Preparing for the first week of school can be incredibly daunting, especially when it comes to planning for differentiating literacy centers.

How can you work with a classroom of students where some are at higher or lower reading levels than others? It’s easy to get confused and even easier to overlook a struggling reader who may end up falling behind the rest of the class.

But don’t worry, we’re going to remove the stress attached to the first week of school with help from an easy-to-follow weekly plan.

In this post, I’m going to share the first plan (there’s three in total) that will help you to successfully launch differentiating literacy centers in the classroom.

There’s nothing more powerful than getting kids off to a great first start, so let’s set them on the journey towards becoming good readers!

{ If you prefer to watch the video where I explain the plan hit play below or read on for more }

Week One Goals

Before we get into the good stuff, let’s review our goals for this first week…

  • Establish Read Aloud
  • Introduce (or increase) Independent Reading Time
  • Launch a Word Work Centre
  • Establish Whole Group Switch It and Read It

As you progress through Week One and into Week Two and Three, you’ll practice each of these activities with your students. Each one aims to accelerate reading achievement by improving your student’s fluency, word identification, and language comprehension skills.

So, let’s take a closer look at each of the three literacy activities and what they entail.

1. Whole Group Activities

The following activities are perfect for the whole group. No matter what level each student is at, you can try these activities as a whole before moving onto small group reading instruction for one-on-one coaching.

  • Read Aloud
  • Build It & Switch It
  • Read It
  • Teaching, practicing and reviewing of procedures (building a community that’s functional)

2. Differentiated Literacy Centers 

These six centers I recommend for getting your kiddos to read words and become fluent rapidly. They also help to develop their oral language comprehension skills. 

I recommend that you try to implement these 6 centers as early as possible and keep up with them in the form of varying activities throughout the year. If you do this, I'm confident  you’ll see your kids’ reading achievement accelerate!

  • Independent Reading
  • Word Work
  • Listening Along
  • Apps for Word Work
  • Computer Stations
  • Retelling/Acting Station
  • Others

3. Small Group Activity

  • Groups 1 – 5

The plan for Week One runs from Monday through Friday. Below, we’re going to break down each day of the week and review what new procedures need to be introduced, what needs to be carried through the week and how much time should be spent on specific activities.

Day One - Monday 

Right from the get-go, you’ve got to start assessing!

Even if you’ve got a classroom of kindergarten students who don’t know much about literacy yet, test the waters with some fundamental assessing.

Can they recognize some letter-sounds?

Can they write their own names?

Hopefully, you’ll gather enough information throughout the week so that you can get them into smaller reading groups.

On Monday, you’ll establish the Read-Aloud procedures. If you’re not sure how to approach the teaching of procedures, I recommend the following books/resources:

Since it’s the first day, you want to start slowly, and gradually increase the time spent on each activity as the weeks progress. So, on Monday, have the class Read Aloud for just around ten minutes.

Reading Aloud is the first big activity of the week. It’s not only beneficial in an academic sense, but it’s also highly engaging, motivating and an excellent way to build a community within the classroom.

Another activity to complete on Monday is to teach the students Independent Reading procedures.

Think about ways that you can get them to read a book and develop a routine for Independent Reading time in your classroom.

On the first day, I recommend encouraging the kids to take part in Independent Reading for around seven to 10 minutes.

Day Two - Tuesday 

On Tuesday, you’ll continue to assess your students and review each activity’s procedure.

You’re also going to extend the time students spend with the Read Aloud and Independent Reading activities. I suggest increasing Read Aloud time to around 12 minutes and Independent Reading time to 10 minutes.

Remember – your goal is to keep building their stamina for each of the things you’re trying to accomplish.

Then, dive into word work! The sooner you get them learning how the code works, the better.

I suggest starting Build It and Switch It with the whole class. You can find out more about these two Reading Simplified activities by clicking here.

Differentiating Literacy Centers - Week 1

Day Three - Wednesday

Once you’ve reached the middle of the week, continue to assess the students and review each activity’s procedure. You should also continue practicing Build It and Switch It. Spend around 12 to 15 minutes on Read Aloud and set aside a further 10 minutes dedicated to Independent Reading time.

A new procedure to teach the kids on Wednesday is Word Work. The problem with introducing the Word Work center is the difficulty most teachers face when trying to get all of the kids to do the same thing.

Some kiddos will be soaring to the next reading level while others lag behind and still struggle with those three-sounds.

So, how can you do Word Work with larger groups?

It’s simple – give them different levels!


Here’s a great way to split your classroom into smaller, more manageable groups for Word Work using a picture and word matching card activity…

Begin by practicing the Word Work center as a whole group but divide the activity into three CVC levels of varying difficulty. For example:

  • Short “a” box
  • Short “i” box
  • Mixed short vowels

It’s easier to start this on day one, allowing the kids to grow accustomed to the process while making it easier for you to expand your centers and increase the difficulty throughout the year.

Day 4 – Thursday

Continue to assess your students and keep an eye on which students are “getting it” and who may need some one-to-one coaching.

You’ll also continue practicing Whole class Build It and Switch It, increasing Read Aloud time to 15 minutes and Independent Reading to 12 minutes.

As always, you’ll bring the previous days procedure (Word Work) into Thursday and continue practicing this activity for around 10 minutes.

The new activity for Thursday is Read It using the Blend As You Read Strategy. If you want to find out more about Read It and teaching Blend As You Read, visit this blog post for more information.


A great way to reinforce what the kids have learned is with the “Erase Game.”

Give each kid a dry erase board to practice the Blend As You Read Strategy BUT before you move on, have the students write the completed word on their boards. Next, ask them to pick up their erasers and begin erasing the letters from start to finish while saying each sound out loud as they go.

Doing this helps them to learn how to hold the vowel and learn the necessary procedures to accelerate their reading achievement.

Day 5 - Friday

On Friday, you’ll continue assessing and reviewing the activity’s procedures. You’ll also practice whole class Build It and Switch It, and whole class Read It.

Read Aloud time increases to around 15 minutes, but Independent Reading time remains the same as the previous day (12 minutes).

For Word Work center, I advise that you spend another 10 minutes on the activity before moving onto the new Teacher procedures for Listening Along.

I suggest aiming for 2+ grade levels above the student’s grade when it comes to the listening along center. Remember, kids can listen and make sense of higher-grade levels than they can read, so don’t be afraid to increase difficulty levels when possible!

And there you have it – a complete overview plan for week one!

If you want to keep up with this series and find out what the next two week’s plans involve, head here for Week 2 or here for Week 3.

Finally, what about you? What do you think of these ideas? Tried 'em? Want to?

Inquiring minds want to know what you think! Please comment below.