Literature Circles

Cooperative discussion groups can be an enriching and rewarding way for your students to interact with literature and each other. Variations of Literature Circles are also called book clubs, literature groups, and grand conversations. There are many effective ways to organize Literature Circles and the choices that you make depend on the instructional and developmental needs of your students. Temple et al. (2002) outline five key factors when organizing a Literature Circle: "the books that are chosen, group size, length and frequency of sessions, who leads discussions, and whether responses are free or guided" (p. 474). In some cases, the teacher may list several books and allow students to sign up for each discussion group. In other cases, books and group members are assigned by the teacher. The teacher may choose to assign a specific job to each student, as practiced in cooperative groups. The groups may address specific questions during the course of the discussion. The choices made by the teacher in organizing the groups should be appropriate to the students’ needs.

Once these discussions are recorded as podcasts, there are several options for sharing them. Separate small groups can have concurrent discussions on the same book and then exchange recordings to see how different groups addressed the same topics. Groups may read different books by the same author and then compare the recordings to find similarities or patterns. Exchanges can also be made with other classes, on the same or different books. Discussions can be recorded to reflect growth in learning. For instance, compare the concluding discussion after reading one book by a particular author or genre with the concluding discussion by the same group after reading another book by the same author or in the same genre. The discussions can illustrate a growing understanding of an author’s style or a genre’s elements. Let’s say that your class recorded a series of Literature Circle discussions about The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Later, a student reading that book independently could listen to those discussions to see how others reacted to the same material.

Making Literature Circles digital and online through podcasting means that students can review discussions later, conversations can be shared with other groups and other classes, and progress over time can be examined. Literature Circles can be appropriately organized for groups ranging from elementary through high school. In teacher preparation programs, either Literature Circles or Expository Circles can be used to encourage meaningful discussion of text.