connection goes beyond that.

Through a series of studies using longitudinal data that tracked students from kindergarten through eighth grade, researchers determined that strong fine motor skills in the early years of life help form connections in the brain that lead to greater academic achievement throughout the school years.

Unfortunately, advances in technology have led many families away from traditional activities that promote fine motor development. The time that many children spend using computers, tablets, and smartphones is time that they are not spending building, drawing, and manipulating objects in the world around them. Many children are beginning school with a deficit of motor skills, both gross and fine. It is important for schools to give children many opportunities to build those skills. (Find research here.)

child cutting with scissors, fine motor skills

What can teachers do?
The obvious way to help students improve their fine motor skills is give them lot of practice! Children who spend the bulk of the day sitting and listening, looking at a screen, or filling in worksheets are not getting the practice they need. Building routines into your day that allow children to build dexterity and strength are key.

Here are some simple suggestions for incorporating fine motor practice into your day:
  • Trade morning worksheets in for fine motor bins. Children love coming into the room and settling down with a Fine Motor Skills Task Box. This type of morning tub makes it easy to integrate fine motor practice and academic work.
    (Read more about my Fine Motor Boxes and get a freebie here!)
  • Do lots of cutting and gluing! Using scissors requires eye-hand coordination and dexterity. The more students do it, the easier it becomes. Cut and glue worksheets are a great way to practice an academic skill while building fine motor skills. Making paper, scissors, and glue available for choice times also provides an opportunity for creativity.
  • Use playdough! Playdough can be used for so many skills. Children can form letters and numbers with it, can use it with toothpicks to make 3-D shapes, or can use it to add and subtract. Keeping individual containers of playdough on hand makes it quick and easy to insert into any lesson.
  • Make time for play, both inside and out. Monkey bars and Lego blocks, jump ropes and Mr. Potato Head: so many non-electronic ways that children play help build fine motor skills!
  • Give opportunities for children to write on vertical surface as well as while lying on the floor. Children use their muscles differently when they write in different positions. Using short golf pencils or small pieces of chalk encourages a proper grip. Placing a sign-in sheet on a wall by your door gives students a chance to write on a vertical surface daily.
  • Let children string beads. This is a very popular choice time activity and can also be used to practice math skills like patterning and addition.
The more you work to incorporate fine motor skills practice into your school day, the easier it will seem. An added bonus to focusing on activities that are heavy on fine motor practice, is that they are generally developmentally appropriate, as well. Adding more play and other developmentally appropriate activities eases frustration for struggling students and often improves behavior!

benefits of play poster
Click the poster for a PDF version.



How to Create Literacy Centers in Kindergarten: 7 Inexpensive, Open-Ended, Ongoing Center Ideas

sentence strip puzzles, magnetic letters, newspaper word search literacy centers


Whether you are just starting out with centers, are looking to change things up completely, or are just looking for some ideas to revitalize your literacy routines, this post should have something for you!

Why Use Literacy Centers in Kindergarten?

Using centers (or stations or areas or whatever you choose to call them) gives your students opportunities to practice independence. They build confidence and problem solving skills as they internalize procedures and navigate the physical and social aspects of the classroom. While participating in center activities, children interact with academics in fun, non-threatening ways. They are engaged and busy and are sometimes even quiet! Perhaps most importantly, using centers as part of your reading time allows you to work with small groups, giving them the individualized instruction they need to blossom into confident readers.

What Makes a Great Literacy Center?

In kindergarten, I believe a really great literacy center is one that engages students in reading, writing, or both while allowing them to be independent. My focus for centers is on literacy and independence rather than on measuring achievement, monitoring for accountability*, or collecting data. Those are things that are more suited to my guided reading groups.

There are countless ways to engage students in literacy, but I choose center activities that are open-ended and ongoing. By open-ended, I mean that students can work on them for five minutes or twenty minutes without being "done." I want students to practice continuing to work until it is time to stop, so I prefer tasks that do not have a finite ending point. By ongoing, I mean that the centers can be used throughout the year and do not need to be changed out every week. Of course, we all like variety and I don't advocate for keeping stagnant centers in place all year, but I do like to give students time to become experts at a task and this means doing it many times in some way or another.

*When young children are learning a task for the first time, it can be overwhelming to introduce recording sheets and other accountability measures. I prefer to let students become immersed in literacy during center time in hopes that they will intrinsically motivated to accomplish their tasks. For those teachers that need or want more accountability, I am including simple ideas for each center.

So, let's get to the centers!

sentence strip puzzles stores in envelopes
Sentence strip puzzles can be stored in laminated envelopes.

1. Sentence Strip Puzzles
Sentence strips are such a versatile part of a kindergarten classroom. They fit neatly into pocket charts and are just the right size to form a child's crown! For this center, which can be used on a table, carpet, or pocket chart, students practice reading and assembling pre-written sentences using high frequency and decodable words. 
Skills Practiced: Print Concepts (spacing, tracking print from left to right) CC.RF.K.1, Reading High Frequency Words CC.RF.K.3.C 
Setup: To set up the center, neatly print sentences onto sentence strips using vocabulary to which your students have already been exposed. (Composing sentences with your students during a guided reading group or shared writing session is a great way to give students ownership of this center.) Cut the sentences apart, word by word, and place each sentence into its own envelope with the same sentence printed on the front. (For durability, you can laminate an open envelope and use a craft knife to slit the opening. A sticky dot of Velcro makes a good closure.) It helps to use a variety of colors of sentence strips so that if they puzzles get mixed up, it's easier to sort them. 
Routines: When introducing this center, teach the students to only take one sentence out at a time. After assembling and reading the sentence, teach them to put the sentence away before taking out a new one.
Accountability Option: Have students copy their assembled sentences into a composition notebook or onto a piece of paper. You can spot check later, asking students to demonstrate their reading.
Differentiation Options: For students who aren't ready for sentences yet, try making puzzles of sight words (with the letters cut apart) and/or names of students. Other options include a puzzle to order the alphabet or to match lower and uppercase letters. To add an extra challenge, you might mix two sentences in one envelope for students to sort and then build. Another option is to make available blank index cards or segments of sentence strips so students can replace words in the premade sentences with words that they write. In the example below, a child might replace the word blue with red or the word cat with dog.

sentence strip puzzles and magnetic letters

2. Magnetic Letters 
Most kindergarten classrooms have some magnetic letters on hand, but they often get left on the shelf because they can be a challenge to organize in a way that makes it easy for students to find the letters they need. If you are willing to put a little time in on the front end in organizing and teaching routines, magnetic letters can make a great ongoing center!
Skills Practiced: Reading High Frequency Words CC.RF.K.3.C, Spelling Phonetically CC.L.K.2.D
Setup: To set up the center, find a place to organize your letters alphabetically. If you have a metal door, filing cabinet, or teacher desk in a place where a small group can gather, you can section it off with tape and put all of the letters there (all As together, Bs together, etc.). Students would then be responsible for taking letters they need and putting them back in the correct spots. If you would rather that your students spread out when using magnetic letters, you could put sets of letters on individual cookie sheets (Dollar Tree is a great place to find these). Bear in mind that students will inevitably need more than one of certain letters, so a single alphabet set might not be enough. Students will need a magnetic surface upon which to use their letters. Cookie sheets are great for this! Depending on what you want your students to practice, you might type up the week's sight words for students to make or print out some sentences with missing words (or words with missing letters).
Routines: Decide which skills you want to have as your focus. Magnetic letters lend themselves to sight word spelling, word families, and CVC words, but can also be used for matching upper and lowercase letters or filling in a missing word or letter. Teach your students the task and have them practice returning the letters to their proper spot.
Accountability Option: If you have iPads or tablets with cameras, you could teach students to take pictures as they build words. You could also have them record their tasks in a composition notebook for you to spot check later. (For example, build the word, then write the word.)
Differentiation Options: For a simpler task for beginners, use a wet erase marker (a.k.a overhead pen) to write the alphabet on a cookie sheet in the approximate size of magnetic letters. Have students match letter magnets to the written letters (upper/lower or same case depending on the skill you want to practice). For students who are ready for a higher order task, print out pages of high frequency words that are missing letters (to be filled in with magnets), CVC words with a missing vowel, or sentences with missing words.

sight words paper chain - great for fine motor practice!
Sight word chains are great for printing and fine motor practice.
3. Word Chains
What I love most about these word chains is the pride and excitement the children have in seeing their colorful work displayed around the classroom! This center gives little fingers an excellent workout and allows children to practice their handwriting, as well.
Skills Practiced: Reading High Frequency Words CC.RF.K.3.C, Printing Letters CC.L.K.1.A
Setup: To set up the center, cut colored paper into one inch strips (this is a great use for leftover partial pieces of construction paper). Students will need glue (glue sticks work well) and something to write with. Letting students use felt tip pens adds a little extra excitement to this center, but a crayon or pencil would work fine, too. If you do not have a word wall for students to reference, they will need a list of words that you want them to practice.
Routines: Most students will need to be taught how to make a paper chain. Teach them to write a word on a paper strip before putting a little glue on one end. Teach them to press the two ends together while they quietly count to ten. Students can work together to make one long chain.
Accountability Option: Because this center has a final product, accountability is embedded. You can have students write their name on their links.
Differentiation Options: For students who still need practice writing their name, include a name model and have them make a chain of their own name. Students can also make an alphabet chain. Students who are ready for a greater challenge can make a sentence chain with one word per link.

sight word paper chains and read the room

4. Read the Room
This center is an old favorite of which some students seem never to tire. Children get a chance to feel like the teacher when they hold a pointer and this activity gives children a chance to get up and move around. During the Read the Room center, students find print in the classroom and read it aloud (in a soft voice).
Skills Practiced: Reading High Frequency Words CC.RF.K.3.C, Print Concepts (spacing, tracking print from left to right) CC.RF.K.1
Setup: All you need to set up a Read the Room center is accessible print (in the form of charts, big books, classroom labels, the calendar, posters, etc.) and some pointers (I have finger pointers from Dollar Tree, but you can make your own pointers with wood dowels and foam or wood shapes).
Routines: Students will need some instruction and practice on how to use their time during this center. Show them how to use pointers safely and appropriately. I find it helpful to combine this center with a more general reading center so children can curl up with a good book in the classroom library when they are finished reading the room.
Accountability Option: If you need tangible evidence for this center, you could have students sit down with a composition notebook or piece of paper when they're finished reading to journal about what they read. For many students this will mean drawing a picture of something they read. For example, a child could draw a picture of the word wall or of the cover of a big book. Model first if you plan to use this method.
Differentiation Options: For students who are just beginning to read, teach them that they can also "read" pictures by naming the things that they are pointing at or by narrating big books. This is valuable language practice. Include a variety of sources of text in your room to appeal to the various reading levels represented by your class. Class-made anchor charts and shared writing are great sources of reading practice for more advanced readers.

Students use various stationery and pens to write notes to each other.

5. Note Writing
Students' writing skills really blossom when they have opportunities to write with a purpose. A note writing center is a perfect way for children to channel their chattiness into literacy!
Skills Practiced: Printing Uppercase and Lowercase Letters CC.L.K.1.A, Writing Conventions (capitalization, punctuation, spelling words phonetically) CC.L.K.2, Drawing to Show Detail CC.SL.K.5
Setup: Stock your note writing center, which can simply consist of a plastic tub or can be a more elaborate permanent station, with various papers and pens and pencils. This is a great place to put the remaining few sheets of cute note paper from a pad, colorful index cards or paper, printable themed stationery, flowery note cards that you got for free in the mail, or even plain notebook paper. Add some thin markers, colored pencils and pens, and even some special pencils that your students don't use for their everyday work. It is also a good idea to include a class list if you don't already have your students' names posted in an easy to see location. 
Routines: Set limits on the number of sheets of paper students may use (I would start with one in order to encourage careful and thoughtful writing). Model writing a note to a friend or work together with your students to write a shared note to someone. Set up a delivery system. If you want to see the notes before they're distributed, teach students where to put them. Be sure to teach them to sign their names on their notes.
Accountability Option: You can occasionally photocopy or photograph notes before they're distributed for your records.
Differentiation Options: This center is inherently differentiated because students will write at their own levels. For students who are just beginning to associate sounds with letters, encourage them to draw and label with first letters. For students who need a greater challenge, set them up with a pen pal in another classroom so they can have meaningful written exchanges.

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free seasonal stationery for your note writing literacy center



Use a yellow crayon to highlight words in the newspaper.

6. Newspaper Search
Children enjoy playing word detective with this easy to set up center. Have your students search for certain letters, words, or punctuation marks in sections of newspaper using a hand lens for added fun.
Skills Practiced: Letter Identification CC.RF.K.1.D, Reading High Frequency Words CC.RF.K.3.C
Setup: Cut newspapers into manageable sections that include plenty of text. Include yellow crayons for highlighting and, if you have them, magnifying glasses. Make a list of words, letters, or punctuation marks you want students to search for.
Routines: Model searching for and highlighting words using a crayon. Teach students to write their name on their section of newspaper. Set a limit of how many sheets of newspaper you want students to use. One option is for them to just use one and to then write their words on a separate sheet of paper or in a composition notebook.
Accountability Option: If students write their names on the newspaper, you can check for accuracy and direction-following.
Differentiation Options: Students with beginning literacy skills can start by looking for the letters that are in their name. Advanced students can search for words on a teacher-made list and then tally the number of each word they found.

write the room and newspaper word search literacy centers


7. Write the Room
When I began teaching, I learned about write the room as a simple center where students walked around the classroom with a clipboard recording text that they found on the walls. Today there are many resources available that require students to search for specific words in more of a scavenger hunt style. Both types of write the room are popular with students!
Skills Practiced: Printing Uppercase and Lowercase Letters CC.L.K.1.AReading High Frequency Words CC.RF.K.3.C
Setup: Have clipboards and paper available (or, to save paper, have students write on small dry erase boards or chalkboards). 
Routines: I've often introduced this center in its simplest form, where students walk around with a clipboard writing down any words that they find. Sometimes they choose to write the names of their classmates or the days of the week. Other times they copy the titles of their favorite books. In all of these cases, they are attending to print in their environment, which later carries over to their writing. This center offers practice at finding words when they need them. Later, it adds more interest to the center to give parameters.
Accountability Option: You can save the students' write the room papers to check for completion.
Differentiation Options: By giving students different objectives, you can control the level of challenge. Some students may be challenged sufficiently by the task of copying words from the wall onto paper. Others may be ready to search for words that start with a certain letter or that fit into a certain category. For ready-to-print forms for differentiation, check out my Write the Room Center Printables on TPT.

Write the Room Literacy Center on TPT

I hope these literacy centers are useful to you! I'd love to read about your favorite literacy centers in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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Working with Emergent Writers: Labeling Ideas and Tips
DIY Highlighter Strips for Literacy Centers