Why I Love Literature Circles
Updated: Jul 17, 2018
Have you tried literature circles in class? Did you love it? Hated it? It can be a fair amount of work to get started and stay organized, but personally, I LOVE it and think how much authentic learning happens makes the work well worth it.
BUT, literature circles did not always work for me. When I tried to go into too much detail with each group and text, both the students and I struggled. I had to take a step back and really reflect on the purpose of doing literature circles: to engage each student on their instructional reading level while teaching a grade level comprehension skill (in my case the skill was character traits). I did not need to make specific text-dependent questions for each text, because every student should be able to answer an open ended question about character*. We are not teaching students to be able to read and answer questions on a quiz. We are teaching students to be able to apply comprehension skills to any text they read.
But of course, nothing is ever that simple. Not every group needs specific text-dependent questions as a scaffold, but some may. I recommend starting each group with the general guiding questions, pay close attention to what groups are able to work independently and correctly, and which need more direct support, and then plan accordingly.
For example, my group shown below was reading Junie B. Jones Cheater Pants (great book by the way). They weren't fully grasping the character trait and development questions. Once I saw that, I decided supplement their assignment with text dependent questions that lead to them to being able to identify character traits or how the character changed on their own. What does that look like? When they couldn't come up with a character trait for Junie B. Jones in chapter one, I asked them:
"What did Junie B. say to Lucille? Was that kind? Why or why not?"
"Why didn't Junie B. do her homework? Was it really someone else's fault?"
"What did Junie B. Jones do when Lucille left the room? Why did she do this?"
These questions led them to identifying a character trait that describes Junie B. Jones because we already discussed the evidence they needed.
Once I modified my approach to literature circles, they became so much more effective. I was spending less time making meticulous plans and more time reflecting on students' work and progress with mastering the skill. Plus, students were always highly engaged because of how much independence they were given!
If you want to try my literature circle kit you can get it from my teachers pay teachers store!
Lauren Mary Medlin
PS. If you want my Junie B. Jones Cheater pants unit click here!