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You can't learn much from books you can't read.

Richard Allington



Literature circles look different in every classroom; they change from teacher to teacher, grade to grade, student to student.  Literature circles have no recipe, they are not a specific "program", and they never look the same from year to year -- or even from day to day.   The reason?  True engagement with literature within a community of learners can't possibly be prescribed -- it can only be described.

Katherine L. Schlick Noe


What ARE Literature Circles?

  1. Students choose their own reading materials
  2. Small temporary groups are formed, based upon book choice
  3. Different groups read different books
  4. Groups meet on a regular, predictable schedule to discuss their reading
  5. Kids use written or drawn notes to guide both their reading and discussion
  6. Discussion topics come from the students
  7. Group meetings aim to be open, natural conversations about books, so personal connections, digressions, and open-ended questions are welcome
  8. In newly-forming groups, students may play a rotating assortment of task roles
  9. The teacher serves as a facilitator, not a group member or instructor
  10. Evaluation is by teacher observation and student self-evaluation
  11. A spirit of playfulness and fun pervades the room.
  12. When books are finished, readers share with their classmates, and then new groups form around new reading choices

Daniels (2002) and Daniels and Bizar (2005)


Why should we learn more about Literature Circles? 

  •       Dana Grisham (Daniels, 2002) has recorded much of the research related to literature circles. Results from the research collected include benefits to inner city students, incarcerated adolescents, resistant learners, children living in poverty, and second language learners. Various versions of literature circles have been found to increase student enjoyment and engagement in reading; increase opportunities for discourse; increase multicultural awareness; promote other perspectives on social issues; provide social outlets for students; and promote gender equality
  •      The presence or absence of a wide variety of texts enables or undermines the potential for a literacy-rich environment within a school or classroom. The availability of texts that mirror students' social realities, interests, and reading levels makes it clear that student learning will be supported and student identities honored.  (Meltzer & Hamann)



Where can we find out more about Literature Circles?


Where can I see Literature Circles in action?

  • Check in with teacher-librarian.  He or she can help you by finding mentor teachers in our district or by modelling the process for you with your students.  
  • You can also get a sense of literature circles in action by viewing videos. 


This video gives a really clear explanation of one way to set up lit circles. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2CnA0uIqMs&feature=related

Fifth graders:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa8Rjk9mri0&feature=related


A lot of people are moving away from the prescribed roles to a more natural format:  questions, connections, wow! or what?  They might prepare for the discussion through a double-entry journal, for example and/or "sticky note" reading.  After the conversation, students can do a quick write - what I'm now thinking/wondering about.

The students in this video are obviously comfortable asking questions, inferring and making connections.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSMz9c0L1dQ


These fifth grade students are focussing more on questions, prediction, inferring:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9L9GO-qMp_s.   



Students discussing The Outsidershttp://ohiorc.org/adlit/video/videoClip.aspx?clipID=3&segmentID=8  



Where can I find books for my Literature Circles?




Comments (1)

jdavidson@... said

at 2:41 pm on Feb 18, 2010

McGirr staff went to observe Literature Circles at Randerson and found it very useful. Most of our intermediate teachers are now using them in their classrooms. We notice the kids are much more motivated to read when they have choice. We also found some pleasant surprises when students are discussing literature in small groups - often the ones that shine are not always the ones who produce the best written responses. This is a great way to support the oral language component of the curriculum.

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