Re: Implementing Lit. Circles - Q for Laura

    I teach 5th grade. I tend to pick a theme when I do literature circles. I
    generally have chosen around 5 books that include a range of difficulty
    levels. For example, I will begin this year with a "new kid" theme. I've
    chosen: Hey, New Kid, Anastasia Again, The Kid in the Red JAcket, Knights
    of the Lunch Table, and Al Capone Does My Shirts. I have multiple copies
    of each book. I will place the books on the chalk ledge and encourage the
    students to spend a little time with each book during their Sustained
    Silent REading time. When it comes time to choose the book they will read,
    I may try to exert some influence over the difficulty level. There will
    always be that struggling reader who insists on choosing the most difficult
    book and a quite capable reader who tries to choose the easiest book. You
    just have to be wiley and clever to move them toward the appropriate book.

    I have had literature circles where Ihave not read all of the books and
    ones where I have. I definitely prefer the latter. When I visit groups to
    listen to their discussions, it really helps if I know what they are
    discussing. A new teacher I taught with last year asked for parent
    volunteers to lead each book group. They would come in on Friday and
    oversee a group. I've never tried that, but would consider it.

    I had my literature circles meet each day. Because I generally use
    assigned roles in the groups they had tasks they needed to perform in
    response to their reading each day. Generally, as they would finish their
    tasks, determine the reading assignment for that evening and then move into
    silent reading time. The more efficient they were, the more time they had
    to read. I ALWAYS have a directed response log for my groups. It has a
    page where they keep a list of vocabulary words from the book. It has
    another page for figurative language, several "reflection" pages, a page or
    two where they must draw a scene from the book and describe what is
    happening. A research page (something in the story causes them to wonder
    about a topic. For example, Al Capone take place on Acatraz Island. They
    might do a brief research report on Alcatraz.) Each group is also expected
    to do a culminating project. I don't introduce that until midway through
    their study. Once I do, some of their group time is used to plan and
    develop that project. I generally have a Choiceboard of projects to choose

    Throughout the year I sort of wander from literature circles, to novel
    studies (whole class, one book), to our basal reader. Since it takes quite
    a bit of preparation for me to plan a literature circle or novel study, I
    will fall back on the basal while I'm planning one of the others.

    I plan on doing a Civil War themed literature Circle, as well as a World
    War II themed one later in the year. I have also done a depression era

    On 7/24/08, new teacher wrote:
    > Hi Laura,
    > Could I ask you what books were read in your lit circles? Did groups
    > get to choose anything they wanted, or did you have 4-5 books in mind &
    > then set up groups based on book preferences? Had you read all the
    > books before? Were the books grouped by theme or any other "grouping"
    > quality? Did you continue with other whole-class work during lit
    > circles? E.G. were certain days "lit circle" days and others for whole
    > class work? Did you give class time for lit circle reading? Besides
    > questioning & discussing skills (great points to work on, by the way!)
    > did you have other activities or projects?
    > My apologies for all the questions; I'm curious how this works!
    > Thank you so much!
    > On 7/24/08, Laura wrote:
    >> Someone mentioned earlier in the thread Harvey Daniel's Mini-Lessons
    >> for Lit. Circles. This is a great resource--one that I used last year
    >> when trying Lit. Circles for the first time with a 10th grade honors
    >> class. Honestly, the most essential lesson to do with students (IMO)
    >> is that of teaching them how to create good discussion questions and
    >> follow-up questions, then requiring them to do so when they meet with
    >> each other. We spend two days working on this skill, with me modeling
    >> and them practicing. Then I ask that they try it out during meetings.
    >> I sat in on the meetings and took notes in addition to also asking
    >> them to turn in the discussion questions they came up with. It worked
    >> well and I saw marked improvement in their questioning/discussion
    >> techniques.
    >> As far as motivation goes, I didn't have much of an issue, but that was
    >> in an honors class. I will be trying Lit. Circles with my general
    >> students this year and am hoping that they will be motivated simply by
    >> being able to choose their books and their reading schedules.