The Big List of K–2 Literacy Centers

Forty ideas to inspire you!

Big List of Literacy Centers

Having a cache of go-to literacy activities that are meaningful, flexible, and able to be completed by students independently is a teacher necessity. The best literacy centers build autonomy, help students practice key skills, and free you up to teach small groups or give support elsewhere. We’ve pulled together this long list so you can have plenty of simple options at your fingertips. 

1. “Feed” the mini trash cans.

Feed The Mini Trashcan

Whether you ask students to sight words, letters, pictures or words by phonetic pattern, there’s just something about a trash can with a swinging lid that makes the task much more exciting!

Source: @msbendersclassroom

2. Spell words with magnetic letters.

Spell Words With Magnetic Letters

Yes, this is an old standby, but wait … a muffin tin?! So smart. 

Source: @playdough2plato


3. Write before-and-after reading sticky notes.

Write Before and After Reading Sticky Notes

We love this idea for recording prior and new background knowledge on a topic, but it’s easily adaptable to other comprehension strategies, too.


Source: @missps_style

4. Roll. Say. Cover. Repeat.

Roll. Say. Cover. Repeat.

Make it a race to see which column “wins” or make it a fill-the-board challenge. Here’s another flexible upgrade to traditional bingo games. 

Source: @theprintableprincess

5. Roll & read words.

Roll & Read Words

For another low-prep center using dice, try this idea for word reading—nonsense or real! Just copy different lists on different paper colors to differentiate.

Source: @tastefullyteaching

6. Read it and keep it.

Read It And Keep It

Yet another take on a dice-rolling center, this one is so easy to prep and customize for different kiddos’ needs. 

Source: @teachingwithmissle

7. Unlock learning with locks and keys.

Unlock Learning With Lock and Keys

What student wouldn’t want the chance to open a bunch of padlocks?! 

Source: @differkinder

8. Find letters or words in a sensory bin.

Find Letters and Words Sensory Bin

Sensory bins are awesome for play, science, and more, but if you’re struggling to fit them into your day, turning one into a search-and-find literacy center is a win-win option!

Source: @kinderwithmrsbrooks

9. Race the fidget spinner.

Race the Fidget Spinner

Make fidget spinners work for you with this fun idea that’s adaptable for any words.

Source: @atlantareading 

10. Practice writing on magnetic drawing boards.

Practice Writing on Magnetic Drawing Boards

Whether your students need practice writing individual letters or words, adding guidelines with Sharpies is an amazing teacher hack!

Source: @teaching_in_canada

11. Level up tic-tac-toe.

Level Up Tic-Tac-Toe

This spin on a classic partner game is adorable, effective, and so easy to prep!

Source: @kinderkish

12. Spoon up some phoneme manipulation.

Spoon Up Some Phoneme Manipulation

Turns out a plastic spoon is perfectly sized and shaped to help little hands swap beginning letters!

Source: @topteacher

13. Stack cups with a plan.

Stack Cups With A Plan

This would be perfect for synonyms or matching vocabulary words to pictures, too.

Source: @erikadeane315

14. Take your word work to the wall.

Take Your Word Work To The Wall

This setup makes it super easy to update words as needed.

Source: @lucyjaneloveslearning

15. Solve a hands-on word scramble.

Solve A Hands-On Word Scramble

Magnetic letters are perfect for moving around while trying to solve a scrambled word. Having each word in its own box keeps it organized.

Source: @teachinginthe401

16. Play Snakes & Ladders.

Play Snakes and Ladders

You can’t go wrong with this literacy-themed version of the classic board game.

Source: @teachingwithmissle

17. Use a punctuation “surgery kit” to edit sentences.

Use A Punctuation Surgery Kit to Edit Sentences

Because healing erroneous sentences may help heal the world. (P.S. Including Band-Aids is the perfect touch!)

Source: @sweettoothteaching

18. Read in different voices.

Read In Different Voices

We love this idea for fluency practice with a familiar poem!

Source: @atlantareading

19. Follow a color code using dot paints.

Follow A Color Code Using Dab Paints

Mess-free painting with a literacy twist? Sign us up.

Source: @theprintableprincess

20. Play Bear Cave.

Play Bear Cave

You can’t get much simpler than the setup of this crowd-pleasing partner game. 

Source: @creativekindergartenblogonptp

21. Respond to a book using loose parts.

Respond To A Book Using Loose Parts

Kids this age still need to play! Set out loose parts and mats for them to answer a reading response question creatively, like this one for “What do you love about fall?” 

Source: @creativekindergartenblogonptp

22. Use props to practice retelling a familiar story.

Use Props to Practice Retelling a Familiar Story

Support reading comprehension with a simple storytelling center tied to a classroom read aloud.

Source: @playexplorelearn

23. Read it and draw it.

Read And Draw It

Practice reading phonics-based or vocabulary words and emphasize meaning.

Source: @creativekindergartenblogonptp

24. Find it and hole-punch it!

Find It And Hole Punch It

Find letters or words on a list and mark them with a tool that children love. (All that squeezing is great for building hand strength, too.)

Source: @creativekindergartenblogonptp

25. Spell with nuts and bolts.

Spell with Nuts and Bolts

For another way to mix word work and strength building for little fingers, just hit the hardware store.

Source: @senteacherireland

26. Mark answers with clothespins.

Mark Answers with Clothespins

Clipping a clothespin to an answer on a card engages students, avoids a paper worksheet, and acts as yet another fine motor booster all at once! 

Source: @youclevermonkey

27. Make word study magical with white crayons.

Make Word Study Magical with White Crayons

The simple thrill of writing words or word parts in white crayon and coloring to reveal the “magic” writing never gets old. 

Source: @bklandadventures

28. Label it.

Label It

Have students label the components of a picture while they work on invented spelling or, as above, using descriptive language.

Source: @youclevermonkey

29. Build words with pool noodle segments.

Build Words With Pool Noodle Segments

The laundry basket makes this a self-contained and portable activity. 

Source: @gardenstateteaching

30. Use sound knowledge to crack the code.

Use Sound Knowledge to Crack the Code

Secret codes make anything more fun. Leave messages in pictures for children to solve using their knowledge of letters and sounds.

Source: @youclevermonkey

31. Practice segmenting and blending with slinky sounds.

Practice Segmenting and Building with Slinky Sounds

Use the analogy of the classic toy that grows and shrinks to help children practice stretching words to spell them or blending sounds to make words. 

Source: @topteacher

32. Build sentences at a pocket chart.

Build Sentences at a Pocket Chart

Including environmental print and picture cards allows even emergent readers to make interesting sentences!

Source: @thekeystokinder

33. Mix and fix sentences.

Mix and Fix Sentences

Work in your content area vocabulary for an extra boost of learning!

Source: @teachingwithoutfrills

34. Build compound words with blocks.

Build Compound Words With Blocks

Ask students to build real compound words and then challenge them to spell and draw the silliest made-up ones they can think of, too.

Source: @teachingwithmissle

35. Or, use blocks to build contractions.

Or Use Blocks To Build Contractions

Clear up confusion on this tricky topic once and for all with a hands-on approach.

Source: @firstgradefinds1

36. Play Vocabulary Pictionary.

Play Vocabulary Pictionary

This classic game works so well as a partner center.

Source: @elizabethannespires

37. Hunt for words in an authentic text.

Hunt For Words In An Authentic Text

Set out books, a piece of titled chart paper, and a stack of sticky notes, and you’re good to go for an engaging and authentic center activity. To differentiate, offer a few different book choices. 

Source: @saturdays_off

What are your favorite literacy centers for K–2 students? Share them over at ourWeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Also, don’t miss: 40 Creative and Simple Sight Word Activities for the Classroom

The Big List of K–2 Literacy Centers