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First Run with Literature Circles

During the 3rd nine weeks, I was leading a small group of inclusion students in a Literature Circle. I had zero experience with Literature Circles, and I was a little apprehensive about teaching using this method of instruction.

I am used to modeling and cueing, structure and control….

Of the 25 7th graders I am responsible for, I chose to work with two small groups. The remaining students were placed in groups within the general education classroom.

The inclusion teachers I work with did a practice run with each of the jobs using short nonfiction text selections. This helped the students become familiar with the jobs they would be responsible for. It also gave me some a clearer picture of the process and the expectations.

I was still apprehensive.  It just seemed too unstructured with too much down time.

Thankfully, I realized it does not have to be that way at all.

The two periods I lead Literature Circles have been some of the best times all year!

I look forward to 4th and 9th period each day.

The kids love the book. (Did I even mention it is Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi?). They come into my room ready to go!

Our discussion about the book, the connections made to the characters and the events, and the bonds we are making over this reading experience are beyond what I ever expected.

The students I chose for this smaller literature circle have surprised me in many ways and I am seeing them in a new light, exposing many layers that I hadn’t been able to access before now.

I pull two round tables together to form almost an “8” shape, and sit upon a high stool as part of the group for modeling purposes, but lately as more of an overseer as their understanding of the process has developed.

I did a search online for our version of the literature circle jobs, but the handouts are pretty old and I didn’t find exact ones. I did find some great resources though which I linked at the bottom.

Our jobs include:
Artful Artist – The AA draws a scene from the reading and shares it with the group. The group had to figure it and describe the scene. This is not as popular with my kids as you would think, because their drawing skills are sometimes weak.

Clever Connector – This is my favorite, because I get to see how each student relates to the book. This is probably their second favorite job. It is challenging, but a sign of truly comprehending the events, recognizing the feelings of the characters, and imagining the scenes.

Word Wizard – Here we have an opportunity to learn some new vocabulary and practice using context clues. It is interesting to watch students highlight difficult words as we read. They are very attentive in this role.

Passage Picker – Kids love to be the “PP” mostly because they can say “PP”, but I think that the opportunity to make choices about what we reread together is part of the appeal of this job. They can seek clarification without feeling embarrassed.

Super Summarizer -The dreaded job…no one likes this one. Because summarizing is so difficult, yet such an important skill, I’d probably do this as a whole group each time, rather than individually. I need to figure out a better approach for the next time so this job is not so hated and is more productive.

Discussion Director – Last Friday, I turned to our DD and another student whisper-exclaims, “Yessssss! I love this part!!” This job requires the student to come up with 5 questions related to, but not specifically about, the text. For example, “Have you ever being wrongly accused of something?” “Have you ever felt like everyone was out to get you?” “Have you ever lost a loved one?” “Have you ever been so hungry you ate something you didn’t really like?” I have laughed often and learned much about my students through this role.

I don’t know how this works in a large setting with multiple groups needing to monitored, but I do know that with a small group it is a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

Why does it work?

Maybe it’s because of the accountability they feel towards the group. (Although, I’m not gonna lie….some kids still aren’t finishing their jobs on time).

Maybe it’s because the time to share their own personal feelings, observations, and connections is built into the lesson. (Sometimes I do need to be a time keeper and cut them off; I have some pretty amazing story tellers.)

Maybe it’s because we are a small group – a one-to-six ratio – and small class size is so important for engagement and accountability.

Maybe it’s because no one has ever sat down and talked about a book with them in this manner….or asked their opinion.

It’s weird because in my resource room of 10 kids, I always feel this connection when we read the novels. We fall in love with the characters and my students win my heart when they make observations and connections that are so much deeper than I expected.

I haven’t had this opportunity with an inclusion class before. It is a welcome surprise and something I want to recreate.

It makes me feel like a good teacher. But more importantly, It makes them feel like good students and good readers.

 

 

http://farroutlinks.net/blog/documents/LiteratureCirclesMaterial.pdf

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3 responses

  1. […] My 7th graders are starting A Wrinkle in Time in about two weeks and I decided to use Literature Circles. This will be my second time attempting Lit Circles and this time, with a push from our district, I created two versions of each role to meet the needs of various learners in my classroom. Read this previous post about my first experience with Lit Circles.  […]

  2. I think you are right on with the accountability point. I always duffle with making groups. How did you make the groups?

    1. I don’t know for sure how they made groups in the classroom. I was with my kids in my room the whole time. Good question!!!

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