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Literature Circles

Literature Circles are up and running in my ELA classes! My students have chosen their books and had a brief introductory class to learn how Literature Circles operate. Tomorrow they get down to the fun business of talking about their novels.

Here is a brief overview of how I set up the unit, so any future posts will make sense to all:

My school's library has some excellent Lit Circle sets of books for us to use in our classrooms. Russell Puschak, our librarian, scours his resources for recommendations and takes our requests, too. Reading as many midgrade & YA novels as I can helps me choose books to present to the students. For each class I have approximately twenty books (five copies of each) to show the students, which is geared toward their interests and reading levels. I do a 30 second book talk for each novel.

Next I give each student a hole-punched index card. (It is punched so they can save it for future reading choices after the groups are finished.) The books are then divided so each row has all of the books in it, with approximately three to five books on each desk, depending on the size of the class. This is called The Great Book Pass!

During The Great Book Pass, students must examine the front and back cover and then read the first one or two pages. If they find a book that interests them, they write down the title on the back of the card. After a time, I have the students in the back bring their books to the front row students, then all others pass theirs backward.  We continue this until all students have examined all books.

The last step for the students is to flip the card over, write their names, and then list their top four choices. I collect the cards. While they play a punctuation game they love, I create the groups. I try to give most their first choice. Sometimes, however, there aren’t enough kids choosing the same book, so I have to make judgment calls with their second and third choices.

When the groups are decided, I call the class back to order from the game and get ready to announce. I do my usual “pre-group speech”…you don’t have to be college roommates or get married: it is just a discussion group for class. No eye rolling, groans, or huffing allowed! : ) They laugh, but get the message.

Most groups have four students, but sometimes class sizes can cause groups to have five. (Three proves difficult with absenteeism and six makes it easier for quieter students to fade into the background.)

Before they leave at the end of the 80-minute blocked class, students get their book, set a reading goal with their Lit Circle teammates, and go with the group to check out the books in the library. Any time left over is devoted to begin reading the novels. Note: When I did this in a 40 minutes class, before my team blocked classes, I would announce the groups on the second day.

NEXT POST: How to prepare students for discussions.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 11th, 2010 03:14 am (UTC)
So interesting!! This is a great post, Marjorie!
Jan. 11th, 2010 04:12 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed reading about my Lit. Circles. I find self-selecting makes the students have more of a stake in their group and increases enthusiasm.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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