Whether you are just a beginner with using literature circles in your classroom or if you love the structure but your students haven't mastered writing strong questions for discussions, this resource is perfect for you!
These literature circle questions are based on the dystopian short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are "modified" literature circles?
Literature circles structures were developed by Harvey Daniels many years ago (see the book "Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in the Student-centered Classroom" for more information).
Although I love this structure and often use it, I needed to develop "modified" literature circles because my 7th and 8th graders needed more assistance in developing quality questions. Modified literature circles are when each small group (of 3-4 students) has identical questions on the same book. This method has allowed me to select from their questions, vocabulary words and key passages and model the elements of a quality discussion question.
What are the roles and types of questions?
- Discussion Director - related to plot, characterization and the story as a whole. *Encourages participation from all members
- Passage Master - Focuses questions on key quotes and descriptions from the story. *Assists group members with looking back in the text for evidence and support
- Connector - Questions connect the story to self, others, society and/or the world. *Volume control-- makes sure the group isn't too loud
- Vocabularian - Identifies key vocabulary words from the text, with definitions and questions related to the story's use of those words. *Time-keeper-- ensures that the group stays on track.
How do I set up Modified Literature Circles?
All you need to do is print out as many copies as the number of groups you have. I often use the same sets from class period to class period, although you could have students write a reflection on the back and turn that in. I also like for each group to star the question they felt was most interesting to discuss.
I prefer to mix students into random groups of 3-4 for modified literature circles so they are less likely to get off topic! Then, we go over each of the roles and responsibilities.
Discussion Director begins, but students can rotate through the roles one question at a time, or complete a role at a time. (I find that rotating a question at a time is most productive and keeps engagement high.)
I monitor and listen in on the discussions and offer follow-up questions, but generally allow the students to facilitate their own discussion.
Afterwards, I always take about 10 minutes to debrief as a whole class and ask each group to share a highlight from their discussion (or the question they starred). This is a wonderful opportunity for the best ideas from each group to be shared, and is something everyone looks forward to!
How often do you use modified literature circles?
I regularly use "modified" literature circles with my 8th graders, especially when reading a novel together as a class. I ask the students to write general questions about the story, select key passages and vocabulary words that are unfamiliar-- and then type up the questions based on their responses. Over the course of a novel read together as a class, students meet in literature circles about 4 times to discuss a few chapters at a time.
What are the benefits of using modified literature circles?
- It teaches quality discussion and communication skills, especially in the elementary and middle grades
- It models quality questioning and prepares students to do literature circles independently
- Students have higher engagement, since shy students are much more likely to talk in a group of 4 than in a whole-class discussion
- Students are more likely to ask their peers clarifying questions about the text in a small group setting, so comprehension is higher
- It's easy to implement.
- Opportunity for informal assessment and checking for understanding about a text.
- Students LOVE IT!
- Teachers LOVE IT!
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