Monday, January 11, 2010

Lit Circle Jobs 2.0

Today my district had a three-hour professional development day. While many teachers might cringe as they envision high-priced education bureaucrats and consultants lecturing at teachers in cramped auditoriums, fortunately my school decided to let the staff propose a variety of activities for which colleagues could sign up.

Our tech-savvy librarian offered a workshop on Google Documents. Our special-ed director led a seminar on the school's co-teaching initiative. And I participated in an independent study where I did research and created a new assignment.

One of my most popular blog posts from a couple years ago was about literature circles. During today's workshop, I created six new literature circles roles. When I originally started using literature circles, I had the basics - Connector, Illustrator, Quoter, Question Creator. Click here for my first version. I worked to refine the wording and increase the amount of written response over the last couple of years. At the start of this year, I added two new jobs and tweaked the titles for all. So, in September my students were greeted with this document and presented the following options: Line Illuminator, Connection Captain, Word Warlock, Question Commander, Illustrious Artist, and Summary Sultan. Pretty snazzy right?

For the most part, students got excited about their roles, met my expectations, and effectively used their "jobs" to facilitate both small group and whole-class discussion on the reading. And just when you thought it couldn't get any more exciting, along comes Lit Circle Jobs 2.0! featuring the Character Commandant, Mood Maven, Insightful Identifier, Symbol Sleuth, Mind Muser, and Reactionary Revealer. I'll be trying out these new jobs with my seniors as they read Treasure Island, and my freshmen when we dive into The Old Man and the Sea.

If you have any questions about how I use literature circles, or if you've had your own success using them in your classroom, I would love to hear about it. Those of you who do use my work in your classrooms, please give credit to Mr. B-G, Thanks!

Circle image from Wassily Kandinsky,


Kevin Hodgson said...

I downloaded your sheet, as I need to revamp my own lit curriculum and move beyond class novels. I appreciate the sharing here.

KStar said...

I've never used lit circles but would love to try it in my 7th grade classroom. Some of my initial questions:

Who choose the roles?
How long does the student stay in the role?
What is the role of the teacher while the students are sharing their data during class? What about assessment?


Mr. B-G said...

Kevin - I hope you find the sheet helpful. Believe it or not, I'll use lit circles for class novels as well, as you can have students discuss ideas in groups and then share out with the class. You can also bring all the students of specific roles together to share and discuss the different ways they approached the same task.

KStar - I let students choose the roles, but each is different and they switch each time. So, by the end of the reading each student will have had experience doing each of the jobs.

The teacher generally observes and facilitates only when groups are off task or stumped. The teacher can also facilitate the "sharing out" portion of the lesson, calling on students or prompting them.

As for assessment, I count the jobs as a "homework check." Done in its entirety and to specification = a check (100%), not done all the way but done at least halfway = a check minus (50%), under halfway done or flagrantly violating the specifications = no credit.

I walk around the room and briefly examine students' work. The homework serves as a ticket into the discussion. Students who have not completed their homework are often removed from the group to begin working on it independently for 50% credit while others discuss.

In my class, intelligent class participation and discussion is a given; I don't evaluate students for class work per se, so the lit circle jobs count solely as homework. However, because much of my class lessons are developed on the assumption that students WILL complete homework, homework in my classes is a minimum of 33% of students' grade, and can count as much as 50%.

I want students to learn the value of coming prepared to class, and I want to sufficiently reward them for doing so.

I've found that groups of four work well for literature circles, with students cycling through each job in order. This ensures that each time students share, someone will have done a different job, thus providing the group with multiple perspectives to discuss the work.

KStar said...

Thank you for your response. It was very helpful. You said you usually have four students in a group, yet there are 6 jobs. Do you double up two positions or do all the students do (for example) the vocabulary job and connections in addition to their job?

Mr. B-G said...

KStar - What I might do is break a book up into six sections. While there might only be four students in a group (although you could certainly have larger groups), by the time we are done with the reading, each student will have done all six jobs.

The students simply complete the following job, going in order from where they start. So, if my first job was # 3, I would then do 4, 5, 6, 1, 2. Whoever started with Job 1 would then do 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Job 2 would do 3, 4, 5, 6, 1; Job 4 would go 5, 6, 1, 2, 3.

This way, each time students get together to talk about a different section of the reading, each has done a different job, and thus has a unique angle in which to participate in the discussion.

msmackie said...

I'm having trouble downloading your Lit Circle Jobs 2.0 handout. Could you please email it to me at Thank you.

Mr. B-G said...

Try it now Ms. Mackie. The link should work. If it doesn't, let me know and I'll send it as an attachment.

msmackie said...

Thanks so much Mr-G! I was able to download and save the file.

I really appreciate that you share with us so readily. I look forward to future posts, and I definitely wish you well.

Asenath said...

Great resources--thanks for sharing! None of your dropbox links are working though. :(

Asenath said...

Is there anyway you could email me the Lit Circles 2.0 document? I'd love to see it! (And will give you credit, if used)



Mr. B-G said...

Hi Asenath,

Yes, I can e-mail them to you. I've changed web hosts, and as such, my links no longer work.

I hope you find the resources useful.

gardneram said...

Hi :)

Would you be able to send me your lit circle documents? None of your dropbox links are working. Thanks!


Mr. B-G said...

Hi gardneram,

I've just updated all the links. You should be able to access what you want. If you need anything else, please let me know.


Mr. B-G

Allison Evans (ae09c) said...

Mr. B-G:

I am a first year teacher, coming in mid-year to 12th grade english classes and your blog has really helped. Thanks! My question is, are student doing reading at home and then just using the class for discussion? We're about to read "Frankenstein" and I only have 25 books for 118 students so we will be having to read in class. Could literature circles work smoothly with actual reading going on during class time?

Ms. Evans

Mr. B-G said...


Thanks for adding to the discussion. Congrats on getting to the middle of the year! Regardless of how well one is prepared, there are few things more challenging than being a first-year teacher. I'm glad to hear some of these resources have been helpful.

To answer your question, yes, I think literature circles can be done in the classroom. Next week I will be starting The Old Man and the Sea with a college prep group of 9th graders. They range in ability and motivation, so for some, the only time they will read is if they're given time in class.

It's definitely a balancing act. You want the kids to develop independent reading skills, but at the same time, you can't kid yourself that they're reading if they aren't. I will give my 9th grade students a mix of class time and independent time to read. They will have a couple of days when they can read and work on their jobs and other related tasks.

Generally, I use literature circles to facilitate an authentic, student-led discussion of the text. With my accelerated or honors level classes, this means reading the book outside of class, completing the lit circles outside of class, and then using class time for a discussion.

In some instances, like this year with my 9th graders, I will give them some time in class, because that will increase the odds that they'll actually read and complete the activities I want them to do.

You may also consider, rather than different students doing different jobs, students working in pairs or small groups on the same jobs.

The goal is to get the kids reading and thinking critically about the text. This can be achieved in a number of ways.

Good luck!

Liz Washburn said...

I just came across your handouts today. I was getting bored with the usual roles I assign, and I am really happy to have found this resource.