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Lit Circles 101

Page history last edited by martha_martin@gecdsb.on.ca 8 years, 12 months ago


Lit Circle Basics - Voice and Choice

  • students have some choice in what they read
  • students get to work in small groups with others reading the same book
  • students get to talk to peers about what they are reading
  • students take initiative in their own learning, rather than it being teacher-directed


(see the bottom of this page for more background info!) 


Roles and Tasks


There are two traditional models for structuring Literature Circles. One involves students taking on various roles as they worked through the text; the other involved students accomplishing certain tasks. We believe whatever works best for your students is the way to go, and have used both. Personally, I like the roles structure for younger students who need to have things simplified. I prefer the tasks structure for more experienced students who have learned the concepts through the roles earlier. It's totally up to you, however. There are pros and cons to both methods.


How Do We Use Graphic Novels in Lit Circles?


In our use of graphic novels as the chosen texts for literature circles, we have used both Roles and Tasks. We have also done a "combo" where they are expected to rotate through the roles, but also must do a reflection "task" at the end of each cycle.


Because of their size and limited text, we usually divide the graphic novels in half, as a cycle, and then allow the students to select a second graphic novel for another two cycles. This provides them with the opportunity to compare the two books in style of text and illustration. It also gives each student four chances to improve their reflections. If they are doing roles, however, it only gives each student one chance at each of the roles, so that is a consideration. (The way around it is to do another lit circle later in the year, with traditional texts and give them another shot at the roles.)


Oral reading in lit circle groups is something we really like, especially with first-timers. It is particularly challenging with graphics, as students are inclined to race through what speech bubbles and text boxes there are, especially if they are nervous about reading aloud. Although the older kids, especially, don't like reading aloud, we feel it is really a great part of lit circles. It allows for the students to help each other process the text, without fear of whole class embarrassment. We have seen huge improvements in fluency in oral reading when this is a part of lit circles. The teacher can jump into the group and quickly turn it into Guided Reading if necessary. With graphics the focus needs to be on reading slowly enough to "read" the pictures as well as the words, reading with expression in character (i.e. changing the voice to match the various characters), and allowing for inferencing time (as the text and pictures are processed together.)


Our structure is essentially this:

  • each cycle is approximately a week long
  • each cycle begins with reading the section together, preferably aloud, possibly discussing whatever is hard to understand
  • next, each student has independent time to work on finishing the necessary reading, and to complete whatever roles or tasks are required
  • last, the group meets again to discuss  their independent work, perhaps "sharing the sheets" (showing each other the role work they completed) or working through questions created by one or more group members for this day
  • if the group is working on a wiki, their independent work will be posted there, and discussion will likely continue on the wiki, where group members will read and answer questions asked by their members in their reflections or comments 


How Do We Use Wikis in Lit Circles?


We find students really love the option of using the computer to complete their lit circle work, rather than notebooks. We have actually been experimenting with this idea for a number of years. We were one of the first groups to use Ontario Blogs from the Education Network of Ontario (anyone remember that?)  We are currently doing a Collaborative Inquiry Project in our board to see if it really DOES impact student learning and engagement, and to what degree.


We generally use wikis when we are focussing on the task-structured Lit Circles, rather than the roles. We like to see students use them as dialogue tools for the book, and we find it easy for us, as teachers, to log on and join the dialogue. Now that many of our activities and tasks involve the Internet, wikis are a great way to showcase the products of these online explorations. Our wiki becomes our gallery, our notebook, or "Bump It Up Wall," and our workroom. A real "Learning Commons," especially when authors join in to respond to the students' questions, the principal chimes in to cheer them on, and parents ask to join the party!


What We Do With Our Wikis:

  •  the students create a book page, as a group, that includes the due dates for each cycle, and links to their own work pages.
  •  the students each create a personal work page, linked to the group page, on which they post their "Reflection."
  • the students use their personal page to post a "Discussion Question" to the other members of their group, at the end of each Reflection. They use Bloom's Taxonomy (JI students) to craft their questions.
  • Each student must read the Reflection and Discussion Question of each of his group members.
  • Each student must post a Reply to the various Discussion Questions, using the comment box at the bottom of the students' personal work pages.
  • The students also use their personal pages to showcase their creations made with the Web 2.0 apps (e.g. Wordle, Bitstrips, etc.)
  • The teacher (and invited guests, like authors or parents) respond to each student's Reflection in the body of the student's personal page, generally highlighting the teacher's text. 


Activities and Culminating Tasks

Depending on our students' tastes and abilities, we either have students do one neat "task" each section, or one large "culiminating task" at the end of the unit -- and occasionally both!


Activities can be based on Web 2.0 Applications (see What About Web Apps page), or can be more "old school," having students practise what you've determined they still need to refine. For example, if your students never understood last term's biography unit, you might want them to research the biography of the author. You need to make your lit circle requirements fit what YOU need your kids to do!


Here are some activities we like to use (see What about Web Apps page too!):

  • Create a BitStrip summary of this cycle's section
  • Choose a song, explaining where it fits into your section, and why) 
  • Create a Fakebook for a character
  • Create a Wordle
  • Create an Animoto on a section, theme or character in your novel
  • Create a free verse poem about the cycle
  • Create a voki of your character and have it speak in role as the character
  • Write a letter recommending the book to be purchased in all school libraries, explaining why
  • Write a diary of a specific number of entries for a character during this cycle (it should offer insight to the character's state of mind and personal view of events)
  • Plan a "gift" for the character and explain how the character could have used it during this cycle (i.e. include things would have helped with the problems the character experienced in that section of the book)
  • Research a biography of the author's life (including information about the author's other books, writing style, personal background and education)
  • Make a poster advertising a make-believe movie based on the book  
  • Create a collage that reveals the personality of one of the main characters, using magazine images
  • Tweet as a person in the novel, summarizing how "you" are feeling in this section in 140 characters or less! 
  • Create a commercial script, or the actual commercial, for the novel (you can use Audacity for an audio version, or videotape yourself for the 3D version!)
  • Make a podcast where you, as a character in the book, are interviewed (you can get a friend to be your interviewer, or take both roles yourself)


Culminating Tasks


If you prefer to give your students a task to summarize their learning at the end of the complete novel, you might want to consider some of these options:

  • Novel Museum - in tanglible form like this, or using this online program
  • Mind Map or Concept Map (learn more here)
  • Design, write and then perform a movie trailer about your novel 
  • Create a webpage for your novel 
  • Create a fanpage on Facebook for your novel
  • Perform a scene from your novel with your group members (including handing in the written script)
  • Videotape a performance of a scene from your novel, either in animation or with human actors
  • Create a Glogster for your book (if you have an account) 


Want to see samples of Wiki Reflections?




A great sample of a wiki reflection from a grade 6 student at Oakwood PS, on the book Hunger Games. 



Want to see Lit Circles in action? Here are some shots of students "Going Graphic" in their lit circling!


Southwood Public School grades 4 and 5


Northwood Public School grade 8



More Background on Lit Circles:


What are Lit Circles?


Powerpoint explaining Lit Circles (from a previous workshop)


Links for Lit Circles (resources, more reading, etc.) 


Harvey "Smoky" Daniels' book that made Lit Circles a Common Term


There are other resources on the 'Web, like this one from YouTube:



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