Setting Up Your Small Group Reading Corner: 5 Must Haves!

If you’re wondering how to set up your small group reading corner and what tools you’ll need to get started, I’ve got you covered! 

This is the first post in our Small-Group Reading series. Read part two, here, and part three, here.

Kindergarten and first-grade teachers know the importance of minimizing waiting time for our students so that they don’t get distracted. If you have a reading corner but it feels disorganized and you can never seem to find the tool you need when you need it, you’re going to struggle to maintain your students’ attention during the lesson. 

The good news, you CAN set up your reading corner in a way that works so that your students stay focused and with you the whole time. I’ve got a few must-have tools and a few fun tools for you too!

P.S. If you prefer watching a video, you can scroll down to watch me explain each section in more detail!

But First, Let’s Find the Right Space

When setting up your small-group reading corner, try to choose a space in your classroom that doesn’t have too much traffic. You also want a spot that isn’t right next to a noisy center.

When I plan my centers, I always make sure my silent reading or listening center is closer to my small group reading corner so my students won’t get distracted. 

When setting up your small group reading area, choose a spot that's away from heavy traffic in your classroom. Think about what the other students will be doing near your table. I like to choose a corner near a quiet center, like reading or listening to a story. Shelving is also important so if you have an area near bookcases, that helps!

Once you’ve found your spot, the next step is adding your instructional materials. You won’t need a lot, just a few quality tools will make all the difference and help you get started. 

5 Must-Have Areas in Your Small Group Reading Corner:

1. Whiteboard

A rendering of a small-group reading corner.

I like to have a tabletop whiteboard in my small group reading corner. I prefer the ones with a magnetic whiteboard on one side and a pocket chart on the other side. These are great for sorting cards and building sentences, plus everyone at the table can easily see them. If you don’t have one, this tabletop whiteboard is ok for an inexpensive one. It’s the one I use in my video below and although the whiteboard doesn’t have a very strong magnetic force, it’s the best I’ve found for the price. 

2. Magnetic Letters

Magnetic letters are another must-have tool at small-group reading centers. If you have a magnetic whiteboard and magnetic letters, you can do so much! 

I like to keep and store my magnetic letters on a cookie sheet from the dollar store. I use a printable insert (you can grab the FREE insert right here!) so we can quickly find the letters we need without fishing through a box. Then I stack the cookie sheets for my students and pull them out as needed. 

3. Baskets

A well-organized small-group reading corner is going to need baskets. These baskets each serve a different purpose, but, to avoid losing your group’s attention, you want to keep them all close at hand and well-stocked.

A rendering of a small-group reading corner.
  • Teacher Basket: Besides the obvious, like pens and markers, you also want to have an alphabet chart, sound cards, high-frequency word cards, and a folder or binder with your schedule, groups, and lesson plans. 
  • Student Baskets: I like to have everything students will need with me at the small group reading table. Being prepared helps to save on transition time. In my student basket, I keep crayons, pencils, dry-erase markers and erasers, whisper phones, cubes, and other manipulatives.  
  • Group Baskets: This is a basket for each specific group. In this basket, I keep a folder with notes and lesson plans for that group, the book we’re using, plus specific games and activities I plan to use with that group. 
  • Skill Baskets: I used to have so many activities in my cabinets, but they were out of sight and out of mind. Then,  I created some skill baskets! These baskets are organized by skill and contain easy hands-on activities to reinforce a specific skill.    

4.  Word Mapping

I like to have word mapping mats in plastic sleeves available at my small-group reading table so that students can simply write and wipe.

Check out my Phonics & Fluency Decodable Lessons to see the exact word map mat I use!  

5. Fun Tools!

You don't need a lot for your small group reading coerner! A few essential tools are perfect to get started. Read this post for some key items to include in your small group reading area in kindergarten and first grade!

You don’t need to overdo it with fun tools in your small group reading corner. However, students can get a little restless, so it’s a good idea to introduce new tools to boost their motivation. Keep a space in your reading corner for things like pointers, transparent BINGO chips, highlighters, little cars, cubes, you name it! Really, any manipulative that your students can use when blending is a great addition. 

Watch the video below to see exactly what I recommend to keep your small-group reading corner organized and fun!

What are your must-haves for your small group reading corner? I’d love to know! Comment below and share.

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