Literature circles are a reading strategy in which small groups of students come together to read and discuss a piece of literature. Literature circles encourage students to engage in critical thinking as they reflect and respond to books with classmates. They are a flexible and dynamic strategy that is guided by student interest and questioning. This strategy is collaborative and student-centred, where each student has a specific role and must complete tasks associated with their role for each week.
In my opinion, literature circles are an important part of a literacy program. The roles for each student in a literature circle can vary depending on the overall strengths and weaknesses of the class. However, a common set of roles includes: discussion director, summarizer, word wizard, illustrator, and questioner (see below for full descriptions). The students rotate the 5 roles through five weeks of literature circle meetings (see below for schedule chart). This strategy can be used in all elementary classrooms, but requires teacher guidance in helping groups of students to develop a timeline, coordinate a schedule, choose a book, and complete designated roles week-by-week. The structure of literature circles puts the onus on students to demonstrate their independence and responsibility in completing their work, and creates a sense of ownership over written and artistic responses.
Students were finishing up 5-week literature circles of fiction novels during my practicum. Literature circles were held every Wednesday morning, and students were expected to come prepared with the appropriate pages read and their role complete for that week. Students were always ready, as they knew their group members were depending on them to have completed their role! Literature circle notebooks were collected Wednesdays for assessment and returned to students on Thursdays. Students participated enthusiastically in discussions, and answered creative questions developed by the group’s questioner. During the final literature circle (week 5), students were allowed to bring in a healthy snack to share with their group. Discussions during this meeting were animated as students had finally finished their books and were eager to share their opinions with their group members! The use of literature circles was an effective and fun reading strategy, and I was impressed with the development of reading, writing and questioning skills by students during the 5 weeks. Conclusion: reading is fun!
Campbell Hill B, Schlick Noe KL, Johnson NJ. (2001). The Literature Circles Resource Guide. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc.
Peralta-Nash C, Dutch JA. (2000). “Literature Circles: Creating an Environment for Choice.” Primary Voices K-6 8.4 : 29-37