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Literature Circles


My primary teaching goal in literature classes is to convince students to accept the invitation to read the books. Willian J. Broz 


 


Literature circles, sometimes called book clubs, offer students choice and voice in the Secondary ELA classroom. Students set their reading goals, discussion agendas and engage in conversations about the books they have read. Book clubs are highly engaging and can be adapted to suit the needs of all students. 

Graphic Novel Literature Circles 


 


Amber Coones discusses the way she sets up literature circles in her English Language Arts classrooms. See the books she used here.


 


Some features of literature circles:

  • Students choose their texts. Have students suggest titles, review new books, and share them with the classroom
  • small temporary groups are formed, based on book choice
  • different groups read different books
  • groups meet on a regular, predictable schedule to discuss their reading
  • written or drawn notes are used to guide both their reading and discussion topics come from the students
  • group meetings should be open, natural conversations about books
  • personal connections, digressions, and open-ended questions are welcome


Source: Harvey Daniels 2002

Students Talk About Texts: Crafting Choices 


Secondary Cycle Two students use elements of author/producer’s craft to make mening of The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson in their literature circle group. 


 

Literature Circle Discussion: Essex County


Secondary Cycle Two students discuss Essex County by Jeff Lemire in their literature circle group. 


 

Selecting Texts for Literature Circles


Some things to look for:

  • a wide variety of texts (different interests and levels, genres, text types)
  • titles that are engaging and can encourage lots of talk and excitement about reading
  • stories that allow for multiple interpretations and many different layers of meaning
  • titles that are suggested and review by students.


Select texts that can support learning goals:

  • thematic or topical literature circles such as emotional and romantic relationships, family dynamics, mental health, coming of age in the past, present, future, etc.
  • genre study literature circles such as historical, dystopian, biography, etc.
  • multimodal literature circles such as a study of verse novels, graphic novels, multimodal texts, wordless picture books, etc.
  • text structures, feature and conventions such as alternating narrators, different story structures, use of textual elements such as figurative language, setting, characterization, point of view, etc.


 


 

Additional Resources


Read about teacher-blogger Jenny Murphy’s experiences with book club discussion groups.


The Literature Circles Resource Center web site is based on the premise that there is no one way to do literature circles. It is worth checking out.


The Teaching Resources website created by teacher Laura Candler provides an excellent description of various literature circle models.


 Classroom Book Clubs offers information on setting up book clubs with a flexible, relaxed approach.

“Talking About Talk: Reclaiming the Value and Power of Literature Circles.” by Heidi Mills and Louise Jennings in The Reading Teacher, Vol. 64, No. 8. 


 


"Learning to Question to Wonder to Learn" by Jamie McKenzie provides additional ideas for using essential questions.


The Quebec Reading Connection website offers information on texts and resources such as bookwebs.