Literature Circles…have you heard of them? Essentially, a literature circle is like a classroom version of a book club. They can be incorporated into any classroom for any grade level. The circles encourage students to share their insight, questions and personal experiences relating to texts. These mini-book clubs can be facilitated for a large group (i.e. entire class), but they tend to be most effective when students are divided into several smaller groups. Students can study and discuss the same book or choose different readings for the smaller groups.
Literature circles are an effective strategy to get every student engaged and interested in reading. In coming together in a circle, students have the opportunity to listen to each other’s perspectives and thoughts about a particular reading. Students engage in critical thinking and reflection by sharing and discussing their responses to the text. They are given opportunities to experience their peers’ understandings, interpretations and responses to a text, which, in turn, extend their own comprehension. Literature circles exemplify the positive effects of collaborative learning.
In literature circles, texts can be discussed in depth. A teacher can facilitate circle discussions, however they tend to be more successful when they are student-led. Literature circles can be focused on a specific element (i.e. character, or theme) or broader ideas. As with many classroom routines, literature circles are most effective when they are implemented with structure. Many teachers schedule the circles at a regular time and place. Roles can be assigned for students to encourage active participation (for example, discussion, facilitator, passage finder, vocabulary definer etc). A talking piece can be used so that students are not talking over one another and everyone has an opportunity to share or ‘pass’. Although structure can help a literature circle run smoothly, they are supposed to be flexible and fluid – there is no ‘right way’ to have a circle. If students are engaged and sharing their insight, then it can be considered a success!