Differentiated Literacy Centers


So here it is… this is how I run my Literacy Centers.

Yep- some are from Daily 5.

Some are not.

The best part- they are all EASY prep and differentiated!

We start “training” the kids the first week of school by doing The Daily 5 and building stamina.

Read to Self

Read to Someone

Listen to Reading

Word Work

Work on Writing

Some of them are done exactly the way they are supposed to be- and some are not.  I also have a few other centers that I incorporate into our weekly rotations.

Read the Room


iPads (Spelling)

Poetry Center

Xtra Math

Here is what my Center Board looks like.  We do three centers each day.  Each center lasts about 15 minutes (we use our listening center to know when it’s time to switch).  It is a four-day rotation so it doesn’t always start on Monday.

Here is a peek at each center and how I’ve differentiated.

Read to Self

Each student has his/her own Book Box.  Every Thursday, when they first come in the classroom, they are responsible for getting three new books for their book box.  Two of those books need to be just-right books and the other can be a book that they can read the pictures or retell.  Also in their Book Box are any paper books we have done in class and their Guided Reading Books we have read together.

How I differentiate:  each student has books at either their independent or instructional level.

Read to Someone

I do literacy centers with my teaching partner, Mrs. Kruse.  When our students go to Read to Someone, they go to the middle of the room (where our opening doors meet) with their Book Box and raise their hand.  This allows them to quietly see who else is at Read to Someone.  They are able to find a quiet spot in either classroom to read.  During this time, they are able to get Partner Plays from our Read to Someone baskets.  We encourage students to find someone who has the same “letter” assigned to them. 

How I differentiate:  Here are the baskets.  Each child has a letter next to his/her name on our center chart.  They are able to get Partner Plays from that box or any other lower letters.  If the two students have different letters, they are encouraged to pick the lowest letter.  During Read to Someone they are also able to read from their Book Box’s sitting EEKK.  They can choose to take turns reading a book one at a time, take turns reading a page at a time, or they can choral read it together.

Here are the awesome author’s of the Partner Plays that I use:

A & B:  Kristen from The Teeny Tiny Teacher

C: Deb Hanson

Listen to Reading

This is how we run our Listening Center.

First, we have several teachers put their resources together.  We share your listening center books.  Our first grade team has done this.  We have a common area where we keep our books. 

They are put in order first by “theme” that goes through the entire school year.  Then, the rest are in alphabetical order.  When we check out a set of books, we put the clothespin with our name on the books that we are using.  This way, others can see where the books are at and I know quickly where I need to return them.  

For years, I had students listen to books without any headphones.   My listening center is in the hallway right outside the door so they could listen directly from the CD player.  Here’s the problem:  They were always talking and goofing around.

I got a headphone jack this year.  Let me just say… in LOVE!

Have you ever looked at the prices of a “fancy smancy” listening center?  Ridiculous!  I use a Boom Box (yes, I just said Boom Box).  It does the job.  It has both a CD player and a tape player in it.  I think I got mine at Wal-mart about 10 years ago and it still works!

I have “leaders” at the listening center.  I put a list of the center groups at the listening center (laminated) and then I just put a black dot next to the name of the person who is the leader that day.  I just go down the list each time I put a new book into the listening center.  We practice “A LOT” how to be a leader.  They are in charge of getting the books and handing them out, putting in the disc, and they are the ONLY ones who are touching the CD player.  

I mentioned above that I didn’t use headphones for years.  I do now.  It is SOOO much better.  Each student has their own set of headphones.  We keep them at their “bookshelf” that is next totheir table groups where we keep a lot of the supplies.  When they go to the listening center, they grab their headphones.  It is now QUIET at the listening center.  

Word Work

This one is tricky and changes from week to week.  Each week we have a phonics skill that we teach.  Throughout the week, we usually play a game or two.  I will put these game in our Word Work Center the following week.  They have already played it so I don’t have to worry about them not knowing what to do.

How I differentiate:  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.  Many times I have different games that are easier/harder that I can use to differentiate.

Work on Writing

I do this completely differently than The Daily 5.  Our Work on Writing is simply-Writing Workshop.  I found if I tried doing other activities, there were too many questions.  My students (most of them) absolutely LOVE writing workshop and they know the rules and routines.  This makes it a super easy center to manage.

How I differentiate:  I run my Writing Workshop so the students are working at their own level.  Some are writing very simple stories and others are writing lengthy, interesting, and exciting stories where their characters are talking, moving, and have feelings.  Each student also has a personal writing goal that they focus on during that time.

Read the Room

I have recently been making my own Read the Room activities.  These focus on the phonics/spelling skill that we worked on the week before.  I have 3 different levels A, B, and C.  Again, each student has a letter after their name so they know which paper they need to use.

How I Differentiate:

Level A- the students go around the room and write the word only.  On the back, they pick 6 different words and draw a picture to go with each word.

Level B-  the students go around the room and write the word in the sentence.  Then they read the sentence.  On the back, they pick 6 different words and draw a picture to go with each word.

Level C- the students go around the room and write the word in the sentence.  Then they read the sentence.  On the back, they pick 4 different words and they write their own sentence.


If your school doesn’t have Raz-Kids, I would highly encourage you to have your administration look into it.  (Especially if you do Accelerated Reader for your younger students (K-2).  We recently got rid of AR and switched to Raz-Kids.  I LOVE Raz-kids!  The books are on the computer and you can set each child’s level.  Right now, I have each student reading 2 levels below their Instructional level, as well as their Instructional level.  They can listen, read, and take comprehension quizzes.  You can also get data as to what types of comprehension questions each child is struggling with.  You can get a free trial by clicking on the Raz-Kids icon.

iPads (Spelling)

Right now, we are having the students practice their spelling words on the iPad.  We have certain apps that they are able to use.  We made a reference sheet so that they can easily see what they are allowed to do on the iPad.  They keep a copy of their spelling words in their Center Folder so that they have access to them at all times.

How I differentiate:  Our spelling lists are differentiated.  We have a blue list and a gold list.  The skill is the same but the words on the gold list are more challenging.  We take a pretest each week to determine which test each student will get.  Here is the Spelling product that we use.

Poetry Center

I LOVE the poetry center.  It’s a way to make sure that my students are constantly getting poetry!  Each week, we have a new poem that we introduce to the kids.  We read it everyday.  The following week is when it goes into the Poetry Center.  We have a parent helper during centers everyday and they help at the poetry center.  Students read the poem, cut it out and glue it on the left side of their poetry notebook.  Then, we have some sort of activity that they do and glue onto the right side of their poetry center.  If they finish early, they can go back and read their poems.

Many of my poems come from Jane Loretz.  I just love her interactive poetry packs!

How I differentiate:  Many times the activity will have some sort of writing included.  My higher kids may be expected to write more than my lower kids when this is the case.

Xtra Math

We don’t start Xtra Math until around December/January.  It’s a free website that allows students to practice their math facts.  It does have an App but you do have to pay for the App. 

How I differentiate:  It’s already done for me with this program!  Students work at their own pace.

WOW!  I know this is TONS of information and I’m sure I have probably left some things out.  If you have any other questions about how I run my centers, feel free to comment below or send me an e-mail at jdsrockinreaders@gmail.com.

Happy Teaching!



  • Thank you for the great ideas! You make differentiating your centers sound pretty easy and I love the honesty about sometimes not differentiating. My favorite would have to be creating a leader for the listening center – I definitely need to be investing in some headphone jacks as well. Do your students bring their own headphones or did you purchase a class set?

    Teaching Doodles

    • Thanks Susan! We actually use our Box Top money to purchase headphones for the kids.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also enjoy...


let's connect