Literacy Center ideas

9 Quick and Easy Literacy Center Ideas

Are you shocked to hear me talk about 9 Easy Literacy Center Ideas versus math?  I love math, I truly do!  I love teaching it, love creating resources for it… but I also LOVE centers!  One of my favorite things to do is watch students engage with each other and with the resources that I place in the centers.  For me, making centers run smoothly and finding just the right mixture of curiosity, learning, and enrichment is a competition for me.  I can promise you… never has a student said they found our centers boring!  I am a huge game player, from electronic games to board games, so naturally my centers were created for the KID IN ME!

1.  Matching Games

Tried and true.  At first, I thought that my students wouldn’t like these – a bit too boring for them – but they loved them.  I guess something about the simplicity of it, made it a go to for our centers.

We played a few different ways.  Students would either play as a true matching game, where cards are turned over, and they have to find the match, or they could just lay them out on the floor, and match them up.  Either way, they are still getting the function of the game – matching words with pics.  You can also use a pocket chart and students can match them up that way as well.

These are super easy to get ready for centers!

  • Print
  • Laminate
  • Cut
  • Play

Want to read more and see some of my matching games – CLICK HERE FOR THAT BLOG POST!

short a printable matching task cards

2. I have Who Has Games

Here’s another center that my students loved.  When we first started playing I Have Who Has, we did it as a whole class activity.  But once we played, the cards just sat there.  Eventually a student asked if they could play during centers, so a new game was born!  This is how it works:

  • 2 students play (or 2 groups of 2)
  • They divy up the cards so that they have an equal amount (they can sit on the floor or at a table)
  • All the cards are turned face up
  • One student starts – then they both have to try to find the next card.
  • Whoever finds it, says their cards – then turns it over
  • If they can get through the game with all cards turned over – they both win
  • If not – then someone made a mistake, and they have to start all over

Here’s an example of students playing a I Have Who Has game during centers.  I know this one is math – but just wanted to show you how engaged they are!  LOVE IT!


3.  Board Games

When I first learned how to make my own centers, I think these were some of the first things I created.  I LOVE board games, so being able to make my own board that went along with our own first grade words… to say the least…I was super excited!

With these types of games – up to 4 players can play.  There are task cards, a game board, a spinner, and an answer doc.  

  • Students pick a card and answer it
  • If they get it right, they spin and move their person around the board
  • The other students check to make sure they are correct with the answer doc
  • The first person to make it around the board and up their correct color wins the game
literacy centers

HAHA – I promise I teach ELA… but I guess it’s math time when I think about photos.  Here’s an example of the board game.  We use a paper clip as our spinner.


I’m sure you’ve heard of Scoot, and we surely played that a LOT… but we also just used our task cards during centers at tables.  Here’s how it worked:

  • Place different task cards at different tables – all cards go in the center of the table
  • Three or four students can play at a time
  • Students grab the corresponding worksheet that goes with the task cards and then grabs one task card
  • Then they find the number on the task card and the number on their worksheet – write the answer, then put task card back in the center and grabs another one
  • They are done when they have completed all of the task cards
  • They can either turn in their sheet to you, OR they can scan the QR code and check their own work

In addition to this center – we NOW have all of these as digital cards as well.  It works the same, except students can scan a QR code, and the task cards appear on the device.  They work through it the same way, except that the cards are on the device.

5. Writing Center

I think one of the easiest centers is the writing center.  Even though it’s the easiest one to create, we need to make sure that what we are giving students to work on is engaging and creating students who will love to write!  I can honestly say that my first few years of teaching – I was doing this all wrong.  But eventually things started to click, and that’s when my writing center took off, and students were truly writing meaningful pieces of work.  You can read more about my writing center HERE!

The writing center I’m going to discuss in this post is my first set I created, and students continued to love!

This set comes with:

  • Over 20 covers for binders (which is the writing prompt) – example:  a binder cover says All About My Family – and within that binder are sheets for students to write whatever they want to write discussing their family.  The pages have lines and a section for them to draw a picture.
  • They also comes with a “word wall” where we write words that will help with that topic.  So when I introduce a new binder to our writing center, we all sit down on the carpet and think of words that we might need for this binder.  So if we are doing “All About My Family” we would think of words like cousin, aunt, uncle, etc.  We wouldn’t do specific names for this part – only words that might come up that are common.
  • This set also comes with 12 pages of 9 quick writes on each page.  I just cut these up, laminate, and put in a container.  Students grab a quick write and their writing journal and complete.  They love these!

Writing activities can happen at the student’s desk, a table, or the writing center.  We started off with this being the art center, but quickly turned into our writing center.  I bought this from Lakeshore – I eyed it for SEVERAL YEARS… and I finally got it through a Donor’s Choose grant.  Oh how I loved this center table!!

6. Computer Center

I’m not sure about you, but there was a time when our computer center consisted of DVDs that I had to purchase for students to play games.  AND… we had to rotate because we only had 3-4 computers (and that was pretty lucky!) Now, every student has a device, and computer games are plenty!

Boom Cards are the new WOW in our classrooms.  For me… I love these because I can create my own games that I KNOW will be beneficial for my students.  I know my standards, inside and out, so how cool is it to have computer games that follow my standards!? 

Anyway, Boom cards are self-checking, engaging, and so much fun for students.  Here’s how they work:

  • Teacher creates a FREE account (or paid one – under $30 to get all of the bells and whistles)
  • Buy some decks
  • Go to the Library Tab on Boom Learning
  • Find the deck you bought
  • Click on the drop-down arrow
  • Click assign or fastpin
  • It will give you a link – and you can share with any platform

It really is so easy to use and assign.  And the best part – they are interactive!  Students absolutely love them and never get bored if you find the right decks! 

7.  Say It to Win It Games

EEEEEEKKKK – So, I know I’ve talked about this game before, but ya’ll!!!  Students absolutely love this one.  Back in the day, it was not fun to prep.  I thought I was being so cool by creating these cards as circular cards.  With over 20 decks in my classroom, I think it took me about an hour per game to prep!  A few years ago, I decided to re-create these into rectangles to make it easy to prep… and WOWZA!  So much better and so much easier to prep!

I have an entire blog post about this game, so if you want to read exactly how it works – CLICK HERE TO READ AND GRAB A FREEBIE!

These have every type of word practice you can think of… from short vowels, to sight words, to double consonant practice!  You can see all of them HERE!

There’s also an ENDLESSS GROWING BUNDLE that you can purchase.  This means that when I add a game to my store, I’ll also add it to my endless growing bundle.  Buy now, then every set I add, you will get for free!

8.  Early Finisher Activities that can be used during centers!

I absolutely LOVE our early finishers!  They are NO PREP and the kids just love them!  You can use as a ppt or google slideshow, and all you have to do is press PRESENT!  Crazy easy!

Here’s how these work:

  • An image and part of the word is shown
  • Students look at the slide, then decide on the answer
  • Then they write their answer on their whiteboard (or the mat within the resource)
  • After so many seconds, the answer is shown
  • Then students check their work, erase, and the slide moves on to the next image


If you aren’t a fan of worksheets, skip this section… but I always say… there’s a time and place for everything.  Worksheets aren’t the end all be all – but I do believe that these come in handy.  I need to be able to assess my students all kinds of different ways, and for me… worksheets are one of those ways.

For these worksheets,

  • Students will fill in the sound to match the picture
  • They will shade in the sound as well
  • Then they will write the entire word
literacy centers

I know I said 9, but… I just bought another plugin that gives me TONS more options with powerpoint.  With more options comes more resources.  These NO PREP literacy centers packets are so much fun!  Students have word search options, scrambled letters, break the code, and short vowel puzzles.  

I’ve created sets for all of the short vowels, and plan to create a ton more!

I hope these ideas helped in some small way!  I know that if you’ve been teaching a while, you might already have centers under control, but for me – I always loved seeing/reading how others were doing it.  For me, it seemed like I always needed to add new things to keep students engaged and learning!

Have fun teaching!

Shanon Juneau

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