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Literacy Circles

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  1. Literacy Circles What? Why? and How? Cassaundra El-Amin

  2. What? • Literature circles are small, temporary discussion groups who have chosen to read the same story, poem, article, or book. While reading each group-determined portion of the text (either in or outside of class), each member prepares to take specific responsibilities in the upcoming discussion, and everyone comes to the group with the notes needed to help perform that job.

  3. What? • The circles have regular meetings, with discussion roles rotating each session. When they finish a book, the circle members plan a way to share highlights of their reading with the wider community; then they trade members with other finishing groups, select more reading, and move into a new cycle. Once readers can successfully conduct their own wide-ranging, self-sustaining discussions, formal discussion roles may be dropped.

  4. What? • In literature circles, small groups of students gather together to discuss a piece of literature in depth. The discussion is guided by students' response to what they have read. You may hear talk about events and characters in the book, the author's craft, or personal experiences related to the story. Literature circles provide a way for students to engage in critical thinking and reflection as they read, discuss, and respond to books. Collaboration is at the heart of this approach. Students reshape and add onto their understanding as they construct meaning with other readers. Finally, literature circles guide students to deeper understanding of what they read through structured discussion and extended written and artistic response. • See literature circles

  5. What? • 1. Students choose their own reading materials • 2. Small temporary groups are formed, based upon book choice • 3. Different groups read different books • 4. Groups meet on a regular, predictable schedule to discuss their reading • 5. Kids use written or drawn notes to guide both their reading and discussion • 6. Discussion topics come from the students

  6. What? • 7. Group meetings aim to be open, natural conversations about books, so personal connections, digressions, and open-ended questions are welcome • 8. In newly-forming groups, students may play a rotating assortment of task roles • 9. The teacher serves as a facilitator, not a group member or instructor • 10. Evaluation is by teacher observation and student self-evaluation • 11. A spirit of playfulness and fun pervades the room. • 12. When books are finished, readers share with their classmates, and then new groups form around new reading choices.

  7. Literature Circles are Reader response centered Part of a balanced literacy program Groups formed by book choice Structured for student independence, responsibility, and ownership Guided primarily by student insights and questions Intended as a context in which to apply reading and writing skills Flexible and fluid; never look the same twice Literature Circles are not . . Teacher and text centered. The entire reading curriculum Teacher-assigned groups formed solely by ability Unstructured, uncontrolled "talk time" without accountability Guided primarily by teacher- or curriculum-based questionsI Intended as a place to do skills work Tied to a prescriptive "recipe" What?

  8. Rorschach Test What is it?

  9. Why? • Transactional Theory • Psycholinguistic Theory • Sociolinguistic Theory • Constructivist Philosophy • Schema Theory

  10. Why? • Promotes a love for literature and positive attitude towards reading. • Reflects a constructivist child-centered model of literacy. • Encourages extensive and intensive reading • Invites natural discussions that lead to student inquiry and critical thinking. • Supports diverse responses to texts

  11. Why? • Fosters interaction and collaboration • Provides choice and encourages responsibility • Exposes children to literature from multiple perspectives • Nurtures reflection and self-evaluation

  12. How?

  13. How? Discussion • Groups of 4 - 5 are optimal • Having a conversation does not come naturally • Have signals for "too noisy", "time to begin", etc. • Practice getting into and out of the circle A LOT • Trust that they'll talk even if I'm not hovering • Have books worth talking about • Always reflect after a discussion • Rejoice in the small steps students take •  Remember this is hard -- even for adults

  14. Discussion Tools • Prompts • I thought… • I liked… • I wonder… • I felt… • Bookmarks • Questions • Post-its • Golden Lines • Interesting Words • Discussion Logs

  15. How? Writing • Help students understand the purpose for writing• "Thinking aloud on paper": A way to generate and shape what you're thinking about as you read or as you prepare for discussion; or• Formal synthesis: A way to refine ideas that have come up during discussion and to mold them into something more formal • Help students find a focus for their writing:  Show students where ideas for writing can come from. • Brainstorm ideas for writing;• Model your own process of coming up with ideas for writing and for shaping your writing

  16. How? Writing • Offer some tools for written response: Open-ended questions, prompts, varied forms of written response. • Use questions that come up during discussion as jumping-off points for writing• Open-ended questions: "How are you like this character?" or "What do you think will happen next, and why?"• Prompts: "I wonder...", "I wish ...", "What if ....?"• Diary entries in the voice of a character• Cause/effect explanation• Letters to characters (or from one character to another)• Sketching or drawing • Teach for in-depth response: Model, discuss, and practice written response. • Assess and evaluate written response: Build students' skills through ongoing feedback and refinement.

  17. How? Debriefing • Keep the debriefing short and focused.  • Start simply.  Ask your students a couple of simple questions:  "What worked well today?" and "What do we still need to work on?"  • Use debriefing to teach specific strategies students can use in their next discussion. 

  18. References • Daniels, H. (2002). Literature circles: Voice and choice in book clubs and reading groups. York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers. • Elementary Themes – Literature Circles, Retrieved from