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 is the conclusion of “The ABC’s of Literature Circles”:
N- is for Notice. As with any collaborative project, practice with your students how to notice the good and the challenging parts of group discussion. Where were the snags? How to improve for next time? This video, and the accompanying one, show students examples of both.
O- is for Options.
Don't let the plethora of options get to you. Start small! With middle schoolers, I frequently would start with practicing each literature circle job on its own, together. Then we would expand to practicing the discussions occasionally on their own, with much structure. We would spend months piecing together each step of the process before everyone was ready and comfortable moving independently through all the jobs.
P- is for Project Extension.
Extending the lesson comes naturally when you see students really connecting with the book or with each other. Bank on that! This website provides many forms for planning, as well as several good extension ideas:
Q- is for Quiet.
Set aside quiet time for reading during the day. You probably do this already, but especially preserve dedicated time for the students to work towards their reading goals, and stay on track with the schedules they set for themselves. The practiced discussion time is too valuable to leave to chance. Especially if your students consistently have trouble staying on top of homework, this is valuable use of class time- not a waste! Here is some research on homework, particularly against relying too heavily upon it for the next day's class!
R- is for Reluctant Readers:
Are you worried about your reluctant readers? Especially in upper grades? This resource provides great ideas for how to engage them.
S- is for Self-Reflection:
Self-Reflection is argubly the most important part of a literature circle. Can your students learn to evaluate how they were able to contribute and learn? Can they adjust for next time? Can they identify the positive aspects of their group?
T- is for Teacher's Role.
The teacher steps back for this activity. Lit circles are student-led! Enjoy the time to truly interact with your students and assist their progress. You are a guide and coach, they are the star players!
U- Ultimate Printable.
This downloadable PDF is from an NESA conference sectional that breaks down the who, what, when, where, why, and how of lit circles. It breaks down grade level differences and provides rubrics and resources galore.
V- is for Video.
Here's a video a group of fourth graders made about how to put together literature circles in your classroom. A great way to show examples and non-examples of what a good discussion looks like! And, there are so many more like this on youtube!
W-is for Worksheets.
This link process even more worksheets, easy, printable, and focused on younger grades.
X- is for eXamine.
Let group and self-reflections guide the pace and process of the literature circle activities. Make notes and adjust for next time. Were there jobs that didn't work well for your students? Did some more time and effort than others and require tinkering? Do some students need a different level of book? Use your time circling and supporting to wrote notes about your next collaborative project.
Y- is for Yours.
Make The literature circles in your classroom YOURS. Adjust, tweak, create, extend. Do you need them to connect to a larger unit plan? Produce a project to show parents? Collaborate with another subject? Perfect.
Z- is for Zone.
If this degree of stepping back is out of your comfort zone, never fear! Start with these easy printable worksheets and give each student a job. Read what you were normally reading and start by doing lit circle jobs for that chapter.