Differentiating Literacy Centers For All Learners


Differentiation is important in every grade, but I think it is especially important in kindergarten. We really have no idea who will walk through our door on the first day of school, but I can guarantee they won’t all be in the same place academically.

This year alone, I had students who started in February not knowing their name or any letters, students slightly below level, students slightly above level, and students reading at 3rd-5th grade reading levels (really).

So how do I meet the needs of all of my learners? Well, I got the inspiration for my current center set up from Mr. Greg at the Kindergarten Smorgasboard, and i’m lucky to have the space this year. If you don’t have this space or you just don’t want to give as many options, Deedee Wills also has a great post here.

First off, here is how I organize my centers:


I have 5 colors which are for 5 different groups with pink being the lowest and purple being the highest. Each group has 6 baskets to choose from and 4 folders that they can choose paper options from.

Isn’t it a lot of work to prep all those centers?!

Ok, i’m not going to lie – at first it was until I got the hang of it. Now I only switch out 2-3 baskets each week and I just move them from one color to another. For example, I might take a beginning sounds center from the green group and give it to the yellow group.

The only groups I have to plan separately are pink and purple, and that’s because they’re on such different levels from everyone else. Still, all the groups have centers that never really change, like my Mystery Sight Words center and Roll a Sight Word.

How do students know which color to choose?


I laminated the different color paper at the beginning of the year and wrote names with Vis-à-vis markers. I can easily erase and move students around as needed.

We also practiced a lot. Like, to the point where I think they thought I was ridiculous, but I wanted to make sure our year would go smooth. So we practiced finding our color, getting out the right color, putting it back on the right shelf, and making sure everything in the basket is put away where it belongs.

Do you have any other centers or just these baskets?

I have a writing center that also offers a lot of choice. I started the year with just 3 choices, but eventually bumped it up to 5. All the activities and vocab cards are from my monthly writing center bundle. That bundle actually offers enough activities that I can switch up those options throughout the year to keep it fresh.

Obviously I need to refill some of the options! This is a favorite during Friday Fun so we’re always running out.


I also have a library, listening center, and computers.

How do students know what center to be at? Do you do rotations?

When we were learning how to do each center, we did rotate. By October, I had done away with rotations and gave my students choice. I got this idea from Mr. Greg again, but mine is digital on the SMART board:


I made it by typing all of my student names into a circle partitioned into fifths and saving that as a picture. Then I inserted that into a SmartNotebook document and put my center clip art around it like Greg’s wheel above. I can just tap the wheel and use the green circle that appears to rotate it, which I love.

What are your rotations?

I have a 5 day rotation and I never switch it up because I have a lot of students who are dependent on routine. The rotations are:

library/listening center/baskets

writing center/baskets

library/listening center/baskets

write the room/baskets


The baskets are always an option because they allow for so much choice.

What about students who can’t handle the choice?

I do have a few who either don’t have the stamina or aren’t able to make a positive choice right now. For some of them, I made a picture schedule. Instead of rotating on the wheel, they follow their picture schedule which usually goes – basket, library, basket, writing center, computers. Computers are last as an incentive to get it al done, but if they don’t get there, we just celebrate what they did get done.

I also have one student who just couldn’t be safe around other students, and it was disrupting my guided reading groups. He has his own work that has some choice, but not as much as others unfortunately, and his own set place to work that is right next to my table.

I hope this was helpful to you! If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and i’ll answer them to the best of my ability.


2 thoughts on “Differentiating Literacy Centers For All Learners

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