This month is reading month, and I’ve been writing about literature circles: the problems, the tiny tweaks that make a big difference, and ways to increase engagement. This week I’m hand-delivering the freshest, most useful and printable links on the subject. Thankfully, the research is clear and the resources are plentiful. Here we go! The best resources on literature circles from A to Z…….
A is for Almost Paperless: This teacher used online and computer-based resources to organize his 4th-grade class into literature circles. The paperless aspect is a bonus for a couple of reasons. First of all, it can allow for easy collaboration because students can see group work in one place. Secondly, it allows for independence. He also reflects, however, that another variety of literature circles (without jobs) could also be interesting to try in a “paperless” way:
“If I were to return to the classroom and revise this process, it would be interesting do away with the jobs and role sheets altogether and have the students “take full responsibility for capturing their during-reading responses using Post-its, text annotations, bookmarks, and journals” (Harvey & Daniels, 2015).”
B is for Book Club Spinoff: This is an easy version that is a great stepping-off point, or activity in-between larger units. You don’t have to assign roles or jobs to the students, but they still connect with the book in a meaningful way.
C is for Cooperation: Some teachers shy away from group work becase they wince to remember cooperation gone wrong. Of course, where there are people, there will be disagreements and conflict. However, learning to work in groups and cooperate is possibly the most important thing our students learn.Here is an incredible resource on cooperative groups!
“How are you building a culture of collaboration in your classroom? Teachers should not forget the importance of scaffolding the skills needed for students to work in groups. Paired with a good collaboration rubric, where students know what is expected of them in terms of behavior, teachers need to scaffold skills such consensus building, effective communication, and the ability to critique. Educators need to explicitly teach and assess collaboration, a critical 21st-century skill, if they want their group work to be productive.”
D is for Definition: “groups of people reading the same book and meeting together to discuss what they have read” Literature Circles are student-centered, text-centered, and high-engagement!
E is for Etiquette: This teacher and blogger states that the difficult dance of learning to discuss literature with peers is one of her main goals. And I can’t agree more. Diving into a high-engagement text and learning to discuss and disagree and be willing to converse with peers is one of the highest skills we can muster to teach. This link describes steps for reaching that goal with students!
F is for Freebie: The downloads in this link are free printables from Lauren Candler. Save yourself some time and grab these graphic organizers, journal prompts, job descriptions, reflection forms, and etc!
H is for Help: This website provides an amazing amount of help for you, the teacher. Here’s the goal:
“The Literature Circles Resource Center web site is based on the premise that there is no one way to do literature circles. Literature circles look different in every classroom; they change from teacher to teacher, grade to grade, student to student. Literature circles have no recipe, they are not a specific “program”, and they never look the same from year to year — or even from day to day. The reason? True engagement with literature within a community of learners can’t possibly be prescribed — it can only be described. And that’s the goal of this web site.”
I is for Interesting Book Picks: This resource helps you to find the kind of engaging pieces of literature that you are searching for. Whether you are teaching teenagers and want to find books with romance (but no sex), author interviews, or books specifically written by or about native peoples, this resource is for you. It even has a list of specifically good reads that are short, so not to intimidate reluctant readers!
J is for Journal Prompts: Here are some interesting and creative journal prompts to use with your students during literature circles. I used to like to start or end the work time with a shared journal prompt that could be used by all of the students no matter which book they were reading or job they were doing that week. Here are some examples from the above link:
1. Write a diary entry of a minor character’s view of a major event. Write this in the form of a diary that the minor character has written.
2. Make a comparison of two of the most opposite characters in the novel and describe an interaction between these two characters. What causes conflict between them?
3. Write a letter to “Dear Abby” (advice columnist) from a character in your novel asking Abby for advice. Then write a letter from “Dear Abby” offering advice for the character.
4. Pretend you are one of the characters in the book. Write a diary about the happenings in your life for two days.
K is for Keep (Google Keep): Google Keep is a free Chrome Extension that sets up a pin-board and visual note-taking experience for students to use and use collaboratively. This link describes how one teacher used it and loved it for her 5th grade class. They can set schedules, create checklists, and share information within their groups easily, and digitally, all in one place.
She even describes how it helped her to organize the student work in a way that made it easier for her to monitor: “All of our Google Keep dashboards are filled with notes about the book. I no longer have to go through 24 reading logs but can see all student work on my Google Keep dashboard. Students and I added labels to help organize their thinking and refer back to the notes to help with their jobs.”
Definitely worth a try!
L is for Lower Elementary: It is easy to hear about the writing and discussion happening in literature circles and assume that they are best used in upper elementary or secondary classrooms. This is not the case! This link from Broward University’s ESOL program is a simple, straightforward resource for anyone looking to implement the benefits of literature circles in their lower elementary classroom ESPECIALLY if you have ESOL- learners to care for.
M is for Minilessons: This PDF is really a mini-book that is written by teachers, for teachers, with research-based and classroom-tested activities to use during literature circles. The mini-lessons can be infused into literature circle time to help with social skills, practice certain academic strategies, or hone in on aspects of the discussions that can be improved upon. Its a tremendous resource!
Follow me next week to complete the list of Literature Circle resources from A to Z with more printable, clickable, actionable links!