Fitting It All In: How to Schedule Your Literacy Block for First Grade


**Looking for Kindergarten literacy block schedules? Click HEREOr for 2nd grade literacy block schedules, click HERE.**

In this post, I’ll take you through the components of a literacy block for first grade. I’ll also provide some sample schedules and share general scheduling tips!

Before I get started, I do want to say that there’s no one “correct” way to set up your literacy block. The best schedule is the one that meets the needs of you and your students. Also, I love hearing other teachers’ creative scheduling ideas, so please do comment at the end of the article!

Components of a Literacy Block for First Grade

While literacy can and should be a part of every component of your day (even math!), here are the building blocks that I used to schedule my first grade literacy instruction:

Readaloud (10-15 minutes):  If at all possible, I actually do a readaloud twice a day (some years I definitely can’t make this happen, though). During one readaloud, we read for enjoyment and understanding. At a different time of the day, we read a book to focus on comprehension strategies and vocabulary. If you can do two readalouds a day, you might want to focus on comprehension and vocabulary during a literacy block readaloud. Then, you could do another readaloud for enjoyment after lunch or recess. You don’t necessarily need 2 brand new books for each day, however. For example, you could read aloud a book for enjoyment on Monday after lunch. Then, you dive into that same book more deeply on Tuesday during your literacy block. This is how I have my Reading Comprehension Units for K-1 set up. When you teach one of the comprehension minilessons, you often use a book that you’ve previously read aloud to students. This is because I’ve found that kids can better focus on practicing comprehension strategies when they’ve already listened to the book. If you don’t have time for two readalouds in a day, you might focus on comprehension Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and read for enjoyment on Tuesday and Thursday.

Shared Reading (10-20 minutes): This is when I read aloud (and have students help me read) a big book, poetry on chart paper, or a story from the basal reading series. If students do not all have copies of the text, they sit on the rug so that they can easily see the print. We typically read only 2 stories per week during shared reading. This is because we read each text multiple times (first time for comprehension and enjoyment, and additional times for teaching points like “Look for a chunk of the word that you know”). Shared reading can be used to teach decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies.

Guided Reading / Small Group and Centers (45 minutes):  During this block of time, I meet with students for guided reading while the other students work independently. In guided reading, I provide students with scaffolding so that they can read texts at their instructional level (slightly harder than what they could read independently). The students who are not meeting with me work in literacy centers. (Note: your small group reading instruction does NOT always need to be guided reading! There’s also value in meeting with a group of kids to work on a reading strategy, or to support them in reading grade-level, rather than instructional-level, text.)

Reading Workshop Minilesson (10 minutes): I teach a decoding, fluency, or comprehension skill (just one per lesson) that students can practice as they read independently. This is a very brief, focused lesson and can easily be combined with shared reading.

Independent Reading (25 minutes +5 for sharing time): Students read independently (not silently, but whisper reading). You can also incorporate independent reading time into your literacy centers, but I’ve found that kids are more focused when the classroom is quiet and everyone is focused on independent reading at the same time. I confer with kids individually while everyone is reading. After independent reading time, we come back together as a group so the kids can share about their reading and strategy use with a partner or the class.

Writing Workshop Minilesson (10 minutes): I teach a brief, focused lesson on a writing skill that students can use in their own writing. I structure my writing units by genre, so whatever skill I’m teaching is related to that genre. I model real writing during almost every one of these minilessons.

Independent Writing (25 minutes + 5 for sharing time): Students write independently, and I confer with kids individually. After independent writing time, we come back together as a group so students can share their writing with a partner or the class.

Phonics / Word Work (10-20 minutes, plus more in small groups):  I teach From Sounds to Spelling or another phonics program in a small group setting. I typically meet with 1-2 groups per day to introduce a phonics/spelling pattern. At the same time, other students are working independently with their assigned words. It takes some time to set up, but differentiating word study has been super effective with my kids in the past.

Phonological Awareness (5 minutes spread out throughout the day):  This is when we do quick, oral activities to increase students’ awareness of the sounds in words. Phonological awareness activities can include rhyming practice, segmenting words into their individual sounds (cat -> /c/ /a/ /t/), blending individual sounds to make words, substituting sounds, clapping syllables, etc. I don’t usually write phonological awareness into my daily schedule because we do these activities during transition times.

Sample Schedules for a First Grade Classroom

So what does this look like in a first grade classroom? Below are some schedules that I and/or my colleagues have used in the past. I included some variation in the amount of time you spend on each activity, the number of specials classes you have, and length of the school day.

This is one example of a first grade schedule with a balanced literacy block! Read the full post for other sample schedules and ideas. This is one example of a first grade schedule with a balanced literacy block! Read the full post for other sample schedules and ideas.

This is one example of a first grade schedule with a balanced literacy block! Read the full post for other sample schedules and ideas.This is one example of a first grade schedule with a balanced literacy block! Read the full post for other sample schedules and ideas.

Even though I generally followed one of these schedules, our day in first grade didn’t always look like this throughout the entire year. I love to teach integrated thematic units that engage kids in learning content area material through literacy activities (i.e. reading about and writing about animal habitats). At the beginning of the year, it’s great to establish a routine that provides kids with consistency. But as the year goes on, I think it’s completely fine (and sometimes necessary) to deviate from that schedule. Literacy learning doesn’t always fit nicely and neatly into a box!

General Scheduling Tips

Ideally, you could choose one of the above schedules, adapt it slightly, and go with it. However, I know from experience that it’s not always that easy! If you can’t use any of these schedules and have to write one from scratch, here are some general tips that I keep in mind when doing my scheduling:

  • When you write your schedule at the beginning of the year, make two schedules: one for now and one for later. When our first graders come to us at the beginning of the year, they are still babies! I try to keep “sitting and listening activities” brief, and I divide silent reading time up into two 5-10 minute chunks. I make sure to create a beginning-of-the-year schedule that reflects their developmental needs, but I also create an end-of-the-year schedule, too. Keeping that end-of-the-year schedule handy helps me gradually transition my students to where I need them to be.
  • Plan to teach the most important skills right at the beginning of the day. Students are most focused at this time and are more likely to retain what you teach.
  • Alternate activities that involve sitting quietly/listening with activities that involve movement. For example, you might teach a minilesson, have students work in centers, and then read a story aloud. If you must have two “sitting and listening” activities back-to-back, make sure to include a movement break in between them.
  • Prioritize student practice time. When I have limited time, I tend to want to fill it with teaching, to squeeze in every possible lesson I can. But what kids really need is time to practice with your support. I try to distill my lessons so that they are short and to-the-point, and then give students as much time to practice as possible.
  • Begin and end the day as a group. It builds community for students to come together for morning meeting or an end of the day routine. These are definitely my favorite times of the day!

I hope this post gave you some ideas for structuring your literacy block! If you are looking for reading and writing curriculum for first grade, click on the images below to read more.


Happy teaching!


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8 years ago

Hi Alison 🙂 – you have a fantastic name!

I LOVE your writing resource that was posted on FB, I am just moving into first after a brief two year stint in 4th & 5th. I had taught K before, but first is a new adventure.

Thank you for posting such great stuff! I’d love for you to visit my blog, if you’d like! There isn’t much there yet – I just started over!

Have a fantastic day,
Alison 🙂

Kimberly Burkeen
8 years ago

Do you teach Common Core standards?

8 years ago

Great article! I wish we had this much time for ELAR…we only have 2 hours MAX!!! ?

7 years ago

Is your literacy time interrupted? Meaning are all of your students present for all instruction? The various schedules you provided were very helpful!

7 years ago

Can you tell a little bit about what activities you have your kids do during workshop, when you meet with groups!?

7 years ago

I love your balanced literacy schedule. You are amazing. I have one question what do you use for science and social studies. Our reading trainer wants us to incorporate science and social studies into our read alouds and shared readings. We currently have a separate time for it like you do in your sample schedules above. Can you give me some suggestions of what you do. Thank you!

7 years ago

Hi Alison! I love you post! I agree with EVERYTHING you have said here and that is why it is mid October and I am STILL struggling to set a daily schedule in my classroom. My struggle had me looking at as many sample schedules as I could find and that’s when I happened on your post. I was wondering if you could tell me how you would handle my schedule? We start at 8:45 with the pledge and announcements usually done by 8:55. I have related arts from 10:25-11:10 and lunch from 11:25-11:55. Then from 12:30-1:30 we have Power… Read more »

7 years ago

This post is super helpful! I’m a first year teacher, and I’m spending my year teaching First Grade in a bilingual school in Nicaragua. Every day I have the first 90 minutes for Language Arts with my kids, but then I only have 45 minutes for math and 45 for science (science is 3 days a week) that are spread throughout the rest of the day. The kids have Spanish, ESL, and a special as well that are taught by other teachers. I don’t have much time with my kids and I’ve been struggling to make the most of the… Read more »

6 years ago

How do you squeeeeezzze it all into a lesson plan book with 7 columns? HELP!!!

Kimberly Hermann
6 years ago

I noticed that you don’t have time scheduled for class bathroom breaks, do you not take class bathroom breaks? If not, how do you manage the revolving door of kiddos that have to go to the restroom throughout lessons? Also, we have to provide handwriting instructin (correct letter formation, etc.). Do you provide that daily instruction? I’m really struggling trying to fit everything in…any advice you can give would be appreciated.:)

6 years ago

This post was very helpful!! We’re recently trying to implement something similar in our school and I’ve felt a little lost. This really helped me so much!! I am still struggling though because we only get 120 minutes of reading time. Is there any advice you have for adjusting the schedules from around 3 hours to 2?

6 years ago

Hello, I stumbled across your blog while I was frantically researching balanced literacy and I am thrilled! I noticed in your post that you have shared reading, read aloud, and a reading mini lesson listed separately. Can you explain how they are different? Should they all be over the same skill/strategy, or connected in some way? Thank you for helping out this frazzled, first year first grade teacher!

6 years ago

Looking over your schedule and trying to adjust it to 120 minutes including a 35 minute reading block. Like your idea of a and b schedules to get everything in and the way you di read alouds. Thank you for sharing.

Lauren Pollak
6 years ago

Thanks for this post – it was very interesting and includes some great ideas and suggestions. Quick question about your sample schedules… you really not have a snack and recess break during the morning block? And how on earth do you manage to fit all of science and social studies into a 20 minute block at the end of the day?? Given that at my school we have just a fraction of the time for ELA that you do, I’m wondering what parts you’d suggest cutting back on first. I’ve got about 90 min/day to try to fit in a… Read more »

5 years ago

Thank you for all the great work you have done! Your resources are practical and helpful!

Question: Do you have or are you planning to create a RW units/bundle for first grade?

5 years ago

Alison, what are your thoughts on calendar?

Lesli Bartlett-Roker
4 years ago

Thanks Alison…where can I find my certificate for completion of course? Thanks

4 years ago

Hi Allison,
I have six literacy groups this year. I still have your five group plan, but what would your 6 group plan look like? I just have one group that is reading below grade level.

4 years ago

Hello! Excellent site here.

I’m curious about your example schedules. I only see one slot for centers in each. I believe several of your activities are done in small group. Can you clarify which activities you do in small group while others are at stations?


3 years ago

where do vocab words fit in to this schedule?

Reply to  Sarah

Hey Sarah! I’ve addressed vocabulary at different times of the day. Right now, my school is using a program where read-alouds and vocabulary are done together. So the read-aloud / comprehension work time would be extended because sometimes there is vocabulary work in there.

Quyen Pham
1 year ago

Love love love your samples !
It helps a lot because I am first year teaching

Reply to  Quyen Pham

Glad they are helpful! Good luck during your first year!


I’m Alison, a literacy specialist. I love getting kids excited about reading and writing – and sharing teaching ideas with other teachers!

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