Moving Forward with Literature Circles (Theory and practice)

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The teacher and student volunteers model the task for each of the four roles, and then students practice the strategies. The process demonstrates the different roles and allows students to practice the techniques before they are responsible for completing the tasks on their own. After this introduction, students are ready to use the strategy independently, rotating the roles through four-person groups as they read the books they have chosen. The lesson can then be followed with a more extensive literature circle project. Self-Reflection: Taking Part in a Group Interactive : Using this online tool, students describe their interactions during a group activity, as well as ways in which they can improve.

Students can add rows and columns to the chart and print their finished work. Literature circles are a strong classroom strategy because of the way that they couple collaborative learning with student-centered inquiry. As they conclude their description of the use of literature circles in a bilingual classroom, Peralta-Nash and Dutch explain the ways that the strategy helped students become stronger readers:. Students learned to take responsibility for their own learning, and this was reflected in how effectively they made choices and took ownership of literature circle groups.

They took charge of their own discussions, held each other accountable for how much or how little reading to do, and for the preparation for each session. The positive peer pressure that the members of each group placed on each other contributed to each student's accountability to the rest of the group. When students engage with texts and one another in these ways, they take control of their literacy in positive and rewarding ways. Peralta-Nash, Claudia, and Julie A.

Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions e. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features e. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems.

They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources e. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes e. To prepare for literature circles featuring historical novels, students research the decades of the s to the s and share their information using Prezi, a web application for creating multimedia presentations.

Sharon Draper was born on this day in Students read a book from one of Draper's trilogies and then meet to discuss their book with students have read the other two books. Please make more printable sheets for other possible roles such as summarizer and connector. Love this site, it was very helpful it setting up my first lit circle.

This lesson plan with all the information you have provided has been so very helpful to me. The listing of state standards and common core standards saved me hours of time searching. Thank you for sharing so much information with us all! This is an valuable resource I have been using this resource for three years now.

I love it! I have tried other ways of running Literature Circles, but nothing comes close to this. My instructional coach sends teachers wanting to try Lit Circles to my room to observe. I feel like I am so successful because this website lays it out so clearly. My students absolutely love Lit Circles. On days when our schedule has to change, my students are very upset to miss Lit Circles. Love your plan above. I have just started a reading club for young kids.

But will twist this a little to accommodate that. But thanks all the same for sharing such a wealth of information. I love this plan. It's very thorough and easy to follow, and I appreciate all of the materials being supplied. I was wondering if someone could explain the "plan" column on the Vocabulary Enricher role sheet. I wasn't clear what do with that section. Thanks again! This is a great resource to introduce Literature Circles. I'll be using it in my Integrated literacy class for pre-service teachers. Of course, book clubs never completely died out during this century. Thankfully, it has now become more common for book clubs to enroll members of both sexes.

A good account of contemporary American book clubs, including a variety of models, meeting procedures, and lists of favorite books, can be found in the aforementioned volume by Laskin and Hughes, as well as in The Book Group Book, by Ellen Slezak So maybe we should say that many teachers and students are reinventing literature circles together. But hey, if you believe in constructivist learning theory, you know that reinventing is pretty much as good as original inventing!

One original classroom reinventor was Karen Smith, now at the University of Arizona. It was the summer of , and Karen was preparing for another year of teaching fifth grade at Lowell School, in Phoenix, Arizona. Claire Staab, a friend and teaching colleague who was moving to British Columbia, came by to offer Karen some classroom leftovers. Among the castoff items was a box of assorted paperback novels—three copies of this title, four or five of that, six of another.

She stuck the box of books in the back of the room, and then, amid the turmoil of starting a new year, forgot about them. A couple of months later, a group of students discovered the box. Sifting through the books, the kids got excited and approached Ms. Smith for permission to read them. Assuming the kids were simply prowling for more independent reading titles, Karen casually gave her approval. But within a few days, she noticed that the students had chosen books, established groups around their choices, assigned themselves pages to read, and were meeting regularly to talk about their books.

She sat in on a couple of the groups and was dazzled by the quality, depth, range, and energy of the talk she heard. A few years later, Karen herself told the story of these literature groups and the rest of her reading program in Talking About Books Short and Pierce Even though the classroom activity we now call literature circles is a new iteration of some ancient structures and ideas, the name is relatively new. Kathy Short and Gloria Kaufman get credit for assigning the name literature circles to the contemporary school-based book clubs, kid-led groups that show the genuine features of cooperative learning and student-centeredness.

All these progenitors seem to agree that the activity called literature circles draws on three main streams of thinking: independent reading, reader response theory, and collaborative learning. Independent Reading Today, most American elementary schools have made a daily commitment to independent reading, whether they call it reading workshop, SSR sustained silent reading , or DEAR drop everything and read. There is no assigned reading, no quizzes, no strategy lessons, no grading, no book reports, and little or no record keeping.

It is simply an official, scheduled acknowledgment of the research showing that reading achievement is more highly correlated with independent reading than with any other single factor. The landmark study Becoming a Nation of Readers Anderson et al. Independent reading, whether in school or out of school, is associated with gains in reading achievement. By the time they are in third or fourth grade, children should read independently a minimum of two hours per week. Daniel Fader, a former high school teacher and professor at the University of Michigan, came up with a simple idea for energizing secondary reading programs: jettison the thick anthologies and fill the classroom with lots of single copies of novels, especially current adolescent literature.

Then, he said, use class time to let kids read and talk about books. All around the country, eager young teachers started scrounging school bookrooms, garage sales, and used-book shops, carrying armloads of books to school. We built our libraries and kids started reading more real books. More recently, the new Standards for the English Language Arts, issued by the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English , place independent reading at the center of the curriculum, officially recommending both reading workshop and literature circles as structures for delivering this important experience.

And even the National Reading Panel, whose controversial recommendations were considered highly conservative and whose main agenda was the promotion of phonics instruction, acknowledged that there has been widespread agreement in the literature that encouraging students to engage in wide, independent, silent reading increases reading achievement. Literally hundreds of correlational studies find that the best readers read the most and that poor readers read the least. These correlational studies suggest that the more that children read, the better their fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Still, the panel called for more research to ensure that these strong correlations were actually causal. The evidence for independent reading keeps accumulating. Richard Allington , Patricia Cunningham and Richard Allington , and Leslie Fielding and David Pearson have reported a number of studies linking independent reading to heightened comprehension and overall reading achievement. Kids need more time to actually read in school, to be able to choose their own materials and talk with fellow readers.

These researchers also agree that independent reading time needs to be well structured, that teachers should help students pick books at their fluency level, and that when activities shift to teacher-guided instruction, the focus should be on demonstrations of comprehension strategies rather than so-called subskills. Literature circles are one orderly and manageable structure for ensuring that this kind of substantial independent reading—well beyond the levels customarily supported by SSR programs—happens in school.

Chapter 3: Ancient History and Current Research research documenting achievement gains across the curriculum Johnson et al. Literature circles are a part—a quite sophisticated and highly evolved part—of the wider collaborative learning movement. As most professionally active teachers are well aware, the epicenter of the collaborative movement is Minnesota, where brothers David and Roger Johnson, along with a host of colleagues, have developed a wide array of cooperative learning resources.

While there are many other cooperative learning experts, authors, agencies, consultants, and workshops around, the Johnson group is always worth listening to because in their work they consistently adhere to the true, student-empowering potential of genuine collaborative structures. As noted earlier, the widespread corruptions and misapplications of cooperative learning have given rise to a growing professional polarization. Today, the term cooperative learning is increasingly coming to denote skills-oriented, breakit-down, traditional school tasks assigned by teachers to student groups, while collaborative learning is the term preferred by teachers who are trying to sponsor true inquiry in small-group work by designing higher-order, student-centered, open-ended activities.

Obviously, all the teachers who contributed to this book feel that our kid-run discussion groups represent authentic collaboration. Varied as they are, all of our literature circles display the characteristic features of true collaboration: student-initiated inquiry, choice, self-direction, mutual interdependence, face-to-face interaction, and self- and group assessment. Collaborative learning draws heavily on a well-developed field of study called group dynamics, which remains largely unknown to schoolteachers.

My work with several colleagues Daniels and Zemelman ; Zemelman and Daniels ; Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde ; and Daniels and Bizar tries to drag the insights of group dynamics into discussions of instruction and school reform. The overarching insight of group dynamics is that there are certain predictable and controllable elements in the development of highly productive groups. Mutually developed norms. Shared leadership and responsibility. Open channels of communication. Therefore, if we want to have effective classroom literature circles, we would be well advised to ensure that each of these factors is explicitly provided for in the training, development, and maintenance of the discussion groups.

Indeed, the very essence of literature circles involves predictable structures and events; clear, student-made procedures; kid leadership and responsibility; classwide friendships; constant public and private talk and writing among everyone in the room; and inviting disagreements and conflicting interpretations to emerge within a safe and comfortable structure.

In other words, from a group dynamics point of view, literature circles are a very well-structured activity, one that we would expect not only to be successful in accomplishing its goal—which is the clear and deep understanding of a book—but also to contribute to the general cohesiveness and productivity of the wider classroom community. One of the reasons literature circles have coalesced so strongly and generated so much excitement among teachers is that they make heterogeneous classrooms work. In other words, literature circles—along with reading and writing workshops—are a key structure for detracking schools, which is one of the greatest unsolved issues of educational justice in our country.

Researchers like Jeannie Oakes , Anne Wheelock , and George Wood have voluminously documented the fact that ability grouping in American schools harms the achievement of kids in low and middle groups while providing few if any benefits for the kids in top groups. Literature circles are a natural substitution. The different discussion roles used in groups invite different learning styles to shine—kids who may not offer Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups, 2d edition, by Harvey Daniels. Chapter 3: Ancient History and Current Research glib plot summaries can offer moving read-alouds or unique illustrations.

Indeed, effective reading discussion groups tend to see diversity as an asset—the more people talk about books, the more they want to have a range of responses, ideas, and connections in the group. In a literature circles classroom, there are so many ways to succeed, to find your niche as a reader. The teacher, of course, plays an important role, kidwatching with care, balancing between challenging each child and sustaining, above all, the love of reading, writing, and talking about books. Reader Response Literary Criticism One of the most inspiring stories in American education is that of Louise Rosenblatt, who had a great idea in and stuck with it.

It was her fundamental insight in Literature as Exploration that a text is just ink on a page until a reader comes along and gives it life. Debunking the old school of the so-called New Critics, she insisted that there is no one correct interpretation of a literary work, but multiple interpretations, each of them profoundly dependent on the prior experience brought to the text by each reader. Rosenblatt clung to, elucidated, and reexplained this simple, powerful idea for more than fifty years, until it finally began winning widening acceptance in the s.

In his book Response and Analysis , Probst lays out a concise description of reader response theory, applying it to the real situation in public schools. Probst explains that in good teaching, the response always comes first. As he reminds us: The pleasures that drew us first to literature were not those of the literary scholar.

When our parents read us Mother Goose, we enjoyed the rhythms of the language without analyzing the political or social significance of nursery rhymes. Today we know a lot more, Keene and Zimmerman argue, about how proficient adult readers actually think: while reading, they make personal connections with the text, they ask questions, they look for important elements or themes, they create sensory images, they make inferences and judgments, and they create ongoing summaries or syntheses as they read. They may do this thinking largely unconsciously, but somewhere along the line, mature readers acquire this set of powerful mental tools for interacting with text.

As Keene and Zimmerman acknowledge, in most classrooms kids are not yet learning these key ways of thinking. We teachers need to open up our heads and show exactly how effective readers think, naming and demonstrating each of these major cognitive tools.

Then, we need to give kids plenty of time to practice applying these strategies, not in drills or worksheets, but in real conversations about real books. So, from a theoretical point of view, we can say that literature circles are a form of independent reading, structured as collaborative small groups, and guided by reader response principles in light of current comprehension research. How are kids arranged? What does the teacher do? How loud does it get? What happens when things go wrong? Good questions. And yet as you get acclimated to the noise level, join a few student groups, and tune in to the ongoing conversations, the sophisticated quality of these literary discussions becomes apparent.

Children are tucked up close to one another, ten-year-olds talking with animation, seriousness, and sometimes passion about the novels they have chosen to read. They toss searching and open-ended questions into their groups, read aloud favorite passages, stop to talk about difficult or powerful words. They are constantly flipping back through their books, using specific passages to prove points or settle disagreements. The roles help students bring up and independently discuss important topics of their own, rather than march through typical teacher-supplied study questions.

The colonial family in the story has been forced to move to the remote Penobscot region because the parents could not find work in the city of Boston. The boys enter a lively debate, centering around the possibility of Indian attacks. The conversation returns to Indian attacks. Roy argues that because Matt has already met and talked to one member of the local tribe, such attacks are unlikely.

73 Best Literature Circles images in | School, Reading club, Classroom

Brian and Wilbert insist that Matt is still in danger. Meanwhile, Brian and Wilbert just shake their heads and continue talking about whether or not their fathers would let them have a gun. Finally, Roy returns to the circle in triumph, carrying a thick U. Flipping through the pages, he slaps the book down, open to an illustration of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas. Often, she gets drawn into the conversation if the book is one she has read herself— Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups, 2d edition, by Harvey Daniels.

But this is not the time. This chunk of the day—literature circle time—is separate and different and special.


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This is time for kids to pick, read, and discuss their own books. Marianne is happy to see the kids connecting with books, taking responsibility as readers and group members, constructing meaning together, and beginning to debate and challenge one another. They gather up the materials from their math work and stack them away, taking out their novels and journals and regrouping into five book clubs in different corners of the classroom.

They set to work, talking about the self-assigned chapters they have read for today, comparing notes from their journals, and running their own lively literary discussions for more than thirty minutes. There are jokes, disagreements, connections, and lots of explicit self-assessment. Their ability to operate in peer-led book discussion groups is rooted in two things: the warm community that Theresa has been cultivating since the beginning of the year, and about twenty days of specific literature circle training.

The community is a special one. There are 1, picture and chapter books here, grouped by theme and author. Scarves and hats from all over the world hang from the ceiling. There are several work areas: hand-built bleachers for class meetings, assorted worktables, and sawed-off tree stumps as stools. The kids will study African cultures, the middle passage, slavery, abolition, the Great Migration, and the Harlem Renaissance. And more and more and more. It seemed that for third graders with limited or no experience with lit circles, summarizing was the core skill we needed to teach. With the whole class gathered on two L-shaped bleachers in a corner of the room, Erin and I modeled summarizing, drawing from a vast collection of picture books with which the children were familiar.

This is supposed to be a summary. Can you try it again? Can you just touch on the most important part? Your time is up. You were asked to give a summary, not tell the whole story. In the whole group, kids gave their summaries and received explicit directions for improving the summary as well as praise for what went well. Critiquing and praising in front of the class requires trust and the building up of emotional resiliency. On day 3, the children were ready to choose their own book to read, breaking into lit circles to summarize their particular story.

We took instant photos of each lit circle and posted them on the bulletin board, affirming their identity as part of a group. We continued this activity for several days, content that students had mastered the role of summarizer. This rich tale of friendship features magic, zombies, and a lush vocabulary. As a class we listened for words to write on our word wizard chart interesting, challenging, or beautiful words.

The children fleshed out the chart, noticing similes, giving me a chance for a quick mini-lesson on this device. We discussed questions the word wizard may use and put them on a long skinny chart to be tacked up for all to refer to when needed. We modeled how to record words and continue conversation.

On day 3 of word wizarding, each child received a fat stack of Postits and a response sheet on which to write their summary, word wizard choices, favorite part, characters, and things they were wondering about. Using The Drinking Gourd as a read-aloud, they all listened and wrote, later meeting in groups to share their ideas.

The children were experiencing what it feels like to be a full, active participant in a literature circle. The next day, the students chose a book independently, again using the response sheet to jog ideas. They met in groups to share. It took us until the twentieth day of all this preparation to finally sign up for books and move into traditional lit circles!

Near the door, one book club starts its meeting with a process issue. As Brenda points out forthrightly, Tony is always getting the group off-task by joking around. Tony listens to all this undefensively; he seems to know that his jokester tendencies can be a problem. The other kids nod as Brenda challenges him to really do the job. Kubasak comes by and gets the kids to state the problem. She asks Tony to make a commitment.

After Ms. Another group is discussing E. They decide to make a list of the problems and solutions: Problem Mom was washing and lost her ring. Stuart got locked in the refrigerator. One key in the piano that stuck drives George crazy. Little finally opened the refrigerator. Stuart goes in the piano to make the stuck key go down. Some members think they are reading too few pages each day.

The book is interesting and easy, so why not step up the pace and finish the book sooner than they had originally planned? But then they realize Eva has been absent for few days and is already behind on the reading. Just when they want to jump ahead, it seems they are pulled back. Pretty soon a lively debate breaks out about a British attack on the colonists. Meiko: It was just the mom, the two girls, the baby, and the dogs. Rachel: I hated it when she got captured and they shot the dogs. Anna: That was the worst. Eva: Think about it—dogs? The mom might get killed, the house might get on fire, they might starve.

Rachel: My dogs are like people to me. We play all the time. They do make mistakes. Anna: I would take my dog with me. Eva: Dogs to me. Anne and Carla in the book. Anna: Both people and dogs can help you. If something really horrible. Keegan: Last year my dog, Milton, was out with my dad. My dog protects me a lot. A guy came in our house at nine at night.

He was a burglar. My dog is really faithful. Anna: I worry about fire in our apartment house, what could happen to our dogs. I get so scared. Rachel: We had fires in our neighborhood. Anna: We had a tornado! Eva: Can we get back to the book? No tornados, please! Meiko: Well, I would stand up to [the British]. If you stood up to the British, they have ways of killing you.

The kids sort of slipped into it spontaneously. Chapter 4: Looking into Literature Circles in the corner of the room, the sharing time is highly structured—and it lasts more than fifteen minutes. Into this stretch of the literature circle meeting, Theresa gracefully slides mini-lessons on vocabulary building, book selection, and solving group problems; she and Erin also demonstrate how book club members can disagree respectfully. Please come over, Please come over. Tha-ank you, Tha-ank you. They keep singing as classmates straggle in. The singers really get into it, turning it into a round, a quite melodious one at that.

Even the latecomers are singing as they arrive and slip into their seats. Theresa has brought a rolled-up poster to the group. Do you know what that might be? I do that in my own family. I get book recommendations from my brothers and sisters. It was great. But eventually we worked it out. Like this group came upon the word Hamlin. And you read the sentence over to see if you could figure it out. Then you also looked it up in the dictionary and found it really is a place.

He was sitting with some people who really yak a lot, and I was thinking he might not get a word in. You know, some people are just quiet. Like Ms. Did you know that she was nominated as Illinois Student Teacher of the Year? You just butted in, and it was so perfect. I think that this character, Professor Trelawney, is a big hoax. Can you tell us how you made this comparison? It kind of surprised me at first. What do those two people have in common? Theresa jots these words in the overlapping section of the Venn diagram. They did want to get everyone together.

Here, abundance is offered to children, and much is expected of them. It starts with tons of really good books, available in multiple copies. Many but not all of the books are coordinated with curriculum themes, so that kids can naturally extend their burgeoning interests. The classroom culture is highly reflective; everyone understands that certain social and thinking skills are needed for small groups to operate well and knows how to debrief, hone, and refine these skills every day.

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The groups set their own schedules, including starting and ending dates. Kids have developed a broad repertoire of response strategies; they can analyze plot structures, make emotional connections, study the words in the text, or take a variety of other approaches. There are no mandated artificial projects at the end of the book but instead occasional book advertisements like the Maniac McGee song. You never know what to expect with books!

Decide what movie you are going to cast yourself in and who will be your costars. As a graduate of many cooperative learning training sessions, Nancy deeply believes that an initial warm-up activity is important to good book club discussions. Grown-ups do this all the time in their reading groups, she argues, when they snack and gossip at the start of meetings. As soon as all the badminton scores and pep club meetings have been announced, the kids move quickly into their six literature circle groups.

They make sure their desks are touching, with everyone knee to knee. I mean, those girls are hot. How do you spell his name? Keep moving! Three weeks ago, Nancy offered the kids an assortment of books grouped around the theme of prejudice, representing a wide range of reading levels and authorial styles, and including both fiction and nonfiction.

Now, as the groups begin twenty-five minutes of book-talk, the kids have lots to draw Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups, 2d edition, by Harvey Daniels. Chapter 4: Looking into Literature Circles on. As the first Children group compares illustrations, they are surprised to find that three of the five members have independently drawn the very same scene from the book, a moment where the young inner-city kid, Pharoah, talks about rainbows and pots of gold.

Ricky acts tough, but he wants to chase rainbows, too. But in the book all these people get all the welfare they want. Your job is to serve and protect, just like it says on the car. She may also pipe up with directions for the whole class at any time. When the whole class gathers, each group reports in turn, noting pluses and minuses. But it was sort of about the book, but pretty far from it. We stopped doing it last time. But now, when the kids say thank you, they smile broadly and really seem to mean it. Chapter 4: Looking into Literature Circles Nancy has used many structures and tools to get her students to this point she tells more about her own strategies in Chapter But what is most striking today is that everyone has come prepared and everyone has participated.

After months of practice and careful training, the kids can sustain long and focused conversations about books and the ideas in them. There is a balanced distribution of airtime in all groups. There are no wallflowers, so silent partners, no slackers, no nonparticipating members.

If you sit in on any of the six groups for a couple of minutes, you will hear every student chime in about something. Lit circles are very neat. They are very, very awesome. Lit circles are very, very complicated, though.

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It just blows my mind that they can do so much when you just guide them and let them go. Getting a basic version going is usually relatively simple, because the structure is self-teaching. What kids can do with just a little preparation can be truly amazing. On the other hand, literature circles are inarguably complex, including as they do a decentralized classroom, lots of different books being read, lots of logs and materials circulating, the frequent reshuffling of groups, plenty of noise and movement, and a wide range of choices for the teacher.

Four Ways of Starting Lit Circles Chapters 8, 9, and 10 offer detailed stories of how many different teachers started and are now running their own versions of lit circles. Chapter 5: Getting Started: Preparing and Orienting Students room veterans have so many variations to share later on, this chapter will simply offer four basic versions of literature circle training that have served well in a variety of classrooms.

But first, a brief note on the word training. In some quarters, training is a politically incorrect term; it labels you as a Skinnerian behaviorist bent on dehumanizing children and atomizing the curriculum. Here are four ways of getting started: 1. Quick training for experienced readers and collaborators all grades. Training using a whole-class novel and Post-it notes elementary.

Training using a short story, novel sets, and response logs high school. Training using short stories, a novel, and role sheets elementary. Before you jump straight to a version that matches the age of your students, keep in mind that really good classroom ideas are not tied to the grade level at which they originated.

In fact, the procedures in all four of these models are highly translatable to other grades. Whatever the grade level, good literature circle training has the same key steps: 1. Explain—let kids hear how this activity works and why it is important. Demonstrate—provide live or videotaped examples, by kids or adults. Practice—help kids try out a variety of approaches. Debrief—ask kids to notice and catalog effective procedures.

Refine—provide ongoing training through mini-lessons and coaching. There are about a zillion ways to provide kids with these experiences, and no one of them is correct. For example, relatively few teachers actually show kids what a book club meeting looks like before expecting them to re-create one. In the early days of literature circles, most teachers used role sheets as the chief tool for getting kids started with book clubs. Now, fewer of us take that route.

Keeping a response log helps a reader notice and harvest reactions as she reads, and also provides a rich assortment of topics for group meetings. During the first wave of literature circles, we also tended to think of training as something you did before you got into the real reading groups.

We wanted to be sure that kids knew how to do literature circles before they did literature circles. Now we are more inclined to plunge the kids into some good reading and teach the discussion skills as we go, working inductively. Instead of expecting the teacher to present comprehensive rules and guidelines for effective book clubs, we just do book clubs and ask the kids to notice, catalog, and practice the skills that help them have effective meetings. Following these basic principles, here are four models of training, nested in different grade levels.

The first one is for classes with a solid background in collaborative learning and response-centered literature study. The second two approaches use open-ended reading logs to support the reading and energize group interaction. Quick Training With warmed-up, collaboration-wise students—or kids already accustomed to a literature-based classroom—an hour may be all it takes to introduce literature circles. One simple approach is described below. If you want to shorten the reading time and still retain a full demonstration, students can read a poem, article, short story, or picture book instead of a chunk of a real book.

The great thing about using a whole book is that by the end of this demonstration, most people will be so hooked that they will finish reading the book, whether the lit circles continue or not—a powerful lesson. This will take a few minutes of informal negotiation. Give a set amount of time for some reading and some writing twenty to thirty minutes is plenty.

Tell the groups to look at the book and assign themselves a section that everyone feels can comfortably be finished in five minutes less than the allotted time. The extra five minutes will be used for writing notes in logs, either during or after the reading. When everyone has done the reading and jotted some notes, invite groups to get together for ten or fifteen minutes. Simply explain that the goal is to have a natural conversation about the book i. During the conversations, visit each group unobtrusively for a few minutes, strictly as an observer.

Jot down specific examples and comments to make during the debriefing. Call the class together to share and debrief. The first step—a sacred rule in all versions of lit circle training—is to talk about the book. Then shift to reflecting on the process of the meeting. Ask people to notice the specific behavior eye contact, encouraging, etc. Make a list of these social skills and no-nos.

Have groups assign themselves another chunk of the book for a second meeting, to be held a day or two later. Remind people to jot notes in their response logs, during or after the reading. Turn the skills lists into a poster, and add items to it as you debrief future meetings. In her colorful classroom, every object in sight is labeled in both English and Spanish, and she has a large collection of books in both languages, including multiple copies for literature circles. That way, she can offer mini-lessons that will be relevant to everyone, and the kids will be able to compare notes across groups.

For a few days, Olga previews literature circles for the kids, describing how they will work. Olga wants to add another wrinkle to the training this time. For her nine-year-olds, the sheets seemed to be too much work, too overwhelming, and kids struggled to finish them. Olga still wants to teach the response roles, so kids are aware of the different kinds of thinking they reflect. But now she invites kids to capture their thinking with a simpler, more congenial response tool: little one-and-ahalf-inch Post-it notes, put right in the pages of the book where they find ideas worth discussing in their groups.

Just before she hands out the books and Post-its to everyone, Olga offers a mini-lesson about the different ways readers can respond to what they read: connecting the story to their own life, asking questions, picking a favorite part, making mental pictures, noticing tricks that the author uses, wondering about words, and more. Since the start of the year, every time that they read a story or talk about a book in Ms. It depends on your style of reading. She cautions kids to make sure each Post-it hangs out of the edge of the book where they can find it easily.

As the kids read and start jotting notes, the novelty of this approach is immediately apparent. They love it, and write note after note. That part is so sad. And it remind me when I sliped and fell in mud. It made me remind me of my little brother. If I was Charlotte I would do the same thing with my family and my friends. After a half hour of reading and Post-it frenzy, Olga has a bit of a hard time getting them to stop. Now she quickly polls students to see how far they have gotten in the book, and forms kids into groups based on how many pages they have read.

This way, students will be talking about the same chunk of the book, and no one can spoil the rest of the story by talking ahead. Now just have a nice talk about the story. You can use your Postits however they help you. For many of these children, from rural Mexico, stories about pigs have special resonance. Big pigs! And I came home one Saturday night and they already cooked him.

He had a apple in his mouth and everything. These eight- and nine-year-olds are already running their own book clubs, having spirited and pointed conversations that are almost percent on task, without needing any significant adult supervision or complex tools. The Postits seem to feed the discussions with more than enough material to talk about. The kids are especially eager to find out who else picked the same spots in the story to discuss. These groups, initially based on reading speed, will mostly stay together for the rest of the book.

It will be up to each group to decide how much to read, when to read, and when to meet. The fastest readers finish the book quickly and hold several meetings that range over the whole book; meanwhile, the kids reading more slowly have the same number of meetings, but each one covers just the sections of the book completed so far. To make sure that the speedier groups have plenty to think about, she offers them choices of extra response activities to try, like researching spiders or pigs, writing letters to characters, and making new illustrations for sections of the book.

Every day, Olga keeps shaping and refining the process. In opening minilessons, she reiterates the different kinds of thinking that you can catch on a Postit note. In sharing sessions after each meeting, she helps the kids critique their meetings. Sometimes she will raise an issue that she has noticed while visiting groups and wants to offer as a mini-lesson. But as Julia goes on and on and on about this topic, it becomes apparent that she is the big talker herself.

Realizing that Julia is basically self-critiquing, Olga is gentle. We want to hear what everyone has to say. Not surprisingly, the book text has opened up the eternal childhood problem of lying versus telling the truth. Angelo: If you were Zoe, what would you have done? Chapter 5: Getting Started: Preparing and Orienting Students Jane: I think it is very good to tell the truth, because if you lie, then they will never believe you. We started something called Best Practice High School. Ever since we started dreaming up this school, literature circles were always supposed to be one of its signature activities.

Last fall, Tina and Jenny started another year of lit circles, and this is how they got the kids going. Except for a few transfer students, these kids have done literature circles before, either as freshmen at BPHS or in their elementary schools, or both. She tells the kids to jot down a few responses either while reading or after reading the story. Chapter 5: Getting Started: Preparing and Orienting Students The kids are immediately engaged, and a little puzzled with this tale.

Jenny gives them a good ten minutes to reread and jot notes. I now want to know what else happens with the boy. Where did the berries come from? In my life how I can connect with it is that sometimes when my mother questioned me about something, she would shake me as if trying to get the answer out. We had to rush him to the hospital. They said that their moms put medicine down their throats. My mom tried the Heimlic manuever. All the time. It was like I was there sitting there watching them.

My mother panic scream and stuff. Next, Jenny pulls them back together. She asks a spokesperson from each group to share one thread of the story, one topic their group got interested in, disagreed about, laughed over. Now Jenny directs the kids back to the earlier list of reading log possibilities on the flip chart.

So how can we put that on the list? Another group reports that they had talked about the title a lot; it seemed weird that an author would imply right in the title that the story might not be completely true. Within a couple of minutes, the students realize they have been reacting to issues of style and craft, and this too goes up on the list as something good readers can attend to.

Now that the list of response choices has grown, Jenny asks kids to go back to the story and try a different kind of reading log response, just for practice. Go ahead, give it a try. Chapter 5: Getting Started: Preparing and Orienting Students become problems for their parents, because parents sometimes take their job of being grown and a parent for granted.

He might have been an accident unwanted pregnancy. The kid notices that the other mothers care about their kids and show affection and his mom does not. My grandmother call her to bring her newspaper down to her house and she did so that was our chance. Then his mom came back and saw us, we got a whipping, then we ate. I thought it was sickening because it was too graphic for me. This person says that Joey had red berries and her smile look bloody. Then this person describes what the vomit looks like.

In her scrupulously locked book cabinet, Jenny keeps multicopy sets of thirtyfive different titles, and she wants the kids to be able to pick from the whole range. She puts a stack of six or seven different titles in each group, one copy each. They have done this before, skimming books to gauge their potential interest, so Jenny just reminds them about reading the first page or two or scanning the summary and blurbs on the back cover for clues about whether this book is for you.

After a half hour of this table hopping and book tasting, the kids will have been exposed to a good bunch of books. Finally, they can select their favorite by putting their name on the sign-up lists Jenny has hung on the wall, one for each book. The process is either energetic or chaotic, depending on your point of view. A few get so hooked that they remain behind, causing seating shortfalls for the next batch coming in. Other kids cut side deals with friends to get in the same group together regardless of what book they will read.

Jenny really has to mush things along. But by the sign-up lists are full. Only two people signed up for Scorpions and so they have to join other groups. Chapter 5: Getting Started: Preparing and Orienting Students Now it is time to build a schedule of reading time and meeting time. Jenny has just three weeks for this cycle of LCs, since a schoolwide integrated unit begins three weeks hence. Jenny wants the kids to meet a couple of times early in their book, to make sure that everyone is on track and well hooked. Then the schedule can spread out, with kids reading bigger chunks of the book and meeting a few days apart.

She makes a basic plan and hands a math problem to the kids. Each group must decide for itself how many chapters to read for each meeting. Tomorrow, Friday, the kids will meet to discuss the first chapter or about twenty-five pages, whichever is longer. Day 3 Today is the first real meeting in the book groups, and to keep things simple and ensure that the reading gets done, Jenny has limited the reading to about twenty-five pages—usually the first chapter or two of each book. Kids go directly to their groups, and using their notes to help them, talk for about fifteen minutes.

Then Jenny pulls them together to see how things are going. What one prediction can you make about the rest of the book, based on this first twentyfive pages? And then, what are some things you noticed people doing in the last few minutes that helped your group to work? Did anyone notice any behavior that messed up your groups?

Kyle 1. Luis is probably going to cause trouble with his new gang. Besides me, the meeting was great. Ian 1. I think Alice is going to run away again and start doing drugs again. I think that them 2 guys that beat up Alfredo are probably gonna do it a couple of more times before they get caught. I think that the discussion went pretty well. Everybody contributed and shared something about what they read.

Lashawndra 1. I think the story will confuse me again. This book is confusing when you first read it but then things start to make sense. My group discussion went well. It led off by us asking each other questions and everyone answering them. Our discussion is always fun. Yes, everyone participated. But other than that everything was ok.

Now Jenny asks volunteers to share their thoughts, and she rapidly records them on the flip chart.

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Adapting Literature Circles: A Study of "Reason"

Once they have amassed a list of helps and hindrances to small-group work, she asks the kids to copy it in the front of their logs, alongside the earlier list of response log options. Now kids have their own self-generated lists of the thinking skills and the social skills needed in literature circles. The assignment for the next class is to read another chapter— twenty-five pages or so.

The tapes shows a quite mature, effective group and there is a lot to see, so Jenny shows it twice, the first time through without instructions.

Literature Circles Setup (Classroom VLOG)

Then she directs their attention to their own list of social skills, still displayed on the flip chart from the last session. Make notes! In the following discussion, the kids are amazed to see almost their whole list of skills displayed, from eye contact to supporting ideas with pages in the book. Jenny checks each skill off as it is enumerated.

Jenny just smiles. As they get into groups, Jenny encourages them to consciously use the social skills on their list and the ones in Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups, 2d edition, by Harvey Daniels. Chapter 5: Getting Started: Preparing and Orienting Students the video to keep their discussions productive. As they meet, she circulates, stopping briefly at each group. These cues will feed her mini-lessons on the next three Fridays, as the kids read and discuss the remaining thirds of their book.

Literature Circles: Getting Started

Days 5, 6, and 7 Three Successive Fridays After reading shorter chunks the first couple of days, each group now divides the remainder of its book roughly into thirds, looking for sensible stopping spots at the end of chapters. Groups will meet on three successive Fridays, for the whole class period. Each Friday meeting will follow the same pattern: there will be a five- or ten-minute mini-lesson from Jenny; then there will be a good chunk of meeting time, thirty minutes or so; and finally, there will be sharing time, used for debriefing the groups, sharing favorite passages or books, and taking care of logistics.

What will these daily mini-lessons look like? The lessons have also been more maxi than mini, since the groups are in start-up mode. But later on, as groups get running on a normal schedule, there will be plenty of other mini-lesson topics. Some of the time the mini-lessons will consist of Jenny directly presenting an idea or strategy; other times, the mini-lesson will be collaborative, with Jenny and the students brainstorming practical solutions together. For example, during the third round of meetings Jenny notices that many kids are voicing vociferous opinions, but mainly using volume rather than the actual text to prove their points.

You are so loud and dogmatic that no one dares to disagree. So what can we do about this? What can we do to make sure that people really back up what they say? After overusing the strategy for a while, they will settle into a more natural pattern. As all this training moves along, kids start having some really good meetings. John: Uh-huh. And this is the immigration?

Jermaine: Right. Darris: Let me tell you something that tripped me out in the book.