Saturday, November 3, 2007

Literature circles

I use literature circles with every novel I teach. They're a great way to get students actively engaged in whatever we're reading, and really put the onus on them to identify key themes, passages, plot developments, connections, and literary devices. Literature circles allow students to smartly articulate the exchange that occurs between a reader and a text.

In an academic age where high stakes bubble tests and formulaic, calculated responses to mundane prompts seem to trump creativity and self-expression, lit circles allow for authenticity and ownership while also reinforcing the higher-order habits of mind found in successful test takers.

Click here for the literature circle assignment I use with my students. Hawaiian high school educator Bruce Schauble's in-depth lit circle page can be accessed here. Another nice site is LiteratureCircles.com. This other site has 16 different lit circle links. Check out these literature circle roles from an Alaskan middle school teacher, including "character captain" and "literary luminary." Even more literature circle resources can be found here at Web English Teacher.

Nancy Patterson's literature circle role sheets are available here.

* UPDATE * Click here for a newer post on literature circles, including six new jobs!

Please feel free to share your own experiences with literature circles, or comment with questions about implementing them in your own classroom.

12 comments:

HappyChyck said...

Thanks for the resources. This is exactly what I need this month!

Janet said...

They like for us to use lit circles too only it's quite a challenge to get it right with third graders. In theory it sounds great, but they have to understand what they're reading first in order to really talk about it:(

Mr. B-G said...

Happychyck - You're welcome!

Janet - In my experience, students can use literature circle activities to generate questions they have about a text, which are then used to fuel a small group - and then whole class - discussion.

Students also select passages from the text that they find confusing, and share them with their lit circle group members. They then discuss the quotes, and attempt to shed light on the meaning.

When they can't reach consensus or understanding, they can share the question with the rest of the class. Other students are usually able to figure things out. When they can't, or when they're only touching on something superficially, I then step in and explain things.

Dana Huff said...

I happily stole your resources for my own recent literature circles unit. Thank you very much for sharing them! I just posted myself about my own experience.

Mr. B-G said...

I enjoyed the read Dana. Glad to hear things went well!

JK said...

thanks for writing your blog, and thanks for the cool idea! I may try it with myself to understand a science course....

A.M. Strzyz said...

We are finishing up literature circles in my class. They are wonderful for the reasons you stated as well as the appeal to our social nature. I have found that even the quietest students in class will share. I think this is because of the smaller groups and defined jobs that they prepare ahead of time. Students who aren't always the speediest answerers can have a chance to share.

ilovechalkdust said...

Thanks for the resources and information. I am a former elementary & middle school educator who works in VA as an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher. I am working on a literacy grant geared toward 5th graders. My inspiration is the lack of passion and excitement for reading in most kids today. I want to use technology-especially blogging-to bring back that loving feeling. Wish me luck. I will post my grant proposal in a few months in case someone else can use it. I will let you know if it gets funded.

Clix said...

BTW, I have totally stolen yer stuffs, tho I won't get to use it until I get a new flock of students next semester.

I'd love to do each group has a different book related to the same theme. Any pointers on obtaining the books?

Mr. B-G said...

jk - Good luck with that science course!

a.m. strzyz - I agree that the social nature of literature circles is one of its biggest appeals. I remember taking a graduate school class on methods of teaching literature, and always looking forward to sharing my "job" with my other lit circle group members.

chalkdust - Good luck with the grant. It certainly sounds like a worthwhile project. Do let me know the final outcome.

clix - I'd be curious to learn about any modifications or improvements you've made to any of my teaching resources. One of the things I love about the Internet is the ease at which we can grab a colleague's lesson or assignment. The challenge is learning how to navigate this great digital mass and get what we want.

As for obtaining books, I've had success at church fairs and yard sales. You could also try working with your school librarian to collaborate on book orders.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing such great resources. I can't wait to get started developing my literature circles!

-Melissa

www.iteachhighschoolenglish.wordpress.com

linds said...

Thanks for sharing these! I love them and they are just what I've been looking for after scaffolding some easier jobs.