This week we began our first true to form literature circles. Literature circles are similar to book clubs. Each member of the group is reading the same section of the book and comes to the discussion time ready to share their take on what they read. To facilitate this at the elementary level, students are given a role to complete each night. The roles vary every night so that each day they come to class with a fresh take on the previous night’s reading. We meet and each student shares his contribution with the group. By the end of the session, everyone has a chance to share insights and connections about the characters (Casting Director Role), review the chapter (Summarizer Role), ask and answer clarifying questions (Discussion Director Role), identify and define new and interesting words (Wordsmith Role), and even visualize what they read about thanks to the groups illustrator (Illustrator Role). For more on each role’s responsibility for completing thier assigned role sheet, please visit my Literature Circle Roles page .
Now lets walk through how the steps to having a successful literature circle session. We begin with our Summarizer who recaps the chapter or pages read the previous night. Once our summarizer has completed his/her task, our Discussion Director takes over to facilitate the conversation. He/she will ask a couple of questions to get the group started and then invite the Illustrator to share his/her drawing with the group to help everyone put a picture to the story. After the illustration is shared with the group, the Casting Director discusses the characters- who they are, what they think they look like, how the act and interact with the other characters. This role is omitted in non fiction based books. Finally our Wordsmith shares any new or interesting words he/she found with the group so they can define them for future reference. This is also a great time to talk about pronunciation of names and places.
As the teacher in a literature circle it is imperative that you too read the chapters and are familiar with their content each night. This task can be daunting, so in the beginning you may want to assign your whole class the same book to work with to ease your load as you are getting used to this new style of teaching comprehension. Also, I suggest you teach each role in isolation. We spent a couple of days with everyone in the class completing each role sheet one at a time. Once everyone knows every role, it is easier to assign different roles to each group member. As your groups are discussing, be a facilitator not a dictator of the discussion. Add when it is appropriate to ensure that main points are not being missed, but let them discover the literature on their own as much as possible. It is amazing to see and hear their insights when left to work together.
I leave you with one way I like to contribute. When possible, I like to bring in artifacts or tangible items that correlate with the books by groups are reading. This week one of my groups is ready Out of Darkness The Story of Louis Braille. This biography is near and dear to my heart as my step son, Tyler, is being educated to use braille due to his low vision capabilities. Tyler helped me braille each group members name on his Perkins Braille Writer along with the braille alphabet. The students love having that tangible piece and can now better connect with the story of this amazing individual.