LITERATURE CIRCLES IN THE READING PROGRAMME
WHAT ARE LITERATURE CIRCLES?
Literature Circles are a way of helping foster a love of reading. They are not about instructional / close reading that is done in class in groups with the teacher. They are all about personal reading and reading responses.
They have been likened to an adults’ book group.
WHY LITERATURE CIRCLES AND NOT LITERACY CIRCLES?
Literacy circles implies a focus on all aspects of literacy – reading, oral language, writing, spelling, etc. The classroom programme caters for this instructional focus.
Literature Circles are all about promoting a love of reading and applying the skills learned in the classroom programme.
HOW DO I SET UP THE LITERATURE CIRCLES?
This is the most important stage and must not be rushed.
You will need to explain the idea of the Literature Circles – the purpose of having them in the classroom.
Guidelines have to be set up about expectations – good to get the students to decide what they would expect to hear and see.
WHO SELECTS THE BOOKS?
This is perhaps the most important part. It MUST be the students who select the books – not the teacher. Remember, these groups are all about reading enjoyment. You will still need to make sure that students are not selecting books that are too hard or that offer little challenge for them.
We use the ‘five finger method’. We read the first page and if there are 5 words we do not know or understand then the book may be too difficult.
Students then come to me when they have chosen their book and I record it on our booklist.
It would also be a great idea, if you were just setting up the Literature Circles programme in your school, to let the students suggest possible titles.
HOW DO THEY SELECT THE BOOKS?
This takes a lot of time but it is really worth the effort.
Students have access to a wide variety of sets of books. They take time to decide on which book to read by:
* Looking at the title, author, cover
* Reading the blurb
* Reading the first one or two chapters
* Use the “Five Finger” method
The option is always there to change the book after the first day if they decide they do not like it – they have to say why though. This encourages critical thinking and stops them putting it back just because their friend may not be reading the same book!
(This problem seems to disappear after the second round of choosing books). It has been a great way of students working with a range of people in their class.
DO I NEED TO HAVE ACTIVITIES TO BACK UP WHAT THEY ARE READING?
The worst thing that can happen with Literature Circles is that they are killed by activities which are often just time fillers and may lack relevance or not add value to the Circles. The oral language development through this programme is invaluable and is an 'activity' in itself.
Blog discussions are also a great way to keep the discussion going. Linking with other classes, both in your own country and across the globe through tools such as ePals, is also a great way to motivate and engage the readers.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU MEET WITH THE GROUPS?
I rove around the room and will ask if I can join in a group. My role is to listen and perhaps ask questions to promote discussion – not often needed.
I will try to join in for a whole session at least once or twice in each round.
WHAT DO THEY TALK ABOUT?
This depends on whether there is a specific focus or not. I try to make sure that at least two discussion sessions are built around the reading comprehension strategies and also that they involve Bloom’s levels of questioning.
Stopping the groups when time is up is often the hardest part!!
A NOTE ABOUT POST-IT NOTES
We have started to use post-it notes as a way of students being able to jot down interesting points or questions they have as they read. These can also include vocabulary that they may have found tricky. The post-its are great conversation starters when the group meets.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY ABOUT LITERATURE CIRCLES?
Much of the research comes from overseas at this stage but all points to Literature Circles having an impressive effect on student willingness to read, enjoyment of books and, most importantly of all, it points to dramatic improvements in reading achievement and success.
We have already seen improvement in reading achievement levels in our own school. This success has transferred through to instructional reading and to writing.
If you would like to read more about Literature Circles or would like more information please e-mail me: