Ahhh, guided reading / literacy centres, I love you and I hate you. I love that I can cram a whole bunch of skills practice into my students through you, but managing you strains my limits every year.

Last summer when I started to wrap my brain around teaching grade one again (you know when you go on maternity leave your school brain, the brain that deals with lesson planning, assessments, and all the formalities of teaching falls out of your head as you are saying your last goodbyes), I discovered Daily 5. Everyone was talking about it, so I Facebooked, Googled, and Pinterested it. Wow, Daily 5 was like my knight in shining armour, galloping on his trusty stead to save me from guided reading chaos. I was amazed at how simple Daily 5 is and why the heck I didn’t think of it before! So, I read the book, made some cute posters, and began to plan some lessons to build my students’ “stamina”.

Now this is why when you go to school to become a teacher they emphasize “get to know your students BEFORE you plan”. We all think “uh, yeah, but I want to plan, I want to get things done ahead of time! Get me teaching!” As I have mentioned in a past post, my students ended up being a very challenging group. They needed a lot of maturing.

I began guided reading and literacy centres during the second week of school after Christmas holidays. I don’t think I’ll be doing Daily 5 until we build our stamina for it and I’m HOPING that will be by spring break. In the meantime, literacy centres it will be and I will be wining and dining my photocopier so that it will be nice to me and not jam in the middle of photocopying the hundreds of pages of booklets and game boards I need.

It’s a fine balance you need to go through to create literacy centres. I’m always asking myself if it is all worth it? Will my firsties really learn anything from them? Well, it depends. I’m learning that this group of kids love games and hands on activities. But, booklets, fill in the blanks to a story?… not so much. I love it when I hit a home run with a literacy centre and when my students all can’t wait until it is their turn to go through it. I also love it when they cheer when I introduce new literacy centres every week. This is what keeps me going with them; although, I have a feeling they will also love Daily 5, when the time comes.

Here are two stations that I have set up.

Snowball Alphabet

snowball game

snowball game pdf

This is so simple and occupies a group for all the time you need to get through guided reading with another group.

What you Need:

  • copies of game board
  • enough gloves or mittens for each student in the group
  • bingo dabbers (preferably blue)
  • 26 small styrofoam balls with an upper case letter of the alphabet written on each one.
  • a toque or a bag to put all the balls in

How to Play:
Each student gets their own game board and puts on a pair of gloves or mittens. Each student then takes turns to draw one ball out of the toque and dabs with the bingo dabber the lower case letter that matches what they pulled out. After dabbing, put the ball back in the toque and the next student goes. If the letter has already been dabbed on the student’s game board they return the ball to the toque without dabbing any letter. Keep playing until a set time or until the whole game board is filled.


  • Students need to know how to take turns, yes a novel concept in grade one but this is VERY important or you will have a lot of hitting, screaming and grabbing… not a good quiet environment for guided reading!
  • Students need to know that a bingo dabber is closed for a reason and that ripping the spongy part of it makes a giant mess (as my carpet at my last school can attest to, sorry to whoever is in there now).
  • Students need to know not to dab the ink onto their gloves and then proceed to rub their faces, it takes a whole lot of scrubbing to come off and you will have to walk around for the next two days looking like you have bruises all over your face (this happened to one of my kiddos last week).

And you ask, “what about those students who know their letters of the alphabet and will be bored by this game”? One, no one gets bored by this game… okay, well if it goes on and on it does get kind of boring! Two, well, here you go. Write sight words or winter words on the balls and your game board.
Both versions are ready for you to print above.

Every week I try to scramble a poem that we have learned the week before. Students cut out the words and glue them back in the right order. You can also print these out on card stock and laminate them. Students can then race to put them in order on their tables. Here is a scrambled up version of The Snowman and they Bunny by Pearl H. Watts.

chubby little snowman scrabble

Throughout the next few weeks I will share literacy centres that have worked with my firsties, maybe they will work with yours!

Happy teaching!