Do you belong to a book club? I never understood the true value of a lively book discussion until I joined a book club as an adult. I am an avid reader, so when I was invited to join a book club, I jumped in with both feet! I gained so much knowledge by debating and discussing the merits of a book and wanted to share this experience with my students.
There are a couple of key points I try to remember when I organize literature circles.
- Mix up your students, personalities and interests will make for livelier discussions. Talk to your students about how to object or give a dissenting opinion in a respectful manner.
- Although everyone has genres that we naturally gravitate towards, it's important for readers to stretch themselves. One of the book clubs I belonged to, read a book from a different genre each month. I don't necessarily enjoy every genre, but because of this experience, I discovered a couple of new ones to love. Sometimes it's a matter of reading the right book! Focus on two genres when you organize literature circles. Organized this way, you can let students meet with groups of the same book and groups of the same genre. For a whole group lesson, compare and contrast the two genres with a venn diagram.
- The great thing about Literature Circles is that it can be used with such a wide range of age levels. When I taught first grade, two of my reading groups were reading G.E. 2.5 or higher. I still met with these groups for skill work, plus I gave them time to meet as a Literature Circle for enrichment. This is also a good way to differentiate if you teach older students. I've been helping my daughter's 6th grade teacher, Sandy, set up Literature Circles for her classroom. (the pictures are from her classroom) When you have 30 students for half a day, time is a valuable commodity. Differentiating with young students is hard, but half a day with 30 students is a greater challenge. It took the two or us working together three days to put 60 kids in 22 groups! Yes, you heard me right . . . 22 groups. Putting a 1st grade class in literature circles and a 6th grade class in literature circles has similarities, but also some differences. In 6th grade you see a greater difference with fluency rates. Sandy's wanted her students to finish their book in 6 weeks. Fluency rate and ability level were the first two things we considered when putting them in groups. Then we looked at personalities. Some students work well in large group, others do better in small groups. Our largest group has 4 students and our smallest has 2. I will never complain about meeting with 4 or 5 reading groups again.
There are many wonderful literature circle printables on the internet. There were a couple of specific things I was looking for, so I tweaked the forms and made my own. My jobs are:
- C.E.O.: This is the boss of the group. The C.E.O. is in charge of getting the folder, handing out assignments, and leading the discussion. The C.E.O. also has an assignment to do. The C.E.O. will complete a connection assignment. It can be connection to self, world, or text. He or she will draw a picture with at least 5 different colors and write at least 3 sentences.
- The Dictionary Director will find 3 words from the reading assignment. The words will be whatever our current grammar/writing focus is during our lessons. I.E. If we are studying adjectives, the D.D. will find 3 interesting adjectives from the reading assignments. The D.D. can look up the words in a dictionary or can use the computers or iPads.
- The Map maker has a choice of 3 assignments. He or she may complete a character map, venn diagram, or story element chart.
- The Newscaster is looking for the main ideas in the reading assignment. He or she will take notes of important characters and events and give a "newscast" when the group meets.
- The Quiz Whiz is in charge of testing the group's knowledge. No basic knowledge questions are allowed! Questions should either be predictions, explain: how/why's, connections/comparisons, or opinion questions.