Thursday, October 11, 2012

Literature Circles

Well, it may seem like I've dropped off the face of the earth. I didn't. Promise.

To prove it to you, I'd like to post a few pictures of what we've been up to this year. First, my "stuck on you" door theme. I found a bulletin board picture on Pinterest (click here to see the pin). I decided to put it on my front door. I like it! :)

The sticky notes only stay for a few days. It's one way to be sure that you stay accountable for having the kids rotate out what they are thinking :)

But what I REALLY want to share with you is this: literature circles!

I am LOVING literature circles! I wanted to wait until closer to Christmas to start because I wasn't sure the kids would be ready. Then Kelly said she was going to start, and, not wanting to be outdone, Heather and I decided it sounded like a good idea :)

We got together and read about a BAJILLION articles, ebooks, and documents about literature circles. Can you say OVERWHELMING? Because it was. Then we decided to pick and choose and put our own spin on it.

I learned a lot about reciprocal teaching in my college reading classes, so we used that for a basis. We decided that each group needed between 2-4 group members. Kelly said that in one of the conferences she's recently attended, she learned that research shows that if there are 5 or more students in a group, inevitably one or more end up not doing anything. We wanted to keep groups small, so we had four or less students per group. Here are the four roles we chose:

The first thing I did was bring in lots of books, and I built them up in major way. I chose books I've read and that I know I could get excited about. I have students who are on a variety of reading levels, so I had some books that were for third grade level and up. The books sat there for a couple of days, calling out, tempting the children. It was great :) I then talked them up like they were made of pure gold. The kids were salivating! 

I told them that before they could pick their books, they had to learn a lot about the roles. Here's a quick overview:

Summarizer/Predictor: As the student is reading, he writes a summary. When he finishes his reading section for the day, he makes a prediction.

Questioner: Writes 2-3 questions while she reads, including the answer and the page number on which it can be found. One "right there" question and at least one "thinking" question.

Clarifier: Looks for 2-3 words while he reads that might be confusing to a reader. Keeps a dictionary with him at all times. Writes down the definition to explain to other group members.

Visualizer: Finds a phrase, sentence, or paragraph that really helps paint a picture in the reader's mind. Writes down the passage and draws a picture to share with the group.

Most days, I ask the students to do their "regular roles." Sometimes, though, I give the students a specific question or topic that I want them to write about and discuss. Students have about 15-20 minutes to read independently, and then the whole group meets for 10 minutes or so. Students make notes in their notebooks while they read (according to their roles or the topic of the day) and during their meetings (about what was discussed). 

I've seen lots of printable journal pages specific to roles, and I just want to tell you right now: that's NOT allowed at our school. Plus, it's TOTALLY unnecessary. I just bought a bunch of spiral-bound notebooks from WalMart for seventeen cents each. I gave a lot of feedback on students' journal entries very early in the process.

I teach two reading classes each day, so during Reading I's independent reading time, I read all the lit circle notebooks from Reading II (from the day prior). During Reading II's independent reading time, I read all the lit circle notebooks from Reading I (from earlier that day). I never take them home, and I never look at them after school. On busier days, I just read two or three entries at a time. It really works for me.

Here are some pictures of notebook entries after 2 weeks of lit circles:


Writing to discuss elements of fiction and inferencing based on direct quotes
Inferencing using direct quotes and comparing/contrasting two characters
Summarizing, then two different group members' responses to inferencing based on direct quotes

You can see that students write down the date in the margin, include goals for reading in their notes, and write down how far each of their group members have read. Every now and then, students are who are a little further ahead take a day off from independent reading to blog or make more detailed notes while the other students catch up. This is working really well for us so far!

I think that the students are doing a good job, especially considering this is only our second week of literature circles! I know that as we move forward, I can get the kiddos to write and think even more. This is a pretty good starting point. (I'm not counting for spelling; this is a thinking notebook.)

Do you do literature circles in your class? How do you run them? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

P.S. The titles I chose are Mockingbird, Scat, Dying to Meet You, Sing Down the Moon, Sheep, and Storm Runners.