Thursday, 2 February 2017

Tips to Starting Literature Circles

Why Use Literature Circles

     Literature Circles are an effective way to teach the elements of fiction and nonfiction literature.  Literature Circles are made up of a small group of students who gather periodically to discuss the same piece of literature. 
      Teachers set up the literature circle and students gather to think about, write about, discuss, and share their discoveries about a selected piece of literature.   Literature circles are selected based on students’ needs, reading levels and interests.  Reading selections are based on a variety of genres and content areas.
      Students are assigned roles prior to each gathering session.  For example, my role cards for fiction pieces include: “Connector,” “Investigator”, “Story Surveyor” and “Vocabulary Detective”.  Role cards for nonfiction pieces include:  “Conventions Hunter”, “Illustrator”, “Investigator” and “Vocabulary Detective”.
      Prior to each literature circle, students are always asked to make predictions about the text.  

Getting Started

    Choosing reading materials is always difficult when faced with classrooms that have a multitude of reading levels, interests and needs.  Begin with a survey early in the year.  Gage students’ interests in reading materials.  Determine the students’ reading levels by completing running records for each student.  Choose four students to be part of each literature circle.  Ensure students can work cooperatively with one another and are able to read at (or close enough to) the same level.

        Before beginning the literature circles, model one.  Students will see and understand how a literature circle functions.  Elicit support from volunteers to demonstrate.  Parent volunteers enjoy being part this process.  After a demonstration has taken place, encourage students to create a literature circle expectations checklist prior to starting (see sample).  Just as adults participate in book clubs, students can too!
        Keep a chart visible to display roles during each session.  A pocket chart comes in handy.  Display role cards, the story title, and participants’ names in the pocket chart.  Students will not have to ask what their role is for the day.  Students who are absent will not be available to work on their specific role for the day but may catch up at a later time. 
        Each student will need a copy of the text.  Check your literacy room at school, used bookstores, ask the librarian if multiple copies are available or borrow books from your local library. 
Below is a checklist of the contents I include with each literature circle:

Setting up a Literature Circle
Fiction Role Cards
Nonfiction Role Cards
Display Cards
“I Wonder” Sheet
Role Sheet Organizer
Success Criteria List
Role Card Activity Sheets
Peer Evaluation
Fiction Literature Circle Rubric
Nonfiction Literature Circle Rubric

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