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Exploring Literature Circles

Janelle Cox

 

Literature circles have become the cornerstone for many reading programs. Studies have shown that when implemented, using this structure in the classroom has a very positive impact on students’ attitudes towards reading, as well their reading abilities. Here we will explore literature circles. We will learn what they are, why you should implement them in your classroom, the teachers’ role, as well as each job students must complete while in their group.

What is a Literature Circle?

In literature circles students gather together in a small group to discuss a piece of literature. Literature circles allow students to take control of their own learning. Each reading group selects their own book and each group member is given a role or a job to complete. Similar to a book club, students get the opportunity to discuss and reflect what they read in the story or chapter with their group, and engage in critical thinking.

Why Should K-12 Classrooms Implement Them?

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Here are three reasons why all classrooms should use literature circles.

1. Students get the opportunity to have a voice in what they are learning. They get to choose their own reading materials. Granted, the teacher allows them to choose between a few books, but it’s still a choice the students get to make. Research has shown that when students are offered a choice, they tend to be more motivated to learn, which leads to deeper engagement.

2. Students gain independence and get to learn from their peers. Much like cooperative learning, literature circles make students depend upon their peers. They teach students to use each other as resources to help them complete their task.

3. Students get a chance to voice their opinion in a social setting. Most of the school day is spent listening to the teacher teach. Literature circles offer students the opportunity to voice their opinion, and work with, and talk to students they may never talk to out of school.

What is the Teacher’s Role?

  • Serve as a facilitator.
  • Develop groups where students will have the opportunity to succeed.
  • Provide a variety of books from one theme or one author for students to choose from.
  • Explain expectations of the literature circle.
  • Provide all of the materials.
  • Create extension projects, such as readers theater.
  • Keep the group on task and provide ideas for discussion.

Literature Circle Roles

Here is a list of literature circle roles and the task each student must complete for each job.

Discussion Director – Your job is to come up with a list of questions that your group may want to discuss about the chapter you are reading. Your task is to have students in your group talk about the big ideas and share their reactions to the chapter. Here are three examples of general questions you can ask.

1. What is the most important idea in this section?

2. Predict what you think will happen next in the book.

3. What surprised you the most in this chapter?

Connector – Your job is to find connections between the chapter that you just read and the outside world. Your task is to connect what is happening in your own life (school, home, etc.) with the book.

Illustrator – Your job as the illustrator is to draw a picture of something that happened in the chapter you just read. You can draw a graphic organizer like a story map, or draw a sketch.

Literary Illuminator – Your job is to choose a few parts of the chapter that you thought were special, and that your group would like to hear read again. You decide which part (s) is worth hearing again. You can read it aloud or have the group reread it to themselves.

Word Wizard (Vocabulary Searcher) – Your job is to be on the lookout for important words, or words that are unfamiliar throughout the text. You can use a dictionary to find out the meaning, then put the meaning into your own words and discuss the word(s) with your group.

The best way for students to determine which job they must complete is to have them roll a die. On a sheet of paper assign each job a number 1-5 and when the student rolls the die, they look to see which job they must complete. Each week students meet for literature circles they roll the die and record which job they must complete.

What do you think of literature circles? Do you use them in your classroom? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators

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