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Literature Circles – Part Two

In the last post I explained how the students are introduced to their novel choices and how I create the small groups. Now let’s take a look at how the students are graded…

Each student is given a rubric, which explains how the scores are determined. One of my goals as a teacher is to have a reason for everything I expect from my students. I do not have them do “busy work” nor do I have them begin an assignment without knowing how that particular work is being scored. The rubric we use in 7th grade was created by my colleague – and teacher extraordinaire – Kate Messner. (As a matter of fact, our entire English department at my school is filled with fantastic, creative teachers!)

The rubric for the Literature Circles has two parts: Preparation and Participation. The score for being prepared is dependant upon the student doing the reading goal set by the group in the previous class. In addition, the first twelve to fifteen minutes of class is spent filling out three short segments to help form deeper discussions with the group. Some teachers in upper grades may want to have this be a homework assignment, but I find having my students read to their goals is enough for them. Answering the questions fully and reading to the goal earns a four out of four on the rubric. Quickly answering the questions and reading is three; partial answers to the questions  earns a score of two; and not reading to goal, thereby preventing the student from answering the questions, is a one.

The other half of the student’s daily points comes from participation. Each student is expected to actively engage in conversation – asking and answering questions, as well as sharing their thoughts. Most groups have no trouble with this portion of the class! I always have a thrill standing off to the side, observing a room full of 12 and 13-year-olds eagerly discussing the merits and weaknesses of their novels.

In the next post I will explain the three segments of the discussion-generating form and share some student answers. Let me know if you have anything else that piques your curiosity with this process, as I love to dialogue about literature.

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