In this post I’ll share simple ways to make your phonics centers easier to manage. These tips will help make your center time more effective, more organized, and less time consuming to plan. They’ll help you and your students make the most of your minutes as they practice important reading skills.
Tips to make phonics centers easier to manage
Teach, model, reinforce and repeat.
In order for your small group instruction to be effective and uninterrupted, the rest of the class must be able to work independently in centers. Spend as much time as it takes for students to learn the routines, procedures, and behavior you want them to follow during center time.
Model exactly what students will need to do. Have them watch you first and then practice it themselves. Repeat, reteach, and practice again.
I’ve written two posts that will guide you through:
- Click here to read, How to teach students to work independently during centers.
- Click here to read, How to start centers at the beginning of the school year.
Keep the activities simple and consistent.
Have students do activities that focus on the pattern(s) students are learning that week or that review skills previously taught.
Use consistent center activities with familiar directions so you aren’t spending a lot of time explaining new activities and directions each week. Keep the same activities but change the skill students will practice.
Vowel pairs phonics centers (source)
Weekly tasks can include (remember, you’re just changing the skill)
- Sorting pictures and word cards
- Building words to read
- Reading and responding to decodable texts
- Writing sentences with words in the target phonics/spelling pattern
- Spelling words in the target pattern
- Comparing sounds using picture cards and listening for same/different sounds
- Practice fluency and accuracy with word lists
Organize and label by phonics pattern.
One of my best tips to make phonics centers easier to manage is to create a system for storing them.
Consider using a gallon size Ziplock bag or shallow, stacking bins from the dollar store to store your centers. The dollar store bins aren’t as sturdy as some, but students don’t really handle the bins much and mine have lasted several years.
Label a bag or bin with each phonics pattern or skill and even the week you typically teach it. Keep a master copy of answer keys and recording sheets in the bag or bin so you can easily make student copies when needed. Change out your centers on the same day each week so that it becomes part of your routine.
It really pays to take a moment at the end of the day to put them away in an organized fashion so they’re ready to use next time you need them.
Download FREE phonics center labels.
Download these free phonics center labels.
Do fewer center rotations.
Sometimes less is more. By doing fewer rotations, you allow students to spend enough time at each center to complete the activity without being rushed. And you’re able to spend more time with each reading groups.
However, increasing the time at each center will decrease the number of small groups you are able to meet with. Depending on the needs of your students, this may not be an option for some.
Use a rotation board or center schedule.
Use a pocket chart with cards you can rotate so students know where to start and which center to go to when they rotate.
Hold students accountable during centers.
Consider using a check list or exit ticket for students to check when they have completed a center. Have students keep a center folder to store any unfinished work. Make sure to teach, model, and practice where center work should be turned in when it’s finished.
Download this FREE Centers Exit Ticket
One of the most time consuming tasks for any teacher is searching for meaningful center activities each week.
To solve this issue, I created an entire series of second grade phonics units. I designed each unit with minilessons, teaching slides with interactive practice games, and meaningful and consistent, centers that are engaging for students and require very little prep for the teacher.
I hope you’ll try these tips and free downloads to help make your phonics centers easier to manage. Save this post so you have it when you plan!
Visit these posts for more phonics ideas and teaching tips: