Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Small Group Reading: Literature Circles

Literature circles are nearly the last component of my small group/guided reading time.  You may have noticed that I only have my students do one activity per day.  This might be different to you as many teachers I know have students visit 3-5 activity centers during this time.  I strongly believe that in the upper grades, emphasis should be on responding to reading.  That is what nearly all of my activities focus on and I don't want to add more centers of busy work just to occupy my students.  I want whatever they are doing to have a purpose and be meaningful.  So, when students finish their activity for the day, they are expected to work on reading and responding to their literature circle book.  Their activities should generally take no more than 1/2 hour and that leaves about 1/2 per day for students to work on literature circle books. 

I shared that my guided reading lessons are usually focused on shorter texts.  Short leveled readers that came with our basal series, articles, non-fiction and short stories are what I most often use.  That meant that I needed a way for my students to also read novels.  So, my colleague started running literature circles in tandem with guided reading and I started to as well.  

I generally have six novels going at one time.  I choose various levels, so I have something appropriate for my struggling readers and something that would be a good challenge for my higher readers.  I like to try and choose books around a theme or author or genre.  This helps so all students get exposure to similar types of books even if they are not the same books.  

Once I've chosen the 6 books for the next time period, I have students come to my reading table one reading group at a time to choose their books.  I start with the low group to ensure that the books that are their level are available.  I give them 2 choices.  Students in the same reading groups do not have to choose the same book, I just call them by group for convenience of putting out appropriate books based on their reading levels. 

I then call a group at a time back to choose.  I give a quick summary of each book and some time for students to choose.  Students often pick up the books, read the cover and sometimes a few pages.  They ask me questions and some ask for recommendations based on what I know they like.  I leave out the books that were not chosen by the last group and as the groups go on, there is usually more choice.  

I divide each book into 6-7 sections and assign a set of chapters for the students to read each week.  Students read the chapters and then write a summary of the section.  We meet each Friday in place of guided reading and each group discusses the reading and their responses.  I post the book title and chapters for the week on these dry erase pockets mounted on the wall behind my reading table. 

This coming year, I want to make their responses more meaningful, so I think I'm going to have a few questions for students to answer.  I'm also going to have an edmodo group for each book and have students discuss in their forum about the book throughout the week.  I haven't worked it all out, but when I do, I'll be sure to post more about it.  Additionally, my study of Notice and Note this summer has also influenced what I'd like to do next year.  Either in their notebooks or on Edmodo, I also want students to record what signposts they notice and what they noted about that.  

You might be wondering about the traditional literature circles in which each student in a group has a role.  I don't give students roles, because I felt like students read only to find what they needed to fill out their portion.  I wanted students to read for comprehension and enjoyment, so we don't assign roles.  We run it more like a book club. 

I'm lucky that my school does have several 10 book sets of novels for small group reading.  I've also increased my own collection with the $1 books that Scholastic offers throughout the year.  I always purchase sets of 10.  This gives me a teacher edition and an extra or two to have on hand.  I usually like to keep my groups to 6, but if the book is very popular, I allow up to 8 in a group.  You can see my post about how I number and track my group sets of books here.  

Do you have literature circles or book clubs in your classroom?  How do you make it work for you?

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