As I work with a guided reading group, I want all the other children in my class to be learning at centers — and to move from center to center independently. To make sure this happens, I developed what I call our “literacy center board.” At the top of the board, there is a card with a list of children’s names — for my class, I have five cards, with the names of four to six children on each one. These cards tell children who is in each group. Beneath each list, place four cards, each with a center icon on it. This makes it very easy for each child to figure out independently which center he or she should be working at, and when.

Calling Reading Groups

As children are working independently at centers, I’m working with one group, doing guided reading. Since guided reading groups are meant to be flexible, student membership in these groups changes as children’s needs change. Therefore, the children you call to the reading table may be different from week to week. To get the attention of my class in a way that is not too intrusive, I ring a soft bell. The children know that when they hear the bell, they need to put their eyes on me.

I then hold up a reading group calling card that lists the names of children who will be meeting with me. If students see their name, they need to clean up their work and join me at the table. If they do not see their name, they continue with their work. I have discovered that if I call children in the least intrusive way possible, they are more likely to continue their work at an appropriate voice level.

Tips: Laminate each of your guided reading group calling cards. Then use a dry-erase marker to write the names of the children in that group. This enables you to erase and easily change the names as your groups change throughout the year.

Rain Stick: While students are working at their centers, they may need a gentle reminder to keep their voice level at a whisper. I remind them by using a rain stick. It has a very soft “shushing” sound that helps children stay on task.

Center Lights: In my classroom, I have three light switches, each one controlling a different set of lights. I always ask a child turn off two of the three light switches right before center time. The first time I do this, I mention that dim lighting creates a soothing atmosphere. This soothing atmosphere gives children another visual reminder of the voice level they should be using.

Learn more about Literarcy Centers.


This is an excerpt from Literacy Centers in Photographs by Nikki Campo-Stallone.