Should fifth grade students learn with whole group lessons or rotate in small groups? The answer is both! This post shares hands-on 5th Grade literacy centers that work with any ELA curriculum. These literacy stations can be differentiated and work well for independent or group work activities.
You can also grab a freebie that breaks down different literacy block schedules that you can have in your upper elementary classroom.
Are 5th Graders “Too Old” for Literacy Centers?
As a veteran 4th grade teacher, I’ve worked closely with 5th grade teachers over the years.
Each teacher that offered a combination of literacy and math stations with whole group lessons saw the following:
- More student engagement and participation
- Deeper academic growth
- Retention in learning various skills
- More independence from their fifth graders.
This shows that fifth grade students are not too old or too big for learning stations!
If you’re not convinced on why you should have centers in your upper elementary classroom, maybe the ideas from this post will convince you!
Reading Centers for 5th Grade
When it comes to fun reading activities for 5th graders, they need a healthy balance between fiction and nonfiction texts. They also need a balance between novel studies and shorter texts like short stories or read aloud picture stories.
These reading centers and activities allow fifth graders to have practice with all of that!
Color-Coded Informational Text Reading Passages
One of the issues I have found with many basal readers for upper elementary is that they lack nonfiction passages that students find interesting.
This is where nonfiction quick reads come in to save the day for 5th grader readers.
These no-prep reading comprehension worksheets work so well for 5th grade literacy centers for these reasons:
- students get to color-code their answers, which forces them to refer back to text (Hello Close Reading! 👋 )
- the color-coding aspect breaks away from the monotony of just having a worksheet to fill out
- these passages can be completed independently or with a partner during literacy center time, which gives 5th graders a chance to be autonomous
For these reasons and more, I highly recommend using color-coded informational text passages as one of your 5th grade literacy center ideas!
Mystery Pictures Reading Activities
Another highly engaging activity for 5th graders is mystery pictures reading! Mystery pics take reading nonfiction to a whole new level. Here’s how they work:
- Students read the informational text passages on different topics. Each topic has a picture related to it, but there’s a catch: the picture is all scrambled up.
- In order to see the pictures, students must correctly answer comprehension questions that allow them to “solve” the mystery picture.
This reading center requires devices, but incorporating technology into your 5th grade literacy centers is a good thing!
That provides novelty and a new way to experience reading nonfiction.
It will be music to your teacher-ears to I hear students asking for more reading because they want more mystery pictures to solve!
Reading Challenge Bookmarks–No More Reading Logs!!
In addition to the reading activities above, I’m willing to bet that your fifth graders will enjoy using reading challenges.
As an upper elementary teacher, I ditched using reading logs years ago. They sucked all the joy of reading right out of my students.
Now I use reading challenges! I put them on bookmarks to make things easier. Here’s the gist of using them:
- Each week my students get a bookmark from me with five reading ideas on it. When they complete a reading assignment, aka challenge, they color that space on their bookmark.
- For our 9-week grading period, this gives students 35 different reading ideas/challenges.
- I give reading awards during 3, 6, and 9 week intervals as a way to further motivate them to complete all the reading assignments/challenges.
- Some of these challenges can be completed at home and some can be completed at school. That allows flexibility for students.
Not only are reading challenges good for reading centers, but they can work all year long for independent reading time.
You can even use them as reading homework for your students. They work for any book or magazine.
I go into even more detail about them in this blog post. 👇🏾
Book Talk Prompt Cards
The final reading center that you can use for your 5th grade literacy stations allows students to work with a partner. These are called Book Talk Prompt Cards.
If you use the Daily 5 system or something similar to it, then you are familiar with read to self or read to a partner.
Well, partner reading is great when students stay on task! 🤪
To help manage partner reading in my upper elementary classroom, I’ve used prompt cards that guide reading talk when students are in center time.
Prompt cards have questions and answer stems that students use before, during, and after reading in pairs. They provide accountability and structure so that paired reading doesn’t become play time!
You can even require students to write the answers to their book talk prompt cards on a response sheet if you want them to turn in something tangible.
Differentiated Literacy Stations for Your 5th Graders
Being able to tailor literacy activities for upper elementary students is what makes small group learning so amazing.
However, teachers are already super busy!
Spending countless hours individualizing lessons for every student can be exhausting. So I want to share some simple ways you can differentiate your centers.
And of course, this section will also detail different language arts centers that are already designed for quick differentiation.
Bookmark Summary Writing
You may start to notice that I love adding a twist to bookmarks for my literacy centers! 🙃
Since I recommend using a combination of novels and read-alouds for older kids, summarizing on bookmarks is an excellent writing skill to practice during 5th grade literacy centers.
This activity is a self-explanatory.
As students read different books, they write a brief summary of the book and draw a picture on bookmark templates.
You can even take this activity a step further and laminate the bookmarks to keep on display in your classroom library.
That way, when your kiddos are picking books to read, they can get the gist of what that book is about from their peers who have already read it!
“Look in a Book” Grammar with Reading
Combining literacy skills practice with ELA centers provides a golden opportunity for you and your students.
Not only do they get more practice with important literacy concepts, but you get to cover more academic standards.
It’s like feeding two birds with one seed!
That’s what “look in a book” grammar activities do.
- Students can use any book (which means they are reading books on the level they need)
- You give them a chart with different parts of speech (this is the grammar part)
- 5th Graders will look in that book to find all the words that match the parts of speech needed.
It’s like playing “I Spy” with books!
This allows students to practice reading with grammar at the same time. And you can decide which parts of speech they need to look for.
So if a student is struggling with identifying different types of pronouns, that’s the chart they get! But if another student needs more practice with identifying nouns, that’s the chart he or she gets.
See how that works? Easy peasy differentiation!
Vocabulary and Word Work Activities for Upper Elementary
So far we’ve taken a peek at–
- reading centers for 5th grade
- differentiation ideas that also combine grammar and reading
- some quick writing and partner reading stations.
Now, it’s time to wrap up with some vocabulary and word work ideas that are effective to use with 5th graders.
Greek and Latin Vocabulary “Snippets”
One thing to keep in mind when choosing centers is how much time your literacy block allows for small group instruction. (more on this at the end of this post)
That is why vocabulary snippets are ideal!
These are Google Forms paragraphs that challenge students to define words based on context clues and Greek and Latin Roots.
Having your students read chunks of text is appropriate for any time frame you may have for center time. The Google Form is self-grading, which saves your time on grading!
On top of all this, fifth graders get targeted practice defining words based on root word meaning. Boom-bada-bing!
The Word Breakdown AND Affix Goldfish
The final 5th grade literacy centers I want to share are both word work activities that focus on knowing prefixes, suffixes, and root words.
The Word Breakdown is a card game where 5th graders turn over different cards with a word on them. Then they write any suffixes and the root word.
Your students can complete this center by themselves, which is wonderful as an early finisher activity.
Or they can add in some competition and work with a partner to see who can find the word parts first.
These same details apply to the second card game: Affix Goldfish.
In this 5th grade literacy center, students turn all cards facedown. Each card has either an affix, root word, and different meanings. Students must match the affix and root word cards with their meaning.
If you’ve spent any time around this blog or my social media channels, you know how much I LOVE hands-on learning activities!
Using card games for your word work centers provide that tactile practice and makes the activity more engaging for older kids.
What Does a 90-Minute Literacy Block Schedule for 5th Grade Look Like?
It’s almost impossible to talk about learning centers without touching on how to set up and manage them!
All these ideas will go flying out the window without a clear plan on HOW to have literacy centers in the first place.
Well, I got you covered my friend! In keeping with my love of bookmarks, I have FREE literacy schedules on bookmarks that show how to set up literacy blocks using the following time frames:
- 45 minutes
- 60 minutes
- 90 minutes
- 120 minutes
The guide walks you through a typical literacy block for each amount of time. You will get some ideas about what you can include in your upper elementary literacy block based on my example.
It even includes how to begin with whole group warm-ups and end your block schedule with a whole group exit ticket activity.
PLUS–the guide has planning pages you can use to map out your literacy block, no matter which time frame you choose.
This freebie is available when you sign up for my Butterfly Teacher Newsletter. Here you go teacher friend!