My ELA Block: Reading Centers

I love having reading centers that simple to prep, consistent and focused on growing my students' love for reading!

Welcome back for the second part of my ELA blog post series! If you missed the first post about my reading whole group lessons, you can click HERE to get caught up.

Today I am sharing all about my reading center routines and activities.

Let me start by reminding you of my entire ELA block schedule.

ELA schedule

Center Schedule

I used to meet with four leveled groups every single day. On paper that gave me 15 minutes with each group. But it really didn't. When you figure in all of the transitions, putting away materials and getting out new materials- I was really only meeting with students for about 12 minutes. That just wasn't nearly enough time to read, dig deep in the text and have meaningful discussions. I constantly felt rushed and stressed.

So, I went to meeting with only two of my groups per day. It was a serious AHA moment and it made my reading groups so much more meaningful. By meeting with only two groups, I was able to have 30 minutes with them. It is still the same amount of minutes as meeting with them every day for 15 minutes- except it isn't. With less transitions, I am actually getting a few extra minutes with each group. We can actually read, dig and discuss all in one meeting!

Here is a look at what my center schedule looked like:

I didn't do groups on Fridays because I used the time for long social studies and science lessons.

I had a larger class and so I needed to have four groups. If you have a smaller class, you might be able to have just three groups. Since you would only have one group scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday, you have an extra chunk of time where you are not meeting with anyone. This would actually give you time to do individual reading conferences, provide intervention, do testing and/or pull your lowest learners back for an additional group time.

Center Activities

I don't do the Daily Five. I know that many people do, but I found it to be way to much prep, wasted time doing the status of the class and a lack of students just focused on good books. If Daily Five works for you, go for it!

Here is a look at the activities my students did during reading centers.

Meet with the Teacher

During my meet the teacher time, I would continue practicing the skill that was introduced during my whole group lesson.

Instead of using the leveled readers that came with my curriculum (which my students found boring), I used book clubs during our guided group time. I was able too use high interest chapter books to help practice reading standards while encouraging my students' love for reading.

Each of my reading groups had a different chapter book based on their needs and reading level. We would spend the majority of our group time chorally reading from the book. During the last 5-10 minutes, we would have a discussion or fill out a graphic organizer that targeted our reading standard that week.

You can grab my book club graphic organizers HERE.

It was really so easy to practice the standards using "real" books. I would teach literature standards during first and fourth quarter and teach informational standards during second and third quarter. My book clubs would read fiction books when we were working on literature standards and nonfiction when we were focused on informational standards.

You can read more about my book clubs by clicking HERE.

Read to Self

My students loved the read to self center! They get excited to have a big chunk of time to relax and read anything that they want.

My only rules are that they cannot go to the classroom library during center time (or they will spend their whole time there and not reading) and I should never see their eyes because they are always on their book. They can read anything they want and they can read anywhere that they want.

This center is all about letting your students love books!

Respond to Reading (Menus or Centers)

It is important that my students learn to write about what they are reading. They need to be able to use text evidence to support their claims.

I also need a grade to enter in the grade book for reading!

My students are given a reading menu each week. The menu has questions that are suitable for fiction and non fiction books. The variety of questions means that my students can always find one question that they feel they understand, have the skills to answer and can respond with the book they have been reading during read to self time.

My students are required to choose one question each week. They have plenty of time to write a quality response with evidence. They have a checklist and even a rubric to reference when they are editing.

You can read more about how I teach my students to respond to text HERE.

Another option for this center rotation:

I had so many teachers literally begging for reading centers that are similar to my math centers. And I listen!

The really cool part is that one of the centers is always reading response. Students are still practicing that skill while you also mix in some fun sorting, matching and task card type centers.

Click HERE to check out my reading units that include centers.


I was lucky enough to have a small group of Chromebooks in my classroom.

My school required students to do iReady during this time. I have to be honest... my kids didn't like the program much, especially the reading. The lessons were VERY long.

I sometimes let them use Moby Max and they loved that. Epic is another option.

I love that the technology center gave me the ability to check the reports to hold students accountable without having more papers to grade. #win

Posting the Schedule

You will need a simple way to post your reading center schedule so students have a reference. I think that it is important that the schedule is easy to change so that groups can be fluid and students can easily be switched to different groups when necessary. 

I simply have a poster for each group. Their schedule is typed at the bottom. I laminate the poster and then use dry erase marker or vis a vis marker to write student names. It is super simple, but works perfectly!

You can grab my free poster template by clicking HERE.

I love having reading centers that simple to prep, consistent and focused on growing my students' love for reading!

I love that my reading centers are super easy to prep. At the beginning of the quarter, I copy reading menus and book club graphic organizers for the entire quarter. That's it. I also love that the centers stay the same all year. I don't have to waste time teaching new activities every week. And most importantly, I love that students spend so much time reading books. That is what it is all about!

Be sure to check out my next post in this ELA series by clicking HERE. It is all about vocabulary instruction.

Have a Not So Wimpy day!