- Shaking Up Short Stories - August 8, 2019
- Ditch the Summer Reading Requirements - July 19, 2019
- Celebrate Pride With Your Classroom Library - June 26, 2019
- Bringing Climate Change into the E/LA Classroom - May 20, 2019
- YA Books for Mental Health Awareness - October 8, 2018
- Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Book Talks - September 26, 2018
- 180 Days: Writing and Reading Maps and Mentors for A Year in ELA - September 16, 2018
- Teaching Immigration Empathy: Why Refugee by Alan Gratz Should Be Added To Your Curriculum - July 8, 2018
- Coaching the Coaches: the Benefits of Instructional Coaches - January 28, 2018
- Six-Word Memoirs as an Introduction to Narrative Writing - September 24, 2017
This is my second year trying Literature Circles with my students. The first time, two years ago, I had seniors. They were extremely motivated and self-sufficient. I gave them a checklist of things I wanted them to produce, I sat in on their discussions, and they went really well.
This year I am trying it again but with eighth graders. I have found that almost everything I did with high school students, I can do with middle school students if I add in a little extra structure, and Lit Circles are no different.
Before students are even given their groups, I go over the procedures with them. Procedures are different than assignments. I will address what they will produce and how they are graded in later posts. The procedures are the expectations of how the groups will run.
Prior to finding out their groups, we talk about what makes a good group member. We create a list on the board of ways we know someone is being a good team player: hard-working, on-task, contributes to discussion, does their share, participates. This year I left these posted on the board so we could go back to them if a group wasn't on task or had conflicts. Next year I am planning to put these qualities on cards that I laminate and put in the group's folder so they can have it out at their pod so it's literally at the center of what they are doing.
I have the class divided into six groups (because we have six YA novels to choose from), and each group has a folder. I keep the folders in a binder labeled with the class period since I have five 8th grade ELA classes. All the binders live in a crate. This makes it easy for students to keep everything their group is working on in one place. If someone is absent, the work is all still in the room for the rest of the lit circle to continue working on.
In the folders are the check list of what each lit circle must produce as well as procedure reminders. Because routine is a middle schooler's best friend, we follow the same pattern each class period: bell ringer activity, silent reading (either your independent reading book on Mon/Wed or your lit circle book Tue/Thur; Friday is choice), and then Literature Circle (although we call them Book Clubs) time.
Each Book Club has a person assigned to getting materials: their folder and their books. The rest move the desks and chairs so they are facing each other. Once gathered, the first thing out of the folder is their calendar. This is where they assess how much they have to do each day. They also record what page they are on and what they worked on for the day for anyone who might be absent and for me to look over. This helps me when I make the rounds to each lit circle because the calendar gives me, at a quick glance, the information to know whether I need to intervene to help get them on track to meet the due date.
Each lit circle has the autonomy to set up reading anyway they want. Some sit in silence and read, others elect someone to read to the group (the way I do when we do full-class readings), and some do round robin reading. They also get to distribute the assignment duties themselves.
While groups are working, I rotate around the room. Sometimes I pull up a chair and listen to discussion, sometimes I pull students aside to talk about the expectations of being a good group member. And of course, I provide clarity and ask leading questions when needed. My job during literature circles is one of a coach; I make sure procedures are followed and encourage them to work together as teams.
With two minutes left in the hour (which I announce) one member of the group is responsible for collecting all materials and returning them to the counter while the rest of members straighten desks and pack up.
When I did this with seniors, I was extremely hands off. They regulated themselves well and needed very little intervention from me. With 8th graders, I am finding that when I do this again, I may need to provide a little more structure for some groups. I will discuss this further in my next post about the products the lit circles produce.
I'd love to hear from you! Have you done literature circles with your students? What procedures did they have in place that were successful?