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Literature Circles. Shelley Blackburn UNT Teaching Fellow [email protected] What are literature circles?. Students choose their own reading materials Small groups are formed Groups meet on a regular, predictable schedule to discuss their reading

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literature circles

Literature Circles

Shelley Blackburn

UNT Teaching Fellow

[email protected]

what are literature circles
What are literature circles?
  • Students choose their own reading materials
  • Small groups are formed
  • Groups meet on a regular, predictable schedule to discuss their reading
  • Groups use written or drawn notes to guide their reading and discussion; roles are formed
  • Discussion topics come from students, guided by teachers
  • The teacher serves as a facilitator
  • Assessment is by teacher observation and student self-evaluation
why use literature circles
Why use literature circles?
  • Focus on the same text
  • Focus on different texts of a particular author
  • Focus on the way authors use a particular strategy in a variety of texts
  • Focus on different texts of the same theme
  • Focus on different texts from the same genre
what does the research say
What does the research say?
  • “Teachers who implement lc’s in their classroom are recreating for their students the kind of close, playful interaction that scaffolds learning so productively elsewhere in life” Harvey Daniels, Literature Circles, 2002
  • “Lc’s show how heterogeneous, diverse student groups-including mainstreamed special education kids-can work together effectively” Harvey Daniels, Literature Circles, 2002
  • “Lc’s provides he opportunity for mentoring children in the project of composing a literate life, for teaching children to choose just-right books and to monitor for sense, to carry books between home and school, to not have a lonely reading life, to read a second book by an author in a different way because they’ve read the first, to have and to develop ideas from books” Lucy Calkins, The Art of Teaching Reading, 2000.
  • “The power of working together to make meaning cannot be underestimated for challenged readers, whether their challenges are related to language, learning or motivation” Noe, Education World.
6 ingredients for a mature interdependent productive group schmuck and schmuck 2000
6 Ingredients for a mature, interdependent productive group (Schmuck and Schmuck 2000)
  • Clear expectations
  • Mutually developed norms
  • Shared leadership and responsibility
  • Open channels of communication
  • Diverse friendship patterns
  • Conflict resolution patterns
reading skills
Reading Skills
  • Reading and discussing books
  • Connecting with books
  • Taking responsibility as readers and constructing meaning together
  • Debating and challenging one another
  • Making drawings and notes that reflect readers’ ideas
  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Reading aloud of favorite passages
  • Proving points and setting differences by using specific passages
  • Thinking critically
choosing books for literature circles
Choosing books for literature circles

Teacher Selection

Student Selection

guidelines for interaction shared inquiry
Guidelines for interaction – Shared Inquiry
  • One speaker at a time
  • Explain your thinking
  • Let other people talk
  • Stay on the subject
  • Take your turn at listening
  • Share your ideas
  • Show respect for others’ ideas
form groups and assign roles
Form groups and assign roles
  • Depending on age or your class, you can form the groups ahead of time or they can form their own groups. (draw names, popsicle sticks)
  • Depending on age or your class, you can assign roles or have them choose.
  • Regardless – BE PREPARED!
set a predictable schedule
Set a predictable schedule
  • Plan ahead
  • Make time for it in your lesson plans
  • Give students a calendar when they will be in their Lc’s
questioning strategies
Questioning strategies
  • The most appropriate kinds of questions are interpretive, engaging and thought provoking. They rely on high-level thinking based on Blooms and are open-ended.
  • In general, good interpretive questions:
    • Have more than one answer
    • Uses appropriate vocabulary for students
    • Focuses on the text
    • Requires students to take a stand
    • Are specific to the particular text
writing strategies
Writing Strategies
  • Help students understand the purpose for writing- Thinking aloud on paper.
  • Help students find a focus for their writing- Brainstorm ideas, model your own processes
  • Offer some tools for written response- Diary, cause/effect, letters to characters, sketching, open-ended questions
  • Teach for in-depth response- model, discuss and practice
  • Assess and evaluate written response- ongoing feedback and refinement
making discussions work
Making Discussions Work
  • Select a discussion format- decide how you will meet based on students personalities, goals, experience and needs.
  • Teach students how to discuss – model, discuss and practice the social skills needed.
  • Help students prepare for discussions- handouts, how to actively listen, constructive criticism
  • Debrief after discussions to refine skills – What is working well What do we need to improve?
share what you have read and written
Share what you have read and written
  • Whole group discussion
  • Pair share
  • Table teams
  • Author’s chair
extension activities
ABC book


Literary Weaving

Story Hat

Accordion Book

Commemorative Stamp


Main Idea Belt

Story Quilt

CD Cover

Game Board


Character bookmark

Setting Pamphlet

Extension activities
  • As teachers evaluate a discussion group, they should monitor that students are not only progressing in reading and writing strategies but also in discussion etiquette.
  • Recording the group interaction is important and can be monitored by anecdotal notes and record keeping.
  • Daniels, Harvey. (2002). Literature Circles:Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers.
  • Hill, Bonnie Campbell, Johnson, Nancy J. and Schlick, Katherine L. (2000). Literature Circles Resource Guide. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers
  • Noe, Katherine L. Schlick and Johnson, Nancy J. (1999). Getting Started with Literature Circles. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers.
online references
Online References
  • Literature Circles
  • Literature Circle Booklist
  • Literature Circle Resource Center
  • Literary Lessons
  • Discussion Groups and Literature Circles
  • Literature Circles
  • Literature Circles Build Excitement for Books!
  • Literature Circles
  • Literature Circles
  • Writing in the Round
  • Literature Circles