Do you have a difficult time finding activities to keep other students engaged while you are teaching small group reading lessons? If so, you’re not alone! Many teachers feel this way. It can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be! Today, I am sharing reading centers and activities that will keep your other students engaged and reading while you pull students for small group reading instruction.
4th and & 5th Graders Are Not Too Old for Reading Centers
If you’re like most teachers, when you think of reading centers, you probably think of primary grades. However, reading centers can be beneficial for students in upper grades, too! In fact, many 4th and 5th grade teachers use reading centers on a regular basis.
There are several reasons why reading centers can be beneficial for 5th graders:
1. They provide a way for students to practice reading independently AND with others.
2. Students are able to read at their own level and their own pace.
3. Reading centers give students the opportunity to explore different genres and reading topics that they might not choose themselves.
4. Strategically chosen reading centers allow students to continually practice and review reading skills and strategies
5. Reading centers engage all learners, including struggling readers and reluctant readers.
1. Independent Reading
Independent reading is an important goal for this grade level. Students in 4th and 5th grade really need to have the stamina to read for extended periods of time. Independent reading center is a center that ALL of my students complete each day and some complete this twice a day. For independent reading, the students read books of their choice while applying the reading skills from our reading mini-lessons.
2. Reading Response Center – Write About Reading
This reading center goes perfectly with independent reading (and is one of the ways that I keep my students accountable for their independent reading).
There are many different ways that you can have students respond or write about their reading. Here are a few:
Reader’s Response Letters: One way that I implement reader’s response is by having my students write bi-weekly letters about the book they are reading. They either write to me in their reader’s notebooks, or they write to a partner via our class blog.
Book Reviews: Students can write short reviews of the books they read. This is a great way to get students thinking critically about what they are reading and share their reading with others.
Reader’s Theater: Students can create skits or plays based on the books they are reading. This is a great way to bring a book to life and to encourage student creativity.
Graphic Organizers: Students can use graphic organizers to organize their thoughts about a book. This is a great way to help students process what they are reading.
3. Reading Games
Reading games are a great way to keep kids engaged and excited about reading. They can also be used to teach and practice important reading skills, standards and overall comprehension. There are many different types of reading games and activities that you can use in your classroom, but here are a few of our favorites:
Reading game boards – These reading games include one-page grade level passages (helpful for building reading stamina) with an accompanying game board of text dependent questions. Sometimes we read the passage together as a class before centers start. Then, they spend the reading center time “playing” the game and answering the questions, which you can have them do orally or they could record them.
Want to try these reading games out in your classroom?
- Download a FREE reading game by clicking here.
- Purchase the full set of reading games in my TpT store by clicking here.
Roll and Answer reading games- These centers include a half-page passage with 11 text-dependent questions. The students roll a dice twice, find the sum, and then answer the question that matches the sum. This can be “played” with partners (and even as a version of BUMP) or independently.
Want to try these reading games out in your classroom?
- Download a FREE reading roll and answer center by clicking here.
- Purchase the full set of Fiction Roll and Answer Reading Centers here and the Nonfiction Roll and Answer Reading Centers here.
4. Informational Text Center
Informational text is an important genre of writing for students to read regularly. When students read information texts, they are exposed to new vocabulary words, concepts, and ideas. They are also building their background and content knowledge.
Reading informational text also gives students the opportunity to practice reading skills such as main idea and details, sequence, and cause and effect. In addition, information texts often include illustrations and diagrams, which can help students visualize and understand the concepts being presented.
Because of this the informational text reading center is a very important addition to my reading center rotations. Through this reading center, I am able to expose my students to a variety of informational topics and a variety of different types of informational text.
I also use this center to both target my students’ interests and to integrate science and social studies into reading. Over the years, I have collected a library of books that align with our science and social studies topics. When I introduce a new topic, I pull out the books that match that topic and place them in the center.
I use my Roll and Answer Reading Response to have the students think about, discuss, and respond to their reading. You can read more about this reading center and grab it for FREE by clicking here.
5. Poetry Center
Similar to the informational reading center, I like to have a poetry reading center in my classroom to expose my students to a variety of poems.
For this reading center, I place a couple of poetry collection books and sometimes printed poems that I know my students will enjoy and poetry response task cards. During the center, the students read a poem and respond to the poem using the task cards.
For more poetry reading centers that include poems and text-dependent questions, click here to see Poetry Reading Centers.
6. Partner Reading
Partner reading center is one of my students’ favorite reading centers. It is also an effective way to improve reading fluency and comprehension, while also engaging students.
There are many benefits to using partner reading in your classroom, including:
1. It allows students to practice reading aloud with a supportive partner.
2. It gives struggling readers the chance to read with a more fluent reader.
3. It allows students to build stamina by reading for longer periods of time.
4. It gives reluctant readers the chance to read with a friend.
5. It builds confidence and motivation.
6. Students really enjoy it!
For my partner reading center, I like to mix things up and have several options. Sometimes my students simply read books together. Sometimes they read the same book and sometimes they read and discuss their own independent reading book.
Partner reading is also a great center to have the students partner read grade level passages that target specific skills. I have found that my students who read a grade level below really benefit from reading grade level text with a partner in this format. They support each other and both students are exposed to more complex text.
7. Magazine Center
Magazines are always a hit with my students. They love the full color graphics and the variety of different high interest articles in the magazine. I usually have lots of magazines on hand from past subscriptions that I have paid for or were given to me. Check with your librarian for older magazines, too.
The great part about many magazines is they include comprehension questions and writing tasks to go with the articles. You could easily create a choice board with tasks for the students to complete. Here is a generic choice board that I use with my students when I don’t have time to create a magazine specific choice board or when the magazine, I am using doesn’t have a lot of comprehension questions/tasks. I just fill in the number of activities and articles required and copy it for my students.
8. Task Card Center
Another popular reading center for upper elementary students are reading task cards. The short tasks and focused question that are used in tasks cards make them very accessible to all students, especially struggling students.
9. Digital Reading Centers
Since my students take their state tests on the computer now (with lots of typed responses), I like to get them on the computer as often as possible during reading time. There are several different types of digital reading centers that you can use depending on the needs of your students.
You can use:
- Self-Grading Digital Reading Google Forms
- Google Slides Activities with Text Boxes
- Google Slides Activities with Moveable Pieces
10. “Hands-On” Reading Activities
One thing that I have noticed instantly increases engagement and motivation is making activities hands-on.
However, this is not always easy with upper elementary skills and standards. To implement a bit of hands-on practice, I use my reading puzzles and reading spinners. Click here to read more about these hands-on reading activities and grab the ones shown for FREE!
Want more hands-on activities and reading centers?
- Click here to see Reading Puzzles for 4th and 5th Grade.
- Click here to see Reading Spinners for 4th and 5th Grade.
11. Read Aloud Extension Center
I often begin my reading time with a read aloud (sometimes a chapter book like Wonder and sometimes a mentor picture book). As we read the book, we do lots of discussion and even writing together. I also like to give the students questions or a response to continue during their reading center time. You can see an example of this with the book The Wall by Eve Bunting by clicking here. I read the book aloud and have a mini-lesson with my students on a specific reading skill. Then, the task cards (that are free on the linked post) would be placed in a read aloud extension center for the students to complete that week.
Interested in learning more about the different read alouds I use in 4th and 5th grade? Click here to see all of my blog posts that share the different read alouds and mentor texts for a variety of skills and even holidays.
FAQs About Reading Centers for Upper Elementary Students
- Do you use all of these reading centers? No, I don’t use all ten of these reading centers at one time and some don’t ever make their way into my reading time over the course of a year. It really depends on my students, their interests and their existing reading behaviors and needs. The reading centers you choose to use also depends on your available resources and how you teach reading.
- How many centers do the students complete a day? My students complete 2-3 reading centers a day. One of their reading centers MUST be independent reading.
- How long do your reading centers last? Each center lasts approximately 20 minutes. I am very strict on my students beginning their center immediately once we transition since our time is limited.
- Do you assign reading centers or allow the students to choose? I have done both ways. It really depends on your students and their maturity levels, behavior, and motivation.
- How do you handle behavior during reading centers? I teach the reading centers explicitly and teach/model the proper expectations for the quality of work and their behavior at the center. I spend the first month of school doing this. By doing the work upfront, I have minimal issues with behavior throughout the year. Also, the consistency of the reading centers also helps with behavior. They know exactly what is to be expected of them at each center. Click here to read a more detailed post about reading center management.
Want more articles about reading and freebies?
If you are still on the fence about whether or not reading centers will work with your students, click here to check out this post for five reasons to use reading centers in upper elementary. The post also shares a free paired passage reading center.
Do you love reading centers but struggle with classroom management during reading center time? Check out my tips for reading centers management by clicking here.
If you would like to read about how I teach reading, click here to read a detailed breakdown of what reading instruction looks like in my 5th grade classroom.
Do you use any of these reading centers with your upper elementary students? Do you have another reading center that you use and love? I would love to hear about it in the comments.