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Would love the advice of experienced teachers


Full Member
I'm a brand new teacher. I keep thinking I have my centers figured out and then decide I want to do something else. I know it's hard to say without knowing my class, but which of the following set-ups do you think would work best? I do centers during guided reading 4 days/week.

Option A - Students are in heterogenous groups. They rotate through 4 centers a day (15 minutes each), and after lunch they spend another 15 minutes visiting the center they missed. I do 4 centers per day which includes things like word work, poetry, handwriting, science, independent reading (every day), computers, listening, writing.

Option B - Students are in homogenous groups. Each day they go to: guided reading, a follow-up guided reading activity, buddy reading, and independent reading

Option C - Students are in homogenous groups. Each day they go to: guided reading, independent reading, and then either: buddy reading, listening, word work, or poetry.

Option D - Students are in homogenous groups. Each day they go to guided reading and a follow-up activity, and then two centers. Independent reading would be after lunch and separate from centers.

Any ideas? I'm really struggling with how best to arrange this. Should it be mostly reading? Do they need a follow-up activity to guided reading? Do they need to be heterogenous? How often do I do word work? Any ideas you have would be appreciated!



Full Member
Centers/classroom management

I am enjoying the Daily 5 by the Sisters so much that I'd recommend having a look at how they have set up their language art time. There are instructions for 24 days towards building routines, having the children develop stamina, and working on authentic literacy in the areas of Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Work on Writing and Word Work. You might find that some of the centers will fit into these activities - but have a look. I think its a great place to start. After 30 years of teaching I'm really impressed by the focus, self awareness, goal setting and independence of my grade ones. (This is only my second year teaching grade one.)


Senior Member
I like having learning centers set up and the kids have a "contract" to complete each week. The Contract includes "must dos", centers/tasks that they must complete (word sort, journal) and then they can choose from the remaining learning centers (games, visit library, indep. reading).


Senior Member
Option B or C.

A-sounds like too much work.

B-is great because students are READING. The other first grade teachers in my school do centers. They have art center, math center, word work, etc. Why are students doing art and math during reading? They should be READING!

C-would be fine too, because students are reading, buddy reading, and doing some word work.

D-I think independent reading should be done during the reading block.

Yes, students should mostly be reading and working with words. The best way for someone to become a better reader is to READ. Which is why I don't understand why my grade level colleagues have their students doing everything else BUT reading. No, they do not necessarily need a follow-up activity for guided reading. Mine don't-except my high student who is reading at a level equivalent to the end of 2nd grade, and I only meet with him twice a week.

I also feel that word work is important. I would focus on reading, buddy reading, and word work.

A previous poster told you about the Daily 5. I strongly recommend getting The Daily 5 book and giving it a try. I do the Daily 5 in my classroom, and I love it! My students have choice, and they do: Read to Self, Read to Someone (partner reading), Listen to Reading, Word Work, and after Christmas break I will add Work on Writing.

It's pretty easy to implement, and now that I have it fully implemented, it takes very little time to keep up.


Senior Member
Other Reading Activities for Centers

I really value Listening Center in early childhoood classrooms. It provides children with reading materials and they hear good expression. It is awesome for your lowest readers, everyone can be successful, little teacher prep time and correction (although in second I have a follow up activity/project/book report), and the kids love to go there and listen/relax. In first I often had a puppet or mask to have the kids act out the story or do a readers theatre.

I sometimes give one center slot to volunteer reading. The kids go with a parent/grandparent/high school/college helper and do reading activities. Great additional oral reading time. I usually use this as a re-reading session for my lowest group since I rarely have time to re-read with the kids who would benefit from it.

I found four centers each day to be too time consuming. I count guided reading as one of the centers. I give my kids all week to finish four centers total. This means only given in depth directions once and a quick review the other two days. Directions always take so much time with the little ones. For my lowest kids (who are often pulled out for reading assistance or sped stuff) the time is almost not enough. For my highest kids I offer challenge activities, additional follow up projects with guided reading/re-read or pre-read with a partner, and Free Choice Learning activities.

I think centers are the hardest thing you will do as a teacher (especially your first year). You will change your mind a million times (I know I did). But when you finally find what works for you, you will know and love them. They are a great learning experience for first graders and worth your time and effort.


Full Member
Thanks for all the great feedback! For those of you who do buddy reading, what does it look like? Do the kids just select books from the library, or are they from their personal bins? Are they the same books that they read during independent reading? Are they reading to someone at the same level? TIA!


Senior Member

I do not do centers during the Reading/Language Arts block.

I have approximately 3 hours before lunch. During this time we have our morning meeting which incorporates grammar skills into the shared read/morning message. I also introduce target words and spelling word patterns during this morning meeting.

Following this I have shared reading using our required basal. I have guided reading groups for 30 minutes while the Title kids are pulled out for their guided reading groups. When the title kids return I begin our Reading Workshop (lesson of a reading strategy followed by independent reading time. I also pull some of the title kids for a guided lesson group/and conference with kids independently or in small groups--remember that everyone is reading independently. We then partner read for about 10 minutes and then have a follow up share time.

In essense my small groups/guided reading is about 45 minutes and everyone is reading. My personal opinion is that the best way to become a good reader is by reading.

I have about 20 minutes of large group word work/handwriting/dictation/sentence structure, etc.

I then have Writing Workshop (40 minutes).

In the afternoon for the last 45 minutes I do have a workshop rotation time. I have four learning groups and four activities so each group does one a day. The four stations are word work, science or social studies, reading/writing, and math. I work with one of the stations so I am getting another small group lesson with my kids during the week. When they finish their workshop activity I then use a pocket chart with icons to let them go to other activities. I guess in essence some would call this centers but it is mainly workstations with a specific goal in mind. Since I only have to set the four stations up for the entire week, I think it's much simpler than having a contract and expecting the kids to complete many tasks.
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Senior Member

Check out Debbie Diller's book about workstations. I found this to be very helpful with organization of workstations, or center time. I do include an art activity, but the children read directions to complete an art project that we just don't have much time for otherwise. And they do refer to the directions, so that one will stay. My kids work their way through 9 stations, so it takes just over two weeks, since we don't do the workstations on Mondays (too much other stuff going on). We have poetry, library, big books, read the wall, word work, overhead projector, computer, creation work station, writing. The kids are in pairs, working with another student who is not in the same guided reading/writing group. There is a little paperwork required at workstations, but mostly they run themselves, with the addition of new things from time to time. I have a reading group and a parent works with the kids on math, social studies, science... whatever I need to get done. If I didn't have parent help, they'd go to one more workstation and we'd move through things a little faster. Don't try to do it all at once!


Senior Member
Debbie Diller's Practice with Purpose, paired with Wong's The First Days of School and Fountas and Pinnell's Guiding Readers and Writers and you'll be set!!