As a result of a conversation on Twitter, part of a recent #mbedchat, I’ve made the resolution to blog more frequently. In this post, my first in nearly a year, I will write a bit about the Literature Circles reading/discussion group that we will be getting further into in the coming weeks. Lit Circles are far from groundbreaking but, at the same time, they can be a great way to get students thinking about and discussing what they are reading. They can be great. They can also be very formulaic and ineffective. Here’s hoping ours is not. With the help of a few of my colleagues at my school, I’ve attempted to avoid being formulaic by tweaking some of the Lit Circle jobs. The students seem to be excited. Step 1, success.
As a class, we have discussed what is expected of the students in their Lit Circles. We have introduced the five “jobs” or roles that will drive our Literature Circles, as well as the connections students will be writing about what they are reading. We have used picture books to do the jobs as a class. We have modelled the connections and have had the students write their own. As a class, we read a novel and the students got a chance to write each of the different connections and do each of the roles on their own. With a bit of review over the next week or so, the students should be ready to go off into their five person Lit Circle groups to try it all out more independently.
At our once-per-cycle Lit Circle group meetings, each student will be given one of the roles. The jobs we will be using are: Illustrator, Reporter, Word Sleuth, Blogger, and Question Creator. I am most excited about the last two roles. Blogger, which was most definitely not my idea, is one that has a lot of potential. For this job, students take on a key character’s point of view and write a blog post. Not only does this require the students to write from within the mindset of one of the book’s characters, it also exposes them to blogging. Since we are going to be starting some class and individual blogging later this term, this role becomes doubly useful. In our whole class reading of Bunnicula, by James Howe, the students got quite into the Blogger job. It will be very interesting to see how it will play out when the students work on this more independently.
The other role I am excited about is Question Creator. Question Creator asks students to come up with questions that will help drive the discussion within the group meetings. This is very similar to the traditional Discussion Director role. At the same time, though, we’ve made the explicit decision not to expect the Question Creator to be the one and only leader of the group discussion. This may be asking for trouble but, with our class, I think that natural leaders will be able to help lead and it will, hopefully, become more of a group effort – rather than having one person lead the discussion.
In order for QC to work, the students needed a lot of pre-teaching surrounding question-formation. This will be an ongoing teaching area for us, but one in which I feel we have a solid start. One of the early steps taken to teach this questioning explicitly was the use of one of our bulletin boards as a Wonder Wall, a place for students to be post questions or to write out “I wonder…” statements. We also discussed the importance of different levels of questioning, from what we called “Starter Questions” to “Solid Questions” to “Thinker Questions”.
Our Wonder Wall, prior to the posting of questions.
As we get ready to head back to school after the break, the possibilities of where we might go with this are exciting. While it can be hard to gear up after two weeks away, it is an activity like this, one with potential and possibility, that make it all the better.