Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Original: Traditional Literature Circles

“Recognizing that reading and writing are social acts challenges us to reevaluate the social contexts of our classrooms.
Too often competition and individualism in schools precludes students’ interactions.
Literature circles, however, encourage cooperation and respect for diverse interpretations. Students learn classmates’ strengths and children become
valuable resources for each other.”

Sarah Owens. “Treasures in the Attic: Building the Foundation for Literature Circles.”


Literature Circles…
  • are Book Clubs
  • focus on literature (text), responses (roles), and discussion (presentation, reflection)
  • “are structured reading activities that allow high-ordered thinking, reflection, and discussion” [San Diego County Office of Education, Language Arts 2000 Cadre]
  • Four basic roles that provide cognitive pathways to a text: discussion director, literary luminary, connector, illustrator
  • Allow “natural,” in-depth dialogue about books

Essential Characteristics/Attributes

[based on Harvey Daniels]
  • Small, temporary groups formed by choice of book or story.
  • Part of a balanced literacy program.
  • Structured for student independence, responsibility, and ownership
  • Flexible & fluid
  • Reader-Response Centered
  • Guided primarily by student insights and questions
  • Intended as a context in which to apply reading and writing skills
  • Groups meet on a regular, predictable schedule to discuss their reading
  • In newly-forming groups, students may play a rotating assortment of task roles
  • The teacher serves as a facilitator, not a group member or instructor
  • Evaluation is by teacher observation and student self-evaluation

  • Basic Lit. Circle Model for Fiction (Harvey Daniels)
  • Modified Lit. Circles (Shlick, Noe, Johnson)
  • Structured Lit. Circles (Packets, Generic)
  • Nonfiction Lit. Circles
  • Book Clubs (Oprah Winfrey)
Literature Circles are NOT…
  • About sheets/handouts
  • Teacher & Text Centered
  • The entire reading curriculum
  • Teacher-assigned groups formed solely by ability
  • Unstructured, uncontrolled “talk time” without accountability
  • Guided primarily by teacher- or curriculum-based questions
  • Intended as a place to do skill work

Literature Circles work because…
  • Students choose and talk about books based on their needs and interests
  • Conversations about books “deepens our understanding about them” [SDCOE]
  • It meets the needs of a diverse student population
  • Interests, comprehension, and interpretation are deepened and are meaningful via elements of depth and complexity
In other words, Literature Circle Frames provide a practical yet rigorous structure for students to actively engage in literature. Frames provide a mental map for utilizing the elements of depth or complexity, content imperatives, and thinking skills.

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