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

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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 receive it. (You’ll get other literacy center planning freebies in the download, too!!)

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!

Alison

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Pam
5 years ago

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?

Hannah
1 year ago
Reply to  Pam

My students only do one center a day as well!

Editor
Reply to  Hannah

That’s awesome! 🙂

Jill Evans
5 years ago

As a new teacher I love your posts!

Christina
5 years ago

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.

Sasha
5 years ago

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.

Sasha
5 years ago
Reply to  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!

Colleen
5 years ago

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

Amy Trigg
5 years ago

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!

Tori Olson
4 years ago
Reply to  Alison

Alison,

I am also interested in how you plan your rotations and who is in what center. I have had my students rotate as groups and also freely rotate as they finish a center. I am curious as to how you have it set up. Thanks!

Melanie
5 years ago

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.

Melanie
5 years ago
Reply to  Alison

Thank you Allison!!

Jim
5 years ago

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

Shani
5 years ago

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?

Sharon Konopasek
5 years ago

Love your ideas!

Erika
5 years ago

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!

Hannah
1 year ago

I love the idea of introducing a new skill every day. I teach at a private school and only have 13 students in my class. I have the 8 colorful drawer rolling cart that I use for centers. I have three focus skills for that week; writing, word work and computer program. Each group is a different color. Each group has a different skill they are working on that day. For example, red group will be working on writing on Monday while green group will be working on word work on Monday. The groups will switch activities for the next… Read more »

Editor
Reply to  Hannah

Hey, Hannah! Yes, I would pull small groups as they are working on their center work. Then, as you said, once you are finished pulling that small group, you can send them back to work on their center for the day. That way, as you are pulling groups, your other students can be working on center activities that reinforce previously taught skills. I hope that helps! 🙂

Hannah
1 year ago

Do you have a video with explaining how you introduce centers in the beginning of the year? That is one thing that I have always struggled with. I always feel like I have to start centers within the first two weeks. If you have a video that shows how to introduce centers that would be helpful. Thank you in advance.

Editor
Reply to  Hannah

Hi Hannah!! I don’t have a video of how I start literacy centers at the beginning of the year, but I do have a series of blog posts that you may find helpful! I included the topic of the most relevant blog posts and their corresponding links. Please let me know if you have any other questions! 🙂

1. How to get started with centers: https://learningattheprimarypond.com/blog/how-to-get-started-with-literacy-centers-for-the-very-first-time/
2. A Minute-By-Minute Walkthrough of Literacy Centers: https://learningattheprimarypond.com/blog/literacy-centers-minute-by-minute/
3. Centers Organization:https://learningattheprimarypond.com/blog/literacy-centers-organization/
Managing Literacy Centers: https://learningattheprimarypond.com/blog/how-to-set-up-a-must-do-may-do-system-for-literacy-centers/

Hannah
4 months ago

I love your ideas and always find them very useful. I have three centers a week ( Word Work, Tablets, Writing/ Spelling). At my school we use a curriculum called Abeka. I have my students complete that worksheet independently and then they go to their specific center for the remaining time. I only have my students do one center a day. How can I implement your idea of only introducing a new center a day when my students only stay in one center for that day? I want to try your idea out but I don’t feel like I fully… Read more »

Admin
Reply to  Hannah

Hi Hannah! All great questions! When I taught, I had 5 centers that students rotated through – a listening center, a word work center, an independent reading center, a partner reading center, and a writing center. It isn’t always possible for students to get through each center every day. It of course depends on how much time you have for your literacy block. If you have 90 minutes, then it’s definitely doable to have students rotate through every center every single day (they’d spend about 15 minutes at each center and also have the opportunity to meet in a small… Read more »

Ras
3 months ago

This is a great idea, I would like to implement it this year. I do have a question, if you are not introducing all new centres on Monday will the students continue to work on the same centre as last week until it is changed out?

Admin
Reply to  Ras

Great question! Yes, that would be my recommendation if you’re using this method.

Amy Azevedo
2 months ago

Hi there. So if you introduce a new word work activity on Tuesday’s, those students who were at the word work on Monday miss out on it on Tuesday? Or do they get to do it on Wednesday because they go through the same centres twice a week? If this is the case, do you need to review the word work on Wednesday so they remember what you explained for the word work from Tuesday?

Thanks
Amy

Admin
Reply to  Amy Azevedo

Hi there! If I’m understanding your question correctly, those students would do that activity the following Monday when they go back to that center. But yes, it depends on how often you have students doing that particular center per week. With anything, a quick review at the beginning of the day might be helpful just to avoid that “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing!” dilemma from any students 🙂

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