Sunday, July 14, 2013

Literature Circles

I've tried for several years to get Literature Circles going in my classroom. I think they are a great idea and I love the learning that can come from them. One of the biggest problems with Literature Circles that have job roles like illustrator, summarizer and such is that one student would come unprepared and it would mess up the whole process. I wanted to simplify the process of Literature Circles while still enjoying the benefits of students being engaged and talking about books. I also wanted to include a Literature Response component so I could see that learning as well. Towards the end of last year, I began Literature Circles again, this time without the traditional jobs.

I divided my students into 6 groups, so there was 3-4 students in each group. Any more than that and they start to go a little crazy! Since most of my students were about the same level, I let them chose what book they wanted to read. When they chose the book, this put them in their Literature Circle groups. Next, I had the students read with each other. There are pros and cons to this arrangement, one being it takes forever to read together, but it encourages oral language and fluency development. I think next year  I will alternate days between reading silently and reading aloud together. After reading the first day, see where the students are at in their book. I then divide the book into thirds and tell them how many days they have until they should be done with the first section. When they read the first day, they are excited to read so I have an accurate picture of how much they can read, not how much they can read while fooling around! :)

When the students have completed their section of the book, I have them complete a response sheet. This sheet has most of the roles from traditional Literature Circles and is aligned to what CCSS expects for responding to literature. I like that I can assess all students on all aspects of the reading, not just one student illustrating a picture, for example.

After a day to respond to the book on the response sheet, the students come together to talk about the book. This is where I have roles for the students. They absolutely love these, and I use them for most group work, not just Literature Circles. The roles are Discussion Leader, Messenger, Volume Control and Reporter. The Discussion Leader keeps everyone on task, the messenger asks the teacher questions and does the group evaluation, volume control keeps the volume low, and reporter introduces the discussion questions. All students are expected to add to the discussion and this really helps with meeting CCSS standard 3.SL.1.

After the discussion students are expected to fill out an evaluation sheet about their group time. There is a group form for the messenger role to fill out as well as a self evaluation. This helps students with their accountability for their learning. When this is complete they will start the cycle again until they have read all of their book.

All of this of course took awhile to model. Before they could write the response, I had to teach them how to write a summary, how to make text connections, how to look up words in the dictionary, how to correctly illustrate a scene, how to think about author's message and how to come up with discussion questions. Each of these task have a corresponding worksheet and anchor poster.

When I first started  Literature Circles, expressed their concern with how to take grades. I've found that rubrics and anecdotal records are a great way to take grades during Literature Circles. From watching students discuss the books, I know their understanding of what they read, how they are making connections and how they are able to verbalize their answers. From listening to them read, I am able to hear their fluency and where they are struggling. From the Literature Responses, I am able to see their comprehension, text connections, writing, and dictionary skills.

This style of organization has really worked for me. For more ideas on how to implement Literature Circles in your classroom, check out
If you like what you see and you are interested in Literature Circles in a different way, you can purchase Literature Circles~ For Any Book! at my TpT store. What about you? Do you do Literature Circles in your classroom? What works well and what do you struggle with?


  1. Is your summary sheet available anywhere, like on your TPT store? I can't find it and am very interested in it because I have been searching for something like it for days!!!

    1. Yes, it's available in my literature circles packet on TpT. I love Lit. Circles, they are so much fun!


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