Name Reading Groups to Teach Extra Stuff!

cactus reading groups sticker

When I first started teaching, I didn’t know what to call each reading group. Although students are grouped by reading level, you can’t name them with numbers or letters (or anything that indicates one’s higher or lower than another, even though students will figure it out eventually). So I chose animals our school had die-cuts for. But I wish I had heard of this idea before I named the groups!

One Arizona teacher names her groups after the various desert cactus plants in her region. She teaches the kids how to pronounce them and has a picture on the wall next to the name, so the kids will become more educated about their region! So smart!! Here are her posters of the cactus reading group pictures. This is a great way to sneak a little extra learning into your classroom.

Easy Literacy Centers

Here’s one teacher’s genius idea for literacy centers:


She keeps the signs in a file so she can reuse them if she wants. I love her idea to stamp spelling words in your journal. And she uses the roll-a-word from this post. Overall, this is a great option if you’re looking for a quick, easy way to do centers.

Fluency in a Flash! (Easy Literacy Center)

Here’s a great way to get more use out of those leveled reader books you use for a week and then have to put back in the box until next year… and make an easy center for your students! After you’ve gone through the books with your guided reading groups and are moving on to the next set of books, place the ones you’ve already used in a box or plastic shoe box. Also include a bunch of timers for kids to use while they do a 1 minute timing. If your kids are on various levels, make a list of which kids use which books (for example, list kids who use the books with the red tab, green tab, etc.). Include copies of some basic story graphic organizers. Here’s what kids do for the center:

1. Whisper read the entire book. They should have seen it last week, so it won’t be killer. If you have those plastic PVC pipe phones, use them for this step too.

2. Fill out a graphic organizer about the book.

3.  Turn to the first page of the book and start the timer counting down from 1 minute. When the timer stops, have them use a paper clip to mark where they finished. Have them do it a second time to see if they can get farther the second time.

So here’s the overall supplies list for the center:

  • leveled readers from last week (and current list of kids’ levels)
  • box/plastic shoe box
  • copies of a basic graphic organizer
  • paper clips
  • timers
  • whisper reading PVC pipe phones (optional)

fluency in a flash

Rotating Literacy Centers

With an increase in class sizes, it’s getting harder and harder for teachers to have extra space for group work during centers. One teacher has the desks grouped in clusters of 4 and rotates the center each day. Each center is in a plastic shoe box and the kids take a different shoe box depending on the day of the week.


She places the the entire class set of copies, materials, etc. in the box at the beginning of the week (which saves lots of time). The directions for the center are on colored paper in a plastic page protector (this gives her the opportunity to switch out the activity as needed without the hassle of laminating). She also puts a sample of the worksheet/activity for her very lowest learners to copy if they need to. I agree with her that copying the spelling words a few times a week is much better than sitting doing nothing. The kids know which box to grab, because it’s posted on the wall. The TA (Teacher’s Assistant) is the student who is in charge of getting the box from the counter and returning it with all the materials in it at the end of centers time. Each day, she switches which person gets to be the TA.


Since there are only 5 centers, tables 4 and 5 share the box.



Story Summary Graphic Organizer (lower grades)

story summary graphic organizer

When I was working in a 2nd grade classroom recently, the teacher and I came up with this simple story summary graphic organizer for the kids to complete on a decodable book during literacy centers time. It’s got the basics of the story: who, what, where, when, why.

Click here to get the Story summary graphic organizer- easy.

Build-A-Word Literacy Center for lower grades (time-saving genius idea!)

Here’s an idea I got from a 2nd grade teacher. First, save this Microsoft Word file of letter/sound cards to your computer. Then read the directions below.

Click here to download the sound cards.

How To Use This Literacy Center 


  1. Build words with the letter cards. Each word mush use the sound of the week (the double sized-card).
  2. Make a “T –chart” of the words you make. (If there are 3 sounds of the week, make a T chart with 3 columns).


  1. Save this template to your computer, so you can use it each week.
  2. Each week, change the sounds on the double sized cards to match the sounds your class is studying that week.
  3. Run off the set on cardstock paper (1 set on a different color for each student who attends the center at any given time).
  4. Use a paper cutter to cut out multiple sheets of cards at once (until all cards are cut out).
  5. Label an envelope so you can reuse these cards next year (“oi/oy sounds – blue cards”). This way, the kids will always know which set is theirs (color), which sounds they need to focus on (double sized cards), and what envelope to put them in when they’re done.
  6. Smile because you’ve set up a literacy center that will only take a few minutes each week for the first year, and then will be ALL DONE for every year after that! J