Seven Strategies For Student Expectations And Classroom Management That Will Make Your Literacy Stations Successful

Hey teacher friends! Literacy stations are such an important part of early childhood education. But today we’re going to talk about student behavior at your reading centers. So important, right?! I know how hard this past year has been, so now more than ever normalcy is so needed in the classroom. So let’s jump right in and talk about classroom expectations from students during your center time.

Classroom Management Strategies For Reading Centers

student expectations for literacy centers

Aside from student’s goals, and providing them with content to review previously learned skills, behavior is so important for efficient literacy centers. If you don’t start out the year with strong classroom management skills, then you’re going to have a much harder time re-teaching your kiddos about center expectations. 

Know Your Student Expectations

First of all, know your expectations ahead of time. At each center make a list of what you expect from your students. Consider things like: 

  • Do you want a silent center, or would you rather let students talk quietly with a partner? 
  • Will you allow students to get up and move around the room, or will you expect them to remain seated? 
  • Will center work be expected to be completed before leaving, or will you offer work-in-progress folders? 
setting classroom

There are so many small things to think about and plan out ahead of time. Even things like: Are they allowed to color their activities? Or only after the activity is completed? 

You also need to consider transitions! How will your students move from one center to the next, or what about transitions from a center to your guided reading table? 

Let’s think back to year’s past. What is that thing that drove you absolutely BONKERS?! (You know what I mean.) Use that as a guide to set expectations during centers and potentially minimize that issue or eliminate it altogether. Personally, for me, it was arguments over shared materials, so I completely changed how I set out my materials.

I know this is a lot, but don’t feel overwhelmed. This is all just to ensure efficiently run literacy centers. Feel free to jot all of this down in a notebook or even a piece of scratch paper, but I have a free literacy stations planner that helps tremendously with center planning. Grab it here. Trust me, you won’t regret it! 

Teach Appropriate Student Behavior On The First Day

setting classroom expectations with students

Once you have your student expectations set, start teaching these on day ONE. This is golden, and it’s so important to set your centers (and basically your whole classroom) up for success. I never had anyone teach me this when I was a brand new teacher (you know, back before color television sets) so all I knew was that I wanted centers in my classroom, but I never taught my students how to use them. Until I learned this, I skipped centers altogether. So I want to guide you in creating smooth centers that run themselves while you do what is important: guided reading. 

Model, Model, Model


When guiding students in my center expectations, I put on my best acting role – we’re talking about an Oscar winning performance. I show them what I want them to do and what I don’t want them to do. 

It helps if you have a student teacher to pretend with, or you can choose an outgoing student. Some years, I have physically pulled a crayon box out of my student teacher’s hand.  Anything that you can think of, MODEL IT. Then we discuss what we saw. A LOT. I ask them “What did you see that didn’t work and why?”. 

Make Teacher Expectations Charts

Then one of my favorite parts, we make charts. And we make lots of charts! We take the things we discussed and make a t-chart about what each of our centers should look like and what it should not look like.

student behavior

Then, we’ll make a “Can – Do” rules poster. I take each of the ideas we wrote out and then I make a student behavior chart to post at each of our centers.

At our listening center, the chart might say “At the Listening Center, I can… Listen to a book silently. Or maybe “Use a sticky note to respond”. 

During the years that I’m super “with it”, (We all have those times) I’ll take photos of the student behavior we are discussing and post them along with our charts. 

All of this is before my kiddos even set foot into each center. I know you’re probably SO ready to get them into their centers with the great activities you’ve got planned, but this will save you so much time in the long run when you’re not trying to correct an unwanted student behavior that turns into a year-long habit. 

Take Your Time When Teaching Student Expectations

classroom managment strategies

Start it slow when your students start practicing at each station. I’m not an advocate of “busy work”, but in this situation, if there is something that your class can do while you practice with a few students then go for it! 


I love Epic as a reading platform, so while my class was using Epic on their devices, I would pull some kids back to watch them practice at their centers.

Keep Practicing Setting Classroom Expectations With Students

Always remember that practice makes perfect with anything. So anything you do with your students will need practice, practice, and more practice. Be patient with yourself and your students, and keep practicing until it becomes a habit and you’re comfortable with independent centers. 

student expectations for reading centers

Be Prepared To Review Student Expectations

classroom management strategies for literacy centers

Also, keep in mind that your kiddos might need a refresher. After returning from Christmas break I take some time to review centers and expectations. Or even around spring break. Even first graders get spring fever. 

Once you’ve established rules and you have started centers, keep practicing with your kiddos. Students need consistency so stick with it. Trust me, it will pay off in the long run. 

How do you manage student behavior during literacy centers? I would love to know! Feel free to let me know in the comments below. 

Is it a struggle to teach your students the Seesaw tools? I’ve created a FREE game for your students that will help them learn to use the Seesaw tools responsibly!

Seesaw Scavenger Hunt

Download the FREE Seesaw Scavenger Hunt and get your class started right away!

Need more help?  Check out my Literacy Stations video series.

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Check out my Summer Series

To get you ready for Back To School 2021, I've organized all the best literacy station ideas for you! This past year was rough so let Teaching Firsties do the work for you this summer so you'll be confident and ready to begin school in the fall.

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