Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Literature Circles

Pennii introduces a literary technique to encourage students to read and respond to a diverse range of books through group engagements and roles that encourage discussion from multiple perspectives.

At Reece High School we have been exploring Literature Circles in Grade 7 and 8. Students are placed into groups according to Literacy data gained through NAPLAN, PAT testing and individual reading/comprehension assessments completed throughout the year. The literature used is usually in the form of a novel that has been levelled and is completed over a 6 week period.

So what are Literature Circles?
Literature Circles are small groups of students gathered together to discuss a piece of literature in depth. The discussion is guided by students' response to what they have read. They may talk about events and characters in the book, the way the author has written the book, or personal experiences related to the story. Literature Circles provide a way for students to engage in critical thinking and reflection as they read, discuss, and respond to books. Collaboration is at the heart of this approach. Students reshape and add onto their understanding as they construct meaning with other readers. Finally, literature circles guide students to deeper understanding of what they read through structured discussion and extended written and artistic response.

So why use Literature Circles?
· Literature circles can be a place for cooperative learning. Students help each other understand a text and make sense of it. Literature Circles teach kids how to use each other as resources and become independent learners. Guidance, modelling and support, should still be provided by the teacher.
· Literature circles allow students to make choices about their learning. All children desperately need more opportunities to make choices in school. Choice leads to deeper engagement, increased intrinsic motivation, and an opportunity for guided-decision making.
· Literature circles are fun, in part because they are social experiences. Students are expected to talk a lot, to debate and argue their ideas. Students are invited to bring their experiences and feelings into the classroom and to share them.
· Finally, because they are student led and the students have choice of roles, and they are a cooperative learning structure, literature circles are powerful experiences for reluctant and/or struggling readers. Literature circles have to be differentiated; by nature each group will read books at different levels on different topics or similar themes. Struggling readers can select a text at their level; the teacher can provide direct support to that group or can include a couple of higher-readers.

Literature Circle roles chosen by students within the group are:
Students can elect for a role within the group. Teachers may appoint a role. Although the teacher is there to support the group the Literature Circle is student led.
· Questioner: The questioner thinks of relevant questions while reading a fictional or factual text: How does this happen? Why did this character act in this way?
· Connector: The connector makes text-to-self connections (How does this relate to my feelings, my experiences?), text-to-text connections (Have I read something like this in another book? Is this book similar to another by the same author?), and text-to-world connections (How is this similar to what has been happening in the news?).
· Vocabulary Enricher (Word Wizard): The vocabulary enricher selects and explains new or interesting words that add interest to the text.
· Illustrator (Artful Artist): The illustrator shares visual interpretations of the story with other members of the group
· Discussion Director: The discussion director selects an interesting main idea or event for the group to discuss. The discussion director reminds the group to keep on track and encourages others to participate.
· Summariser: The summariser prepares a summary of the main points of the day’s reading.
· Researcher: The researcher locates information related to the book, such as cultural references or the history of the book’s setting.
· Literary Luminary: The literary luminary finds important sections or quotations in the book that can be shared with others.
· Scene-setter: The scene-setter tracks where actions happen and when/if the scene changes.

We have used the Literature Circle Role sheets to help students facilitate their roles:

Books we use for Literature Circles – Grade 7:
Theme: Friendship
· Middle School – Just My Rotten Luck - James Patterson
· Lockie Leonard: Human Torpedo – Tim Winton
· There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom – Lois Sachar
· Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
· Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend – Steven Herrick
· Don’t Call Me Ishmael – Michael Gerard Bauer
· Scenes from an Epic Life of a Total Genius – Stacey Matson
· Wonder – Stephen Chbosky
· Digger Jones – Richard Frankland
Theme: Author - Roald Dahl
· Fantastic Mr Fox
· Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
· Boy: Tales of Childhood
· Going Solo
· Esio Trot
· The Witches

Books we use for Literature Circles – Grade 8:
Theme: Dystopian Fiction
· Matched – Ally Condie
· The Declaration – Gemma Malley
· Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
· Divergent – Veronica Roth
· V for Vendetta (graphic novel) –
· The Giver – Lois Lowry
· Maze Runner – James Dasher
· Uglies – Scott Westerfeld
· Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
· The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey

Some of the groups may have only 3 students but can have up to a maximum of 15. So we have up to 16 copies of each title and are currently looking at another theme for our Grade 8s. In 2018, we will look at introducing Literature Circles for Grade 9 as well. One of the Grade 9s themes will stem from their History or Social Sciences Curriculum units.

Have any other schools been involved in Literature Circles? If so, what titles and /or themes are you using? I would be really interested to know. Please feel free to email me at pennii.purton@education.tas.gov.au

Pennii Purton
Library Technician, Reece High School

Editor’s note: There are numerous print and web resources to help you get started with Literature Circles. 

· Harvey Daniels Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups
· Inside a Dog: Literature Circles
· Literature Circles Resource Center
· ReadWriteThink: Literature Circles

1 comment:

  1. Pennii thanks for sharing this information about the Literature Circles. There seems to be an huge potential for student interaction and peer learning. Great idea to implement in the classroom.