Anyway, before I had to consider a restraining order against some nylon and Lycra, I used to think it was really cool how one day you would learn about something you hadn't known before and then all of a sudden you'd see it everywhere. Like when you learn a new word and then, like magic, that word is all around you!
It's sorta like this question that I haven't heard once in the 18 months I've been blogging: "Jenna, do you do literature circles? If so, how? I'd love some advice." And then all of a sudden, in the last month, I've received some version of this question 7 times through either email, FB, or a comment on the blog. So, I figure it's time that I address it :)
Literature Circles Facts:
- My students typically do 3-4 rounds of literature circles per year. Each round takes about two weeks. We tend to alternate with a few weeks of independent (always self-selected) reading, whole-class read alouds, and literature circles.
- I try to keep groups to four students. On occasion, I'll allow three or five, but I find that more than four means there is a "quiet" one in the group who lets everyone else do the talking, and with three there may not be enough conversation to sustain a meeting.
- I've acquired an INSANE amount of books over the years that I use for lit circles. Typically, I put about 6-8 titles out for a round of lit circles. About two weeks before we get started, I do some book talks, which are basically little commercials that I use to "sell" the novels. (PSA: this means that I've read every single book that I'm offering. Please, don't ever assign a book you haven't read yourself prior to assigning it. It can only lead to trouble!!) On choosing day, I let the kids do a "book tasting," where they get about five minutes to start reading each title. At the end of the tasting, they select their top three choices. Almost always, I can get kids into a group with one of their three choices.
- Once kids are in their groups, they create a reading schedule. During the two weeks, they will meet 4-5 times, so they need to break up their book into 4-5 sections.
- The kids do all their reading in class. Typically, students meet in their groups every other day. On the days they are not meeting, they are reading and prepping for their meeting. (I am not an advocate of homework. I teach in a district where some kids have huge responsibilities at home... like feeding and putting to bed their smaller siblings so that their parents can go and work their second and third jobs. Because these kids rarely have time, space, and most importantly, HELP with homework, I give very little!)
- For each one of my classes, I usually have six literature circle groups going at once. Each day, three groups meet while the other three read and prep for their meeting the following day. Because I only have three groups meeting each day, I am able to sit in and observe all three groups for a bit (and since I've read each book myself, it's pretty easy to tell who has read and who has not!).
- I don't do role sheets anymore. When I first started, I did, but I found the kids tired of them quickly. Now, in addition to their reading, I have students do some type of literary analysis activity (these are a collection of my favorites that I've used through the years!).
- In each group, I give each student a number from 1-4 (they keep this number for the entire book). Every two days, I assign a different activity a number (so I may assign a characterization activity the number "1," and a mood/tone activity the number "2," and so on. Then, after two days and every group has gotten to meet, I change the activities.). The kid in the group with that number does that activity for the next meeting. (Does that make sense? I forgot to take a picture of my bulletin board where I keep these activities organized! All I do is staple four file folders to the board and label them with the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4. Every two days, I put copies of a new activity in each folder. So, all the 1s in the group will grab their assignment from the "1" folder; all the 2s will take their assignment from the "2" folder; and so on.) By doing it this way, everyone is doing something different for each meeting... I find this really prevents boredom and keeps kids on their toes!
- Meetings consist of the kids sharing their work. This is usually enough to spark some good conversation. However, if, after sharing, kids are struggling to talk to each other, I'll give them a set of task cards, like these, to help ignite the conversation.
- I do collect their activities after each meeting and grade them. I give individual grades and not group grades.
- After two weeks and everyone is finished their book, I let them do a little project to present their book to the class. Usually, it's one of these:
- I try to give them no more than 2-3 class periods to prep their projects. Then, I allow one day for presentations.
Agh! I'm sorry that I just dumped that all out there like that, but there was so much I wanted to say and I just felt list form would keep this from being a million words long!! I'm sure I didn't do a good enough job explaining, so please feel free to ask me questions about making literature circles work. And I am also sorry if this seemed like I was "plugging" my wares, but all three of the products that I mentioned came as a direct result from all the lit circle stuff I've accumulated over the years!!
So, are you a fan of lit circles? How do you run them in your classroom? I'd love to hear from you :)