Why I Don’t Switch Out My Literacy Centers Every Week (And What I Do Instead!)

We all know that changing out materials for literacy centers is essential.

Introducing new materials helps keep the kids engaged. AND it gives them practice with different skills as we move through the school year.

However, we have to think carefully about:

  • How often to switch out materials
  • How and when to teach students to use the new materials
  • How many centers to replace each week

For a while, I switched out my centers every week. Every Friday afternoon or Monday morning, I’d replace (some of) my centers materials. Before the kids went to centers on Monday, I explained all of the activities so they’d know what to do.

This routine worked fine for me in terms of my own organization and planning.

However, it didn’t work great for my kids. I always felt like I was losing them when I explained the centers activities on Monday. Even if they were familiar with some of or all of the activities, it was just a LOT to throw at them all at once.

Do you ever feel the same way? If so, keep reading! In this post, I’ll share a simple alternative to switching out your literacy centers at the beginning of each week!

Instead of changing out my centers weekly, I use a different approach. It’s made ALL the difference with my students! Read the post to learn about it and get a freebie.

Photo Credits:  Katerina Graghine, Shutterstock

I thought it’d be best if I explained my system in a video. Click “play” below to watch!

The Recap

Instead of introducing multiple new centers at the beginning of each week, I designate one day of the week for each center.

For example…

  • Monday = partner reading center
  • Tuesday = word work center
  • Wednesday = independent reading center
  • Thursday = writing center
  • Friday = listening center

If you have more than 5 centers, you can assign more than one center to each day.

Then, on that center’s designated day, you can do one of two things:

  • Introduce a new activity (or a variation of a pre-existing activity)
  • Re-teach a procedure or teach a troubleshooting lesson to help students overcome a challenge you’ve noticed them having in that center

This strategy has helped my students and me by:

  • Preventing “information overload,” since only one activity is introduced or reviewed at a time
  • Giving students something new to look forward to EVERY day
  • Ensuring that we have time for re-teaching procedures and expectations when the need arises (and we all know the need WILL arise! ;-))

Of course, you can still prep all of your centers for the next week on Thursday, Friday, or the weekend before. You just wait to introduce certain materials rather than putting everything out on Monday.

Pretty simple, right?

If you’d like to use the planning calendar I showed in the video, click on the image below to sign up for it via email. I’ll also let you know about future literacy centers posts, freebies, and workshops!

Instead of changing out my centers weekly, I use a different approach. It’s made ALL the difference with my students! Read the post to learn about it and get a freebie.

AND one last thing — In last week’s post, I described another important change I made to improve student engagement and learning in centers. If you haven’t read it yet, click HERE.

Happy teaching!

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25 Responses to Why I Don’t Switch Out My Literacy Centers Every Week (And What I Do Instead!)

  1. I love this idea, but in my class my students only go to one center/station a day. Do your students go to every center everyday?

    • Hi Pam! They go to 3 different centers a day, usually. I typically have about 6 centers, so they get through the centers every 2-3 days. 🙂

      Alison

  2. One good thing about using the daily 5 stations is that it doesn’t require frequent switching out of materials… Even with Word Work, there are multiple choices and it’s just the words that switch each week.

  3. Hello. I had a question. So if they are all doing the same center each day then do you have enough materials for all of them ready? Do you have amount listening centers for all of them to be doing it at the same time? Maybe I am not understanding the process. Thank you.

    • Hi Sasha! They are actually not all doing the same center each day – sorry if I wasn’t clear about that! They are working in different centers, but I just introduce the new materials for one particular center on a given day of the week.

      Alison

      • Ok I understand. So the one you introduce that day has new materials and the other ones have the same materials already practiced, is that correct? So you are just waiting to introduce the new material for that one day? Also what does your center rotation look like? How long do they stay in each station? Thank you!

        • Hi Sasha, correct! They stay in each station for about 15 minutes. Stay tuned for many more posts and a free workshop (Sept.) with more details about literacy centers! 🙂

          Alison

  4. Thank you for this great idea. Implementing Learning Centers has always been a struggle for me. Your posts have been helpful.

    • I’m so glad, Colleen! I think implementing literacy centers is one of the toughest parts of the literacy block. It has been something I’ve struggled with, too!

      Alison

  5. Alison,

    I am a first grade teacher at a rural school district in Ohio.
    How often do you suggest students visit each center throughout the week? Also, how many times a week do you suggest to meet with each small group? Thank you for your input!

    • Hi Amy!

      I have students visit each center 2-3 times each week, but it depends on the total number of centers, class size, etc.

      I usually meet with 3 small groups per day. But I tend to see the lower groups more often than the higher groups. You can email me if you’d like to see some schedules for guided reading rotations; happy to share those!

      Alison

  6. Hi! Sorry a bit confused, so for example if you have 22 students typically how many groups and centers are you running. Just need clarification. I am with you on information overload and loss of engagement.

    • Hi Melanie! If I have 22 centers, I usually have 5 groups and 6 centers total (plus the teacher station for small groups). I’ll be doing a super detailed post (specifically about grouping) in a little over a month. I’ll also be doing a free workshop about this topic (Sept 2017), so keep an eye out for those!

      Alison

  7. Hi Alison,
    I really enjoy your PD sessions, they’re very helpful and help me to plan my own curriculum. I’m wondering how long each of your literacy centers last?

    Jim Rojas

    • Hi Jim! So glad they are helpful! My literacy centers typically last about 15 minutes (it might vary a little depending upon grade level and point in the school year).

      Alison

  8. Hi Alison,

    I love this idea about only introducing 1 or 2 new centers a day. I am curious about a few things.
    1. How do you have the kids rotate through the centers?
    2. How do you make sure they all get to every center each week? What if some kids did an “old” center (before you introduced the new one that week). Do they get a chance to do the new one? When?
    3. How do your students react to doing a center more than once?
    4. Do you use recording sheets for accountability?

    • Hi Shani!

      1. The kids rotate through the centers about every 15 mins. They usually go to 3 centers per day.
      2. I use a fixed rotation schedule, so they all get to the centers eventually. It’s a-okay if kids do an “old” center – I’ve found that if I’m constantly introducing new things, it’s too much for them. Repetition helps with getting them to follow directions.
      3. I try to make my centers somewhat open-ended, so they are totally fine with doing a center more than once. The centers aren’t worksheets, so the task will be a little different each time they do it.
      4. I do use recording sheets for some activities, but sometimes they don’t have anything written down to turn in.

      I will be doing lots more posts (and a free workshop) on centers in the next few months, so keep an eye out for those! 🙂

      Alison

  9. I love this idea! The next time I change out centers I think I will change out one at a time. Less stress for me! Thank you!

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