Designing Literacy Stations

to Promote Literate Students

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I have read and understand the UTA Academic Honesty clause as follows. “Academic dishonesty is a completely unacceptable mode of conduct and will not be tolerated in any form at The University of Texas at Arlington. All persons involved in academic dishonesty will be disciplined in accordance with University regulations and procedures. Discipline may include suspension or expulsion from the University. “Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, collusion, the submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person, taking an examination for another person, any act designed to give unfair advantage to a student or the attempt to commit such acts.” (Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Part One, Chapter VI, Section 3, Subsection 3.2., Subdivision 3.22).”

Further, I declare that the work being submitted for this assignment is my original work (e.g., not copied from another student or copied from another source) and has not been submitted for another class.

“Signature” (Typed name): Katherine Rose Henderson

Date: May 12, 2016

"If we want our students to be excited about literacy, they need to have teachers who love coming to work, who are literacy learners themselves, and who find ways to make curriculum relevant to children's lives."

I am a currently completing my fifth year as an educator in Mesquite Independent School District and my fourth year in first grade. I hold a certification in early childhood through sixth grade education as well as English as a second language. I have a passion for teaching young children how to read! My future aspirations are to be a reading specialist and work with first year teachers and new teacher candidates.

In their book entitled Reading Essentials: The Specifics You Need to Teach Reading Well, Routman (2003) states, "Success breeds more success; repeated failure leads to the feeling 'I can't do this.' Often, students just give up" (p. 15). As educators, and reading specialist, we need to help students feel more moments of success. More importantly, we need to create learning experiences where students can have these moments independent of the teacher. The purpose for this handout is to educate teachers, reading specialist, and parents on ways to promote engaging and meaningful literacy experiences.

According to Kracl (2012), "Literacy work stations are one way to provide students a classroom environment that meets the characteristics of effective literacy classrooms, allows the teacher to work with small groups, and keeps students engaged in literacy throughout the day" (p. 27). What are literacy stations? Gregory and Chapman (2007) define literacy stations as, "a collection of materials designed purposely with a goal in mind." The key word from Gregory and Chapman (2007) is purposely. The days of giving students busy work is over. Students need interactive, collaborative, and engaging ways to learn with their peers. In addition to students being active participants in their learning, teachers will gain more time at the guided reading table and with less distractions. In their study on literacy station effectiveness, Kracl (2012) concluded that since students were more highly engaged in literacy stations, they interrupted their teacher less, which allowed small group instruction to be more effective. In addition, Wigfield (2000) discovered that these learning environments fostered intrinsic motivation in students.

In this handout, teachers will gain further insight into literacy station best practices. Using the research and tips provided, teachers can create a plan for implementation in their own classrooms. Finally, teachers can share resources with parents in order to continue learning experiences outside of the classroom.

Tip #1: Consider your groups

Based on recent research, there are different ways in which students can be grouped for literacy stations. Researchers indicate that heterogeneous grouping is beneficial; however, teachers need to be mindful of huge gaps in ability level. Shell, et. al. (2010) explains that teachers should "consider the range of abilities within each group to avoid making the spread to wide". The reason for this, is often students who are higher level thinkers become frustrated with those who are not. Another idea mentioned by researchers is allowing choice in partners during literacy stations. Many who studied choice found that students were more motivated when they were able to choose their partner. In addition, Kracl (2012) stated, "The students knew if they did not work well together, they would not be able to continue as partners" (p. 38). Thus, student behaviors were not only improved with choice, but students were more engaged. Finally, consider long term partnerships. While it is important to change things up every once in a while Maurer (2010) states, "children were grouped together each day at the literacy centers, allowing for a strong peer bond to develop" (p. 356). These bonds were important for students in achieving literacy success.

Tip #2: Provide ample time

According to recent research, "the length of time provided for literacy centers gave ample time for children to explore materials, work with peers, and practice literacy skills" (Maurer, 2010, p. 356). It is important to note that students do not need to visit every station, every day. With a rotation schedule, teachers can determine the number of stations students will visit each day and adjust guided reading time accordingly. Students should be given enough time to have meaningful conversations about the skills being addressed in each station. In addition, students should not be in stations too long because behaviors will begin to occur. At the beginning of the school year students may attend each station for around five minutes; however, as their stamina grows, so should the time they stay in each station.

Photo Source: Lakeshore Learning Website

Tip #3: Hold students accountable

Depending on the school and district, guided reading can be scheduled for 50-90 minutes of an instructional day. This is a critical time for teachers to intervene and students to work independent of teacher with peers on given tasks. Reutzel (2007) and Diller (2003) agree, "it is important that tasks completed in literacy work stations have a component of accountability and performance." The idea of accountability is important because teachers are able to assess whether stations are done effectively. Teachers can collect writing samples from reading and listening stations, as well as implement checklists or "I can..." lists (Diller, 2003; 2006), which Kracl (2012) stated made a notable difference in her study (p. 35).

Tip #4: Gradually add new stations

At the beginning of the school year, or implementation process, it is important to explicitly teach one or two stations. According to Kracl (2012),

"fewer stations or centers are easier for both the teachers and students to handle... as the year progresses, adding a few stations, can add variety to reading block time" (p. 31). As she stated, when students show understanding of literacy stations already available, the teacher can then begin to add new ones. After all, we want students to understand the purpose behind each activity, and create a meaningful time in our day. In addition to the implementation process, it is crucial that teachers consistently update the materials in each station to keep students engaged. This can look like changing the type of writing students create in the writing center, the activities in word work station, or even the seating arrangement in the library.

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Tip #5: Keep it current!

At the beginning of each school year, we assess our students to determine their instructional reading levels. From there teachers generate activities for learning stations. The key to successful literacy station activities is not this initial assessment, but instead the process of ongoing assessment and reflection. Kracl (2012) stated, "stations remain all year long with changes made to reflect children's reading levels, strategies currently being taught and topics being studied" (p. 31). In addition to updating stations based on current concepts, Kracl (2012) suggested that differentiation was key! In each station, teachers can provide activities that vary in difficulty, thus allowing students of all ability levels to be challenged and engaged. Recent research also suggest "improvement in behavior" (Diller, 2003) will occur in addition to less time off task.

Tip #6: Model what you want to see

When implementing literacy stations, it is critical for teachers to use mini lessons as an effective tool for modeling expectations and procedures. In addition to teaching students the skills being addressed in a station, Kracl (2012) discovered "the mini-lesson is also the time to explicitly model what is expected of students" (p. 34). One way to model expectations is showing them exactly how items should be stored, used, and shared. Allow one student to model the incorrect way, and another the correct way. This not only serves as a visual for students, it also holds them accountable for their behavior during this time. According to Kracl (2012) "the emphasis in literacy work stations is on teacher modeling and student taking responsibility for their own learning" (pp. 31-32). Essentially, the effort you produce during the implementation of literacy stations, will set the ground work for the rest of the year. It is crucial for teachers to create and share the expectations so there are fewer distractions and interruptions during the small group time.

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Tip #7: Make a schedule

Using a schedule during literacy stations allows both the teacher and student to know where they should be and who they should be working with. In addition to expectations, a schedule should be created so that students receive an accurate amount of time exploring each station. According to Kracl (2012), "all students should participate for equal amounts of time at the literacy work stations with materials that are differentiated for students with different needs and reading levels" (p. 31). It is important to address that students do not need to attend each work station everyday, instead a schedule like the one shown can be created and rotated each day.

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Tip #8: Offer choice

In addition to a schedule system, teachers can offer "open choice" activities when students complete their required stations. Kracl (2012) defines open literacy activities as "ones that allow students choice, require strategy use, and facilitate student involvement" (p. 35). Based on the amount of time allotted for literacy stations and the required time you have set for each station, teachers can leave between 10-15 minutes at the end of rotations for student choice. Students would have to follow the correct partner expectations and also understand they might not get the station they desire. Teachers should determine a process for students to chose (e.g. those with the best behavior or standing quietly when the timer goes off choses first). Turner (1995) found "in classrooms where more tasks were open, students were more engaged in literacy activities, used more elaborative strategies, and were much more interested in literacy activities".

Tip #9: Choose the right time

Research shows, "long blocks of uninterrupted learning time are generally required for students to engage in meaningful learning" (Byrnes, 2000). It is important to note that students perform well when schedules are consistent. In order to achieve academic success, students and teachers need this uninterrupted time. In some cases continuous time is unachievable. Kracl (2012) explains "not all teachers in this study had extended blocks of time for reading instruction. Additionally, they had students leaving and re-entering the classroom for reading interventions" (p. 36). When planning guided reading/literacy stations, try and choose a time that is consistent among the five school days. If five consecutive days is not possible, create a schedule and try and remain as consistent as possible for students. This will help in the flow of instruction.

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Tip #10: Seek advice!!!

Always remember you are not alone! Find someone on campus or in your district that has implemented literacy stations to go and observe. Not only will you learn through a real life example, you will be able to visualize it in your own classroom. Kracl (2012) refers to this process as "trying it on" before the implementation process begins (p. 40). In their study on literacy stations, Kracl (2012) explained the importance of allowing teachers to have someone for guidance when beginning this process. They found "teachers continued to seek my feedback during observation times and through email"... they later concluded "opportunities to observe models of instructional strategies, practice new techniques, and receive feedback" was critical for teachers (pp. 39-40). It is never a bad idea to seek advice and use your resources!

Five things to share with parents!

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Parent tip #1

Use technology as a resource to support literacy skills. Many families have access to electronic devices like tablets, iPads, and iPhones but are unaware of applications that help students learn to read. Ask your teacher or school librarian if they suggest any apps for spelling, phonics, or reading. In addition, many public libraries are now offering a book "check out" on these devices.

Parent tip #2

Print is everywhere! As you are driving or walking around a store, have children look for spelling patterns, letters, verbs, nouns, etc. Students need opportunities to see print in their everyday life in order to make meaningful connections.

Parent tip #3

Read with your child! Have meaningful conversations about what is happening in the text. Who are the characters? What is the setting? What was the problem in the story? How did the characters solve the problem? What was the main idea? Have you ever had a similar experience? In expository texts, ask students to describe the photographs and discuss the text features. What do the words mean under the picture? What new information did you learn?

Parent tip #4

Read weekly newsletters and homework. Most teachers have newsletters or homework that will keep you informed as to what skills are being addressed in the classroom. Take the information you learn and find ways to review skills at home. Always use your teacher as a resource if you are not sure how to explain or teach it something.

Parent tip #5

Attend school events and come with questions! Teachers, administrators, and librarians are great resources for parents. They might have ideas for helping students, parents would not have known, if they had not attended and ask questions. In parent conference be willing to share the things you are trying at home, and ask for any further suggestions. All adults at school and home are a team! They should work together to meet the needs of each individual student.


Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR)

The Florida Center for Reading Research website is a wonderful resource for educators. It is full of visual models that show how the essential components of reading work together to help develop overall reading success. In addition to these professional tools, there is a link for educators with resources that can be used during guided reading. The resources include activities for phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. In the professional handout tips I discussed the importance of modeling activities prior to implementing them in literacy stations. Teachers can use the printable activities first in guided reading groups, and then later add them into the word work or pocket chart stations.

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Literacy station Pinterest board

Pinterest is a well know website which provides viewers ideas and guidelines for specific subject areas. In this Pinterest board, the creator is focusing specifically on literacy station organization, activities, and overall atmosphere. Teachers can use this website to gain ideas for classroom organization, seating areas, station scheduling, printable materials and labels, as well as resources to buy which will make activities more engaging. Many of these resources are beneficial for parents as well. Parents can utilize given visuals and printable activities to create literacy learning experiences at home.

Photo Source: Pinterest website (about section)


KizPhonics is a website that is beneficial for both teachers and parents. Activities are categorized by grade level and specific resource type. Among the resources are printable activities, powerpoint lessons/instructions, videos, games, and downloadable iPad apps. Activities can be included in whole or small group lessons as well as at home learning experiences. In addition to learning purposes, students can have access to games and apps in literacy stations. These activities will promote engagement as well as repeated learning experiences to help ensure mastery.

Photo Source: KizPhonics website

Tumble Book

With the help of Tumble Book, students have access to hundreds of books, which can be read independently or aloud. An important element to students learning to read fluently, is to having them listen to fluent readers read aloud to them. The books on this website are engaging for students because the stories are animated and come to life. Students can search for books based on genre, author, series, or even AR reading level. This is also a great resource for parents to have at home in cases where access to books is limited.

Photo Source: Tumble Book website

Annotated Bibliography

Camahalan, F., & Wyraz, A. (2015). Using additional literacy time and variety of reading programs. Reading Improvement, 51(1), 19-26.

In this study, researchers sought to determine whether extending the amount of time engaged in literacy programs would benefit students in overall reading gains. This study focused on five lessons, which were designed to address phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. In addition, students were given opportunities to practice skills in other literacy activities provided by the Daily 5 program. A summative Dibels Oral Reading Fluency (DORF) assessment was used to gather data both before and after program implementation. After analyzing pre and post assessments, researchers found that all four students involved in the study made significant gains. Thus, their original hypothesis was correct in stating that more time and different literacy programs would increase overall reading abilities.

Maurer, C. (2010). Meeting academic standards through peer dialogue at literacy stations. Language Arts, 87(5), 353-362.

This study used an ethnographic methodology and gathered data through observations in peer dialogue. Using recorded conversations from literacy stations and other observation notes, Maurer (2010) was able to transcribe the peer dialogue to gather data. She noted, since the classroom teacher had clearly established and purposeful grouping of students, the students were able to dialogue effectively and help one another when struggles arose. In addition, the teacher kept student groupings the same over longer periods of time so students were able to form relationships and trust. It was stated that higher levels of thinking were used because students had to understand different points of view and ideas. In the conclusion of this journal, research showed that out of 79 first grade English language arts standards in the state of Ohio, 47 were addressed on a regular basis in literacy stations.

Worthy, J., Maloch, B., Pursley, B., Hungerford-Kresser, H., Hampton, A., Jordan, M., & Semingson, P. (2015). What are the rest of the students doing? Literacy work stations in two first-grade classrooms. Language Arts, 92(3), 173-186.

In this study, researchers sought to study what students should be doing while the teacher is working in small reading groups. Using two first grade teachers, with different teaching methods, researchers found that interruptions remained an issue for each teacher; however, one teacher had significantly more. Each teacher received professional development on literacy stations via Debbie Diller's (2003) book Literacy work stations: Making centers work. Researchers found, despite similar trainings, one teacher effectively modeled student expectations, while the other gave students work to do. The modeling proved to be a more effective model because this teacher had fewer interruptions to small group reading time.


Byrnes, J. P. (2000). Using instructional time effectively. In L. Baker, M. J. Dreher, J.T. Guthrie (Eds.). Engaging young readers: Promoting achievement and motivation. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Camahalan, F., & Wyraz, A. (2015). Using additional literacy time and variety of reading programs. Reading Improvement, 51(1), 19-26.

Diller, D. (2003). Literacy work stations: Making centers work. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Diller, D. (2006). Launching literacy work stations: Mini lessons for managing and sustaining independent work, K-3. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Dow, R. S., & Baer, G. T. (2013). Self-paced phonics: A text for educators (Fifth ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Gregory, G., & Chapman, C. (2007). Differentiated instructional strategies: One size doesn't fit all. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Kracl, C. (2012). Managing small group instruction through the implementation of literacy work stations. International Journal of Psychology: A Biopsychosocial Approach, (10), 27-46.

Maurer, C. (2010). Meeting academic standards through peer dialogue at literacy stations. Language Arts, 87(5), 353-362.

Reutzel, D. R. (2007). Organizing effective literacy instruction: Differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all children. In L. Gambrell, L. Morrow, and M. Pressley (Eds.), Best practices in literacy instruction (Third ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Routman, R. (2003). Reading essentials: The specifics you need to teach reading well. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Serafini, F. (2015). Reading workshop 2.0: Supporting readers in the digital age. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Shell, D. F., Brooks, D. W., Trainin, G., Wilson, K. M., Kauffman, D. F., Herr, L. M. (2010). The unified learning model: How motivational, cognitive, and neurobiological sciences inform best teaching practices. New York: Springer.

Turner, J. C. (1995). The influence of classroom contexts on young children’s motivation for literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 30, 410–441.

Wigfield, A. (2000). Facilitating children’s reading motivation. In L. Baker, M. J., Dreher, J.T. Guthrie (Eds.) Engaging young readers: Promoting achievement and motivation. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Worthy, J., Maloch, B., Pursley, B., Hungerford-Kresser, H., Hampton, A., Jordan, M., & Semingson, P. (2015). What are the rest of the students doing? Literacy work stations in two first-grade classrooms. Language Arts, 92(3), 173-186.