But for me, I was trained in Literature Circles by Sparky (Harvey) Daniels. He taught me to have my students read together, out loud, and discuss as you go. He taught me to start students with specific roles until they know how to have meaningful, rich conversations about the book.
That was 15 years ago. Today, I have taken his advice and mixed it with the advice of others, my own observations, and 21st Century beliefs that I can connect with. I have synthesized what I consider best practice and have created a 21st Century format for Literature Circles, but I just can't change the name!
I would love to write a book some day on the whole year-long process, but I need to somehow simplify it to make it short enough to fit in this blog entry! So here goes...
We spent time together as a whole class reading a book together. This year it was Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. During the reading of this book, I taught (hopefully re-taught) the basic principles of comprehension, story elements, etc. so that my students would have the vocabulary to use when they read books in small groups. The way I chose to do this read aloud was by projecting the Kindle for Mac version of the book on my whiteboard, and I read aloud while the students read along. I had a random student clicking the mouse to progress through the pages.
I modeled how to ask questions, how to answer questions, how to make connections, when to re-read a section for clarity, when to re-read a section to appreciate its quality, etc. These are all expectations I have for my students when they participate in Literature Circles.
We also worked on analyzing characters together. We discussed various characters' traits, found evidence from the text, and shared our thoughts with others via blog comments (see them here).
To encourage those behaviors in Literature Circles, I begin by having my kids perform specific roles each day. This specific, intense, independent activity allows me the opportunity to spot misconceptions and inconsistencies from each of my students. For example, after every day's reading, one student is assigned the role of Super Summarizer. We do this by logging into our Google Doc for the book we are reading, and typing our summary right into the Google Doc. The next reading day, we start the Literature Circle period by reading this out loud with our group so that we remember what happened during the previous reading! I also read it and comment on it to give specific, individualized feedback to students.
Here is a sample Super Summarizer for the book "No Talking."
Here is a sample Super Summarizer for the book "The Sixth Grade Nickname Game."
Here is a sample Super Summarizer for the book "Neil Armstrong is My Uncle."
Here is a sample Super Summarizer for the book "My Rotten Life."
Here is a sample Super Summarizer for the book "Wayside School is Falling Down."
Samples of each in the next post:
Kindle for Mac
Computer for each group
Role Sheets on Survey Monkey and Google Docs