Grade: Elementary

#2398. Literacy Centers for 1st Semester Kindergarten

Building Blocks, level: Elementary
Posted Sun Oct 7 23:00:12 PDT 2001 by Debbie Harrison (
London Towne ES, Centreville, VA

Literacy Centers for the 1st Semester Kindergarten
compiled by Debbie Harrison

As with any kindergarten activity, introduce centers carefully, just a few at a time, and spend two to four weeks modeling and reinforcing the behaviors you want.

 Picture-letter-word sort: (good for the beginning of the school year or for students who have had very little literacy experience.) Divide a piece of poster board into 3 parts. Label the 1st one Picture and glue a picture from a magazine in that section, the next is labeled "letter", and the last "Word". Make some cards with letters, some with words and some with pictures that begin with certain sounds and laminate them. Vary the levels by asking children to sort, to sort and say the letters, to sort and read the words. You can download the letters and pictures from the California Reading Recovery site at
 Magic Names: Write children's names secretly in large letters with a white crayon (NOT washable!) on white half sheets of copy paper. Have them use watered down blue paint to put a wash over them and read the names. You can secretly write the student's name very small on the back using a pencil and give just that child the paper or not. After a brief discussion about how kindergarten is a magical place because of all the new activities the students will learn this year, we then make magic names. The students cover the paper with a blue wash; as they paint, the names appear like magic!
 Doughy paint letters/names: You will need a zip lock sandwich bag for the child. Fill it with 1/4 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of salt, 2 tablespoons water, powdered tempera or food coloring. Get the air out of the bag & zip. Caution each child not to squeeze or pound very hard. Let them mix until it is kind of pasty and you think will squeeze out. Cut the end off of the bag and they squeeze the doughy paint onto the letters. If they want to trade colors, they can with people next to them.
 Read the room, using a pointer or eyeglasses. Some ideas: poetry on the wall charts, the lunch line list on the door, the abc charts, the flip chart, the word wall, pocket chart, directions for other centers, student work on bulletin boards....
 Use interactive charts, manipulating text
 Write the room, using clipboards. At the beginning of the year, they copy whatever they want. Later they can search for words that contain particular letters, and words of a certain 'type' (3 letters, all short letters, certain letters or sounds, animal words, etc.) You can make them cheaply from sturdy heavy cardboard, cut it to size and covered with contac paper; hot glue a clothes pin on each board.
 Have the students use small paint brushes to paint letters 5 times each.
 Alphabuilders - they are shaped just like letter parts- straight lines, curves, half circles etc. Students use them to make letters or words. These pieces are rather large - smallest is about 6 inches- so easy for them to handle.
 Stamp color words with letter stamps, then trace the letters with the correct colored crayon.
 Buy a couple of the "sports cards" plastic pages. Make a letter of the alphabet using an index card and magic marker to fit in each pocket. If you use the back and front of each page, you will have 36 pockets, which is enough for the entire alphabet and the numbers 1-9. Tie these together with yarn or use rings or a binder. Add a dry erase marker ( I can buy 6 fine-line dry erase markers for $4 at Wal-Mart ) and a 3'' x 6' piece of cloth to erase with. Students can trace the numbers on the plastic and erase as many times as they like to practice their letters and numbers.
 File folder games and Mailbox centers
 Make letters with plastic straws and macaroni (for the curved parts)
 Have materials for making tactile letters (macaroni M's or cottonball C's)
 Letter Bingo
 Alphabet floor puzzles
 Alphabet flip books
 Large blank letters made of circles to stamp with the "bingo-like" markers or other stamping markers
 Letter Sort of alphabet tiles (make them or buy white 1 inch tiles and print the letter with a permanent marker.) Make a t-graph on construction paper and laminate it. Mark the t-graph with the directions for sorting letters. For example, on one side of the t-graph mark "In my name". On the other side of the t-graph mark "not in my name". Then students take a handful of letters and sort. Other choices: letters that have curves vs. letters that are all straight; letters that have tails vs. letters that do not; You can vary the difficulty by having them just sorting the letters, sorting them and naming them, sorting, naming and saying the letter sounds.
 Songs and poems on charts to read (half sheet of posterboard size works well)
 Pick-A-Pocket - Use a child size hanging shoe holder. Drop plastic letters to review into the pockets. The children take turns choosing a pocket , reaching into it, feeling the letter, and naming the letter or its sound.
 Wet sand tub--give the kids some alphabet cookie cutters to make molds with the wet sand.
 Kosher salt or sand in a box to trace letters in, saying the letters
 Finger paint Bags- Freezer strength zip lock bags and fingerprint make great writing slates. Place a dab of finger paint in a freezer ziploc bag and tape it closed. Lay the bag flat on the table and write letters on it. (You can also use this for words.)
 ABC Discovery Bottles filled with confetti, alphabet beads and objects. Write the letter on the lid and hotglue the lid on. (See notes from Jean Feldman's workshop.) Students can move the bottles around and watch the objects, name the objects, draw the objects on recording sheets shaped like bottles, and try to write the names of the items.
 Look for the letter of the week in newspapers or magazines
 Sort rhyming pictures or pictures with words in a pocket chart
 Put the alphabet tiles in order
 Alphabet stamps, both capitals and lowercase, and 1-inch grid paper. Vary by giving them student names to copy
 "Read" a story to Reader Rabbit or other stuffed animal
 Playdough letters
 Use yarn or wikki sticks to make letters (later make words)
 Color words chart and cards or pictures or even objects to match
 Practice the Sign language alphabet - add the book and make the poster
 Match letter tiles to alphabet placemats
 Match upper case to lower case letters
 Look at books in the classroom library
 Make a pictionary --as a group, generate a list of words and type them in a large font. Have children illustrate the words and bind. These work well with a unit of study.
 Puppet Theater- stick puppets to make or use and copies of known books
 Write notes to each other - put in a classroom mailbox
 Make cards -- get well, Happy Birthday, I love you Mom/Dad, Happy holiday
 Listen to books on tape (can ask for a drawing/written response after) or go to the library corner
 Put letters into pocket charts
 Matching upper case to lower case letters on themed shapes, like Gingerbread men or snowmen and hearts. Using fun foam and punching these out makes this an eye-appealing center
 Make stationery using stickers or stamps to add to the writing center
 Flannel board story retelling or letters to sequence or make into names or words
 Computer
 Draw the favorite part of a story and display
 Big books
 Draw or paint a coconut tree on a cookie sheet with acrylic paint and finish with 3 layers of clear varnish. (Make sure the sheet will hold all the needed magnetic letters - some will not). Add magnetic letters and a copy of the book Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom. Students line up magnetic letters in order as they see them in the story.
 Retell a story with props: Have a basket with a familiar book & props (Ex: Mrs. Wishy Washy has a plastic bath tub, a craft doll with an apron and scarf to, a beanie cow, duck, and pig.) Change the dramatic play area into a story setting, such as the 3 Bears cottage, with 3 sizes of props.
 Pocket chart or Velcro ABC board with capitals, lower case letters, and pictures to match
 Have a name card for each child with a magnetic strip on the back. Add magnetic letters to spell the name, following the model on the card.
 Lap sized Chalkboard (with chalk and a sock for erasing.) Include laminated alphabet and number charts for them to copy for writing practice.
 Name building 1: Put a photo of each child on its own quart sized zippered bag with a strip with that child's name AND the individual letters that make up that child's name. The kid unzips the bag, takes out the name strip, puts it on the baggie above the child's picture, then "spells" the name with the individual letters below the picture. You could have the child spell a name, then clean it up, open another baggie, spell that name, clean it up. But it IS rewarding for the kids to see all their work spread out in front of them. It takes two kids about 15-25 minutes (with some talking) to spell a class of 20 names. The first few days it is slow going, then it picks right up.
 Name building 2: Take a photo of each child and make a printed word card of each child's name, initially the first name, later both first and last. In an envelope go 5 names and 5 photos. The children match them, having great fun doing so. Next day the letters of the 5 names are cut up and the children put them together again. Twenty children would be grouped into 4 bags of 5 kids each. Sometimes the children work with a partner to sort the photos with the names and the letters of each name. When the letters are correct, the child prints all 5 names.
 Children write letters they have studied on post it notes and stick them on objects in the classroom.