Saturday, March 16, 2013

Getting Started with Literature Circles: Part 1

A few weeks I posted about how much I love literature circles and gave a really quick overview of how they work in my classroom.  I'm going to take a few steps back to write a little bit about how that group got started.  I'm going to break this up into a few smaller posts

I have a very varied classroom. My readers range from level H to level Z.  I have students who have only lived in the U.S. for a few months to students who were born and raised in English speaking homes.  I'm sure you can imagine how important differentiation is in my classroom!  Especially for my small group of level V-Z readers, literature circles is a great option for differentiation.

To prepare for launching literature circles, I began by reading Harvey Daniels' book Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups.  This book is give great insight into several classrooms that use literature circles.  I HIGHLY recommend reading this book if you want to start some literature circles in your classroom.

  After I felt like I was pretty clear about what it is and what it isn't, I spent some time on YouTube. I wanted my students to be able to see a literature circle in action before we began.  

We watched a few minutes of this video (link, if it doesn't work) and we discussed what we saw.  I highlighted the social skills we thought were important when having discussions with our classmates.

We also watched this video (these girls are adorable!).  For this video, we talked about the preparation that the girls did before their literature circle started.

The videos really helped my students understand that they would be on their own and that I expected them to come to the group prepared to discuss and share their ideas without my assistance.  To guide them, I asked my students to set their homework for our guided reading book Tuck Everlasting.  I gave each student a role sheet that I took from Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups.  The roles were:
1.) Connector - text to self, text to text and text to world
2.) Questioner - writes the questions
3.) Illustrator - draws a picture to discuss
4.) Summarizer - leads the conversation by summarizing the selection
5.) Literary Luminary - select quotations and passages for us to discuss

These role sheets are pretty simple.  They include a space for the students name, the text they are reading and the section.  Then there is an outline of that student's role for the next literature circle meeting.  I highly recommend grabbing a copy of the book and using the "official" role sheets while you are getting your literature circles started.

From the first time I handed out the sheets, I told my students that I expect them to do all of this work every time they read, but to focus on their roles for the upcoming conversation.  More about that in the next post.

I wanted to share the calendar I made for my literature circle group.  It's pretty basic, but will do the job all year long for all of the groups. On the calendar, just ask your students to write in the chapters they plan to read on the date they select for their next meeting. You might want to "x" out any dates that you plan to meet with the group for Guided Reading.


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