Literature Circles Revisited


What is a Literature Circle?
It’s like a book club for kids.  The children (grades 2 – 5) choose books they want to read, and create reading groups with children who want to read the same book.  At ISE our Literature Circles meet once a week (Thursdays) to discuss their books and set new reading goals.

Why do Literature Circles?
My first and favorite reason is because for many children it’s fun.  Our goal is to instill in our students a love of reading, and scheduling time to read with friends is just one of the ways we share this belief.  Secondly, Literature Circles promotes tolerance and respect – it’s part of our multicultural education.  When children discuss their various perspectives on a text, they are learning how to appreciate and respect different opinions and insights.  Finally, in Literature Circles children can learn how to apply the comprehension strategies that make reading more meaningful.

How do children use comprehension strategies in Literature Circles?
This semester I have provided the Magical Minds with some Comprehension Strategy Cards to help them bring their thinking into Literature Circles.  Each card has three parts.  The top third describes the kind of thinking.  The middle section provides some sentence starters to use when talking about their thinking.  The bottom box gives some extensions for kids who are “ready for a challenge.”

This week the Magical Minds will focus on just ONE kind of thinking.  The cards will guide their thinking and note taking, and when they join their Literature Circle, they will be charge of sharing their thoughts.  While their group meets, one person will be in charge of documenting their conversation on a guide sheet.

What is expected of the children during Literature Circles?
Not every group is ready to talk about their thinking in Literature Circles, while other groups are ready to be challenged to make meaningful connections or think about the author’s craft.  This semester I crafted a guide for our Literature Circles to help express my expectations.  You will see how as the children rise up the ladder, they incorporate more and more types of thinking (comprehension strategies).  I have asked the Magical Minds to circle where on the ladder they think they are at in order to help them become aware of their own reading development as well as help them set goals for themselves.


3 responses to “Literature Circles Revisited

  1. Hello again!

    I’ve been following your blog for just under a year now, and I feel strangely connected to you as I have found that our classrooms have mirrored each other somewhat. I think it is mostly because we’re both teaching at a PYP school, but lately it seems your posts are a direct reflection of what I am trying to accomplish. I, too, am about to begin using literature circles with my students. However, it was brought about through my graduate school class, as I have to choose a topic and complete an action research project. I choose literature circles because I want to find out if there is more success building reading comprehension using literature discussions, rather than what our reading curriculum has to offer. That’s not to say that I won’t be using our curriculum, but I wanted to add literature circles as a way to foster growth when it comes to analyzing and evaluating texts. Your last post regarding schemas and connections is something I have been trying to encourage all year long, especially for my struggling students. I’m wondering how long you have been using literature circles with your students this year, and how all your groups are managing with them? I was also wondering if you had any interest in using skype to do a demonstration for my students? I think my students would really find it amazing to see another class half way around the world using the same sort of strategies we are.

    • Nicole, I am glad to hear you are focusing on Literature Circles this year.

      I have worked with Literature Circles for the last two years, and I would say that our groups vary in success. Our most successful groups have had the benefit of parent and/or teacher involvement. The power of modeling! I wish I had the ability to be present in all of my groups.

      In all honesty, my colleagues and I have grown increasingly frustrated with the quality of the discussion. This is actually why I created some new tools – to help the kids meet higher expectations. We meet again on Thursday, and I am looking forward to seeing how the new tools are effecting the quality of the conversations.

      I will let you know how it goes. Hopefully I see some improvement.

      One thing I would like to try someday is choosing books with a common theme, and letting the kids choose from a small selection of carefully chosen books. I think this would work so well with the PYP profile and attitudes.

  2. I read this post today and included the following comments in my blog:

    I had never thought of the purpose of discussing books in this way but I completely agree. “Secondly, Literature Circles promotes tolerance and respect – it’s part of our multicultural education. When children discuss their various perspectives on a text, they are learning how to appreciate and respect different opinions and insights.” I couldn’t articulate it better myself. In the collective Studying of a Novel students are able to practice being IB Learners. Students can try on perspectives, listen to new points of view, agree, disagree, understand that there are many “rights”, challenge an idea and so on. I read through the IB Learner Profile and I cannot think of one characteristic that isn’t embraced in a Novel Study.

    I was also reading the comments above and have similar challenges. I like your ideas thank you. My Book Clubs had some success podcasting / videocasting using Photo Booth. Immediately receiving feedback by seeing themselves discuss their reads using the 8 Reading Behaviours was enlightening for them. I then introduced and found that students planning for how each group member was going to participate had a impact on the quality of discussion. I used Participation Pie Plans which also incorporate the Learner Profile and PYP Attitudes. I explain them on my blog of our website including option to download the file. Please feel free to check it out and use if you feel they are useful.

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