LITERATURE CIRCLES AND IMMERSION INTO TEXTS
THE ROLE OF TALK IN LITERATURE CIRCLES
A literature circle is an effective, research-based literacy strategy that provides opportunities for purposeful classroom talk. With a focus on genuine, thoughtful conversations about good books, students meet in small groups to read, discuss and respond to the texts they are reading. As they put forward their thoughts and opinions, and listen to those of their peers, they become active readers who are practicing effective reading strategies and creating new understandings.
Strategies That Make a Difference
Helping students engage in the kind of purposeful talk that supports learning may require careful scaffolding.
Ask students, what they think an effective literature circle should look, sound and feel like?
Generate a list of qualities of effective literature circle discussions.
At the end of the literature circle ask students to discuss what worked well, what strategies they used, and what needs improvement.
Show students video clips of successful literature circle groups and ask them to observe, take notes and later discuss what they noticed and what they would like to try in their own groups.
Introduce response journals as a way for students to record their thoughts, questions, understandings about the text they are reading in preparation for the literature circle discussion.
Teach response starters such as, I wonder..., I noticed..., I was surprised by..., I made a connection..., etc.
Teach strategies for taking turns, building on others’ ideas, active listening, respect, etc.
Adapted from an excellent article by Heidi Mills and Louise Jennings (2011) Talking about Talk: Reclaiming the Value and Power of Literature Circles.
You can find more about getting started with Literature Circles in the Reading section of the Literacy Today.
Give Them a Hand: Promoting Positive Interaction in Literature Circles from ReadWriteThink provides practical suggestions to help students improve their participation in literature discussions.
Let’s Talk About Stories is another resource from ReadWriteThink. In these lessons, students participate in partner, small group and whole-class discussions to respond to a text.
IMMERSION INTO TEXTS
Learning how texts are made and why they "look" and "act" the way they do is essential social knowledge. It is the structures and features of texts that make them recognizable and that communicate their meaning or message, as in "Once upon a time..." in a fairy tale, or "Dear Sir/Madam" in a formal letter, or the theme music that is used to announce a popular television show.
We need this knowledge if we are to develop the kind of literacy that allows individuals to become knowledgeable and critical participants in society.
Talk plays a key role when students are exploring any type of text, e.g. a video, an illustration, poetry, or a newspaper article. Immersion into texts occurs when students work together (in whole class and small groups) to:
read, listen to, and/or view many examples of the genre/text type being studied
discuss how these texts are constructed and why
look for common patterns (e.g. the use of false clues in mystery)
build criteria for the genre/text type
support their thinking about the way the text type works with evidence from the text.
talk about audience and purpose
Click here to watch as a Cycle Three class experiences immersion into text and learns about the genre of biography.
HOW TEXTS WORK
This small handbook called HOW TEXTS WORK: Literacy and the English Language Arts programs may also be useful as a resource.
Download the handbook here.
LITERACY TODAY IS UNDERSTANDING THE WORD AND THE WORLD.
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