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November 1, 2016

Middle School Literacy Centers

By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    When I think of learning centers in a classroom, I tend to think of younger students: Pre-K to about second grade. Children busy with activities — e.g. a music center filled with instruments, or a science center that has a focus on the life cycle of a butterfly. One typically does not associate centers with middle school. I sure didn’t. In previous years, my students would cycle through IDR (Independent Daily Reading) rotations, computer programs, and small group instruction. While I was able to get through the majority of my instruction, there were some “gaps.” You know, those moments when you need to reteach a lesson to a select few or add an extension to a lesson because the teaching felt like there was something missing.

    I find that I often get ideas from visiting other classrooms in my school and will often “borrow” an idea from a colleague and tweak it to suit the needs of the students in my classroom. One of my colleagues, Jessica Bolognese, introduced literacy centers in her classroom last year. She did it with such ease that I decided to give it a try for this school year. She reminded me that our curriculum from Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP), has literacy center resources embedded in the units of study. This made it easy to begin organizing materials. But I also realized, that I wanted to include other literacy based topics to support student learning.

    FIRST STEPS

    I decided that I was going to start small as to not overwhelm myself. By the end of this school year, I want to have at least six centers up and running successfully. The students are accustomed to working with me in small groups or independently. Scheduling the centers will mirror scheduling for small group instruction. Three of my centers (Poetry, Academic Language, and i-Ready) are predetermined due to the district curriculum. To be honest, this makes my life easier because I only had to come up with three additional ideas. Examining the needs of my students, I am looking to implement an Informational Text Center using Scholastic’s Scope and Action magazines, as well as Word Study and Grammar Centers.

    I created a center folder for each activity to house directions and some of the materials for each of the centers. Each center folder has an envelope to secure any loose materials. Students are able to easily access any other materials needed without interrupting the rhythm of the classroom during small group instruction. Equally important: the location of the center folders. They need to be centrally located for the students. No traffic jams allowed! The success of the centers is totally dependent on the student’s being able to use the activities with INDEPENDENCE!

    LITERACY CENTERS IN 509

    Word Study Center

    The rationale for this center came from the realization that I was struggling to fit word study into my weekly planning. I had volunteered to pilot a word study initiative in my school and wanted to find a way to seamlessly embed it into student learning. I was able to introduce the concept, but the follow-up activities were giving me pause.

     

    Word Study Activity

    We had a test run with four students where they were presented with an activity sheet with a list of options from which they could choose. The list was a huge hit. Students loved the idea of choice. The task menu will change to avoid complacency.

    Students are given the word of the week to glue into their notebooks. There are directions for them to complete the center work. Students are given options as to what task to complete. This gives them the opportunity to “own” their work and be successful.

    Materials for Word Study:

    • Center folder

    • Student notebooks

    • Activity directions

    • Markers

    • Crayons

    • Glue

    • Grid paper for creating word search

    • Crossword puzzles

    • Computers and or dictionaries/thesaurus

     

    Scope and Action Magazine Center

    Magazines are currently being used with the entire class during reading workshop to support the reading of current informational text. My students enjoy looking through the magazine and perusing the stories, but prefer to have the ability to select the articles that they would like to read and be held accountable for. Placing the magazines as a center activity is a win/win. Students will be able to select an activity based upon article interest and a skill (determined by me) that needs to be reinforced. Scholastic magazines makes it really easy to differentiate by student levels; those who need more or less support with their teacher's guide and online resources.

     

     

    NEXT STEPS

    I am also eager to move on to developing grammar center materials. I already have some great resources at my fingertips. Scholastic Scope has an amazing grammar activity (a new one comes with each magazine) as the students get an opportunity to play "editor" for an article. Also, on my list are:

     

    i-Ready Center

    This is a computer based program that assesses reading skills and provides computer based assignments at their instructional level. Students receive a chart to keep track of the lesson that they have completed.

    Poetry Center and Academic Language Center

    Materials are provided from our reading units of study. They include various tasks ranging from:

    • Analyzing poetry

    • Understanding figurative language in poetry

    • Annotating text

    • Close reading of text

    • Identifying themes and central ideas

     

    Check back with me about the progress of these new centers.

      Pearls of Wisdom — Introduce one center at a time to ensure that the students are able to work independently. It will increase your chances for a successful start. Once the students know the procedures, implementing new centers will be easier.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts concerning middle school literacy centers! I enjoy sharing ideas that make all of our lives easier.


    When I think of learning centers in a classroom, I tend to think of younger students: Pre-K to about second grade. Children busy with activities — e.g. a music center filled with instruments, or a science center that has a focus on the life cycle of a butterfly. One typically does not associate centers with middle school. I sure didn’t. In previous years, my students would cycle through IDR (Independent Daily Reading) rotations, computer programs, and small group instruction. While I was able to get through the majority of my instruction, there were some “gaps.” You know, those moments when you need to reteach a lesson to a select few or add an extension to a lesson because the teaching felt like there was something missing.

    I find that I often get ideas from visiting other classrooms in my school and will often “borrow” an idea from a colleague and tweak it to suit the needs of the students in my classroom. One of my colleagues, Jessica Bolognese, introduced literacy centers in her classroom last year. She did it with such ease that I decided to give it a try for this school year. She reminded me that our curriculum from Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP), has literacy center resources embedded in the units of study. This made it easy to begin organizing materials. But I also realized, that I wanted to include other literacy based topics to support student learning.

    FIRST STEPS

    I decided that I was going to start small as to not overwhelm myself. By the end of this school year, I want to have at least six centers up and running successfully. The students are accustomed to working with me in small groups or independently. Scheduling the centers will mirror scheduling for small group instruction. Three of my centers (Poetry, Academic Language, and i-Ready) are predetermined due to the district curriculum. To be honest, this makes my life easier because I only had to come up with three additional ideas. Examining the needs of my students, I am looking to implement an Informational Text Center using Scholastic’s Scope and Action magazines, as well as Word Study and Grammar Centers.

    I created a center folder for each activity to house directions and some of the materials for each of the centers. Each center folder has an envelope to secure any loose materials. Students are able to easily access any other materials needed without interrupting the rhythm of the classroom during small group instruction. Equally important: the location of the center folders. They need to be centrally located for the students. No traffic jams allowed! The success of the centers is totally dependent on the student’s being able to use the activities with INDEPENDENCE!

    LITERACY CENTERS IN 509

    Word Study Center

    The rationale for this center came from the realization that I was struggling to fit word study into my weekly planning. I had volunteered to pilot a word study initiative in my school and wanted to find a way to seamlessly embed it into student learning. I was able to introduce the concept, but the follow-up activities were giving me pause.

     

    Word Study Activity

    We had a test run with four students where they were presented with an activity sheet with a list of options from which they could choose. The list was a huge hit. Students loved the idea of choice. The task menu will change to avoid complacency.

    Students are given the word of the week to glue into their notebooks. There are directions for them to complete the center work. Students are given options as to what task to complete. This gives them the opportunity to “own” their work and be successful.

    Materials for Word Study:

    • Center folder

    • Student notebooks

    • Activity directions

    • Markers

    • Crayons

    • Glue

    • Grid paper for creating word search

    • Crossword puzzles

    • Computers and or dictionaries/thesaurus

     

    Scope and Action Magazine Center

    Magazines are currently being used with the entire class during reading workshop to support the reading of current informational text. My students enjoy looking through the magazine and perusing the stories, but prefer to have the ability to select the articles that they would like to read and be held accountable for. Placing the magazines as a center activity is a win/win. Students will be able to select an activity based upon article interest and a skill (determined by me) that needs to be reinforced. Scholastic magazines makes it really easy to differentiate by student levels; those who need more or less support with their teacher's guide and online resources.

     

     

    NEXT STEPS

    I am also eager to move on to developing grammar center materials. I already have some great resources at my fingertips. Scholastic Scope has an amazing grammar activity (a new one comes with each magazine) as the students get an opportunity to play "editor" for an article. Also, on my list are:

     

    i-Ready Center

    This is a computer based program that assesses reading skills and provides computer based assignments at their instructional level. Students receive a chart to keep track of the lesson that they have completed.

    Poetry Center and Academic Language Center

    Materials are provided from our reading units of study. They include various tasks ranging from:

    • Analyzing poetry

    • Understanding figurative language in poetry

    • Annotating text

    • Close reading of text

    • Identifying themes and central ideas

     

    Check back with me about the progress of these new centers.

      Pearls of Wisdom — Introduce one center at a time to ensure that the students are able to work independently. It will increase your chances for a successful start. Once the students know the procedures, implementing new centers will be easier.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts concerning middle school literacy centers! I enjoy sharing ideas that make all of our lives easier.


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