Introduction to Student-Centered Literature Circles Packet includes:
1.) Introductory lesson for students to learn how to effectively run their own literature circle (approximately 55 min)
2.) Literature Circle Introduction information and reading planner
3.) Six literature circle roles:
a. Discussion Director
c. Character Captain
e. Word Watcher
f. Story Dissector
Literature circles are a great way to not only engage students, but a wonderful alternative to “whole-class novels.” Literature circle are student run, student centered, and promote higher-level reasoning skills and critical thinking. They also include the all-important engagement factors of student choice, and student voice. Studies have shown that literature circles are a much more effective and meaningful way for students to engage with and understand text than reading whole-class, or independently, and answering comprehension questions. Best of all, the same 6 literature circle roles and “lit circle” class structure can be used again and again, for ANY book.
I first attempted literature circles this year with my 7th graders, after a disastrous whole-class novel experience involving Lord of the Flies the previous year. My students were bored, and I had no way of holding them accountable for their reading other than busy-work comprehension questions and stressful reading quizzes. Not only that, but half of them failed to grasp the larger concepts of Lord of the Flies due to Golding’s excessive use of imagery and complex sentence structure. It didn’t matter if I spent the entire class period standing in front of the class, reading aloud in my best British accent, stopping to explain and discuss, students would inevitable gaze back and me, slack-jawed, with vague and quizzical looks. When we would stop to discuss and ask questions, their lack of understanding became clear as day.
This year, Lord of the Flies could not be more different. Higher students help lower students focus on the key concepts and understand the text. I hear the joyful sounds of bickering as students argue over the better leader- Jack or Ralph, and which historical leader they emulate. Other teachers come to me saying how the students cannot stop talking about Lord of the Flies, so much so that if a student is absent in another class, all the students respond, “The Beastie got him/her!” Students make predictions, connections, identify figurative language, and have meaningful, real-world discussions, linking the book to their real life.
In closure, I cannot speak highly enough of literature circles- they have changed the way I teach whole-class novels and have ignited my students’ passion for reading.