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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Engaging Monthly Literacy Centers for the Primary Classroom

If you're a teacher in the primary grades you already know how important center time is! This is where the magic happens and rubber meets the road with daily practice. Having many opportunities to practice important skills is key to success! As a veteran classroom teacher, I found this to be especially true for literacy concepts. Our kiddos need ongoing practice with phonics, and monthly literacy centers are the best way to make it fun! 

Use these exciting monthly literacy centers in your classroom for fun hands-on learning activities your students will love during the month of December!

What Are Monthly Literacy Centers?

Wondering what I mean by monthly literacy centers? I'm talking about activities that will help your students master important phonics skills on a monthly basis. We all know that practice makes perfect, but the key to helping your students actually want to practice is engaging activities! 

Students are engaged by the holiday and seasons so use this to help them practice key skills.
In my room, I loved to tie in holiday and seasonal themes to our monthly learning to help make repetitive tasks more fun. That way, we could target some familiar skills month after month, without center time getting boring. Some of the skills we focused on in literacy centers include:
  • letter recognition 
  • letter sounds
  • letter fluency 
  • CVC words
  • CVC word fluency 
  • identifying real vs. nonsense words
Over the years, I found that these skills were the ones my kindergarten and first-grade students needed the most practice with. Because of this, I decided to focus on crafting monthly lessons that we could use to target these skills through fun holiday and seasonal activities. 

Benefits of Using Monthly Literacy Centers

Once I started using monthly literacy centers in the classroom, the payoff was very clear. As a classroom teacher, it was a big win knowing that my students would get the practice they needed with these important literacy skills on a consistent basis. Aside from this obvious benefit, there are a few more that are worth noting too! 

1. Prep Once and Use Forever! 

Once you decide on a system that incorporates important literacy skills you're looking to target, you're going to cut down drastically on monthly prep time! For example, in my classroom, once I started using my Monthly Literacy Centers, I only needed to prep each month once. Then, I'd store them away carefully and use them again next year. There's nothing better than opening up a box of prepped and laminated center activity pieces for the upcoming month to use in your classroom! 

2. Explain Directions to Students Once 

With so many awesome benefits to monthly literacy centers it's no wonder they are popular in primary classrooms around the country.
Another reason I love using monthly literacy centers is that once students understand the concept of each activity, you'll never have to explain the directions again. 

Well, maybe not never... We are talking about primary learners here, but you get the picture! 

Students will recognize the activities and get excited as they begin to recall how the games are played. They will be able to work independently in the center because the activity remains the same or similar.

In my monthly literacy sets, many of the activities follow a familiar format. So while the theme of the activity changes, the content doesn't. This means students can jump right in month after month!

3. Science-Backed Strategies 

My monthly literacy centers are aligned with the Science of Reading, which means you won't have to wonder if they're effective. If you're looking for monthly activities to use in your room, I highly recommend seeking out programs that use strategies from the Science of Reading. This will take the guesswork out of your lesson planning and make the most of the time you have. 

4. Versatile and Differentiation-Friendly

Hands on center activities like this sensory bin is a great way to engage students in learning.

I also love these centers because they are versatile. You can use them traditionally as center activities for independent and partner activities OR you use them in small groups or intervention. This also means differentiation is a breeze. Pick and choose which activities to use in each group or assign to specific students.  I love being able to use one resource in multiple ways to meet a variety of needs in the classroom!

5. Engaging and FUN!

Last, but arguably the most important on this list... monthly literacy centers are engaging! Let's get real. Students love holiday and seasonal activities. Rather than trying to control the pure joy and excitement that's bottled up inside your littles during the holidays, embrace it! Choosing monthly literacy centers with fun seasonal themes means you can count on engagement all year long. 

Choosing Center Activities for Each Topic

Now, on to the nitty gritty! Wondering what type of activities to include in your monthly literacy centers? Let's take a closer look at the tried and true tools I used as a classroom teacher to focus on each of the literacy skills mentioned above. 

Letters & Letter Sound Fluency Spinners 

First up, this activity is so. much. fun. for small group learning! This is a simple activity to use too, making it great for center time as well. 

Add these letters and letter sounds fluency centers to your monthly literacy centers for a fun game like approach to learning letters and letter sounds.
To play, students will take turns spinning a spinner. The picture they land on determines which row to read on the corresponding fluency mat. 

Students can read letters, sounds, or both depending on what you'd like to target. 

I make reading letters even more fun by using silly voices that correspond with the monthly theme. For example, kiddos will get a kick out of identifying letters in Santa's deep, jolly voice or the high, squeaky voice of an elf! 

Once students have the hang of this, assign partner groups to work together and take turns reading rows of letters to each other. 

Nonsense Word Fluency Spin and Say 

Identifying if words are real or nonsense is the theme of this fun monthly literacy centers game.
This next monthly literacy center activity is similar to the first, but instead of reading letters, children will read words and identify if they are real or nonsense. 

This activity is filled with decodable CVC words to help get your students familiar with common words. 

This activity is great practice for those of you who use DIBELS, Easy CBM, or Aimsweb, as well as general reading practice too. 

This one usually gets some giggles as kiddos think about whether or not the word they read was a real one!

Sensory Basket - Letters and Sounds

Do you use sensory tubs in your classroom? If not, you're missing out on a great opportunity for high engagement among your students! 

Help your students identify letters and letter sounds with this fun hands on literacy centers activity and sensory basket idea.
Literacy sensory baskets help combine the use of tactile materials and hands-on learning with phonics practice. In December, our sensory baskets featured seasonal letter cards and picture cards. 

This activity is meant to target letters, and letter sounds so you can differentiate based on skill level or mix and match. 

Students will search for letters or pictures that represent sounds in the basket and then mark them off on a corresponding recording sheet. I love that this activity uses a smaller version of a sensory table since many classrooms don't have room for them. 

A small tub or tray works great and you can customize the fillers too! Paper shreds, rice, dry beans, or styrofoam are all fun choices! 

Letter Identification & Sound Hole Punch 

A hole punch makes for a fun learning tool with this letter identification and sound monthly literacy centers activity.
I love this next activity for center time and students do too!

To use this one, students will draw a card and name the letter or sound represented on it. Then, they will search their holiday phonics mat for the matching letter and use a hole punch to mark it. 

The cards come in versions with letters in alphabetical order as well as mixed up to allow for easy differentiation. 

This activity is great because it targets fine motor practice while working on this important literacy skill. Students love looking at the fun holiday scene on each mat as well. 

Choose the black and white versions of the cards if you'd like to have students color the picture after they finish. 

Nonsense Word Sorting Activity 

Ready for a fun game that's super versatile? Then you'll love this Nonsense Word Sorting Activity. 

This literacy center asks students to choose a card, read the word on the card, and then sort it into the correct category: real word or nonsense word. 

In addition to using this as a literacy center, I love using this one in small groups too.  It really gives me a chance to see how students are doing with the blending concepts and understanding what they are reading.

Here's a peek into this activity in action!

All the Literacy Centers in one Place

In order to make things easy and help you save time, I have created monthly bundles of all the literacy centers.  In this post, I used my December literacy centers as examples. You can find all of the fun literacy centers that were featured in the December bundle.   

Grab this Kindergarten Literacy Centers Bundle for even more fun and exciting monthly literacy centers ideas to use in your classroom this December.

But what good are fun, easy to use skill based literacy centers if they are only available for the shortest month? Absolutely no good.  That's why you can find bundles for each month in my TPT store.  

Making Literacy Centers Fun Every Month

If you're looking for an easy way to save time and money when it comes time to plan your own monthly literacy activities check out the Full Year Literacy Centers Mega Bundle. Each month includes similar activities in a familiar format to help encourage learning and growth on important literacy topics. 

Looking for monthly literacy center ideas to use all year long? Grab this Mega Bundle for fun filled activities with engaging themes to use every month of the year.

Your students will look forward to these fun, hands-on games and centers each month. Plus, don't forget that these versatile centers can be used in multiple ways too! Differentiate as needed, use for intervention and small groups, as well as daily center activities. The options are endless, but the prep is simple making these a great option for your monthly literacy centers. 

Save This Post 

Pin this post on your favorite Pinterest teacher board to keep track of these ideas for monthly literacy centers!

Looking for fun and exciting monthly literacy centers ideas to use in your classroom this year? These awesome activities include everything you need for engaging literacy practice your students will love. Be sure to check out the MEGA Bundle for a whole year's worth of fun monthly literacy centers activities with seasonal and holiday themes your students will look forward to each and every month.

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