Literature Circles: Everything You Need to Know

These are sets of students that regularly gather to dissect a book they have read. Different individuals in the group usually have their assignments with respect to the discussion. For instance, a person could be the director of the discussion and another the summarizer for that particular meeting.

Literature circles talk about the author’s craft, characters and events in the book, or personal experiences connected to the story. Collaboration is at the heart of literature circles that offer students a way to undertake critical thinking and reflection as they read, respond to, and discuss books. Through structured discussion with other participants of literature circles, along with extended written and artistic responses, students can construct meaning of what they have read and even reshape and add to their comprehension. This way, literature circles direct students to a deeper understanding of the books.        

Literature circles vary – from classroom to classroom, grade to grade, teacher to teacher, and student to student. Since they are reader response-centered and have no fixed recipe, they aren’t a particular “program” and never look identical from one year to the next or even from one day to the following day. The reason is that true engagement with literature can’t probably be prescribed within a community of learners. Instead, it can just be described.

In literature circles, the role of teachers is more of an observer, facilitator, or encourager. However, any scaffolds they employ would just be temporary supports to facilitate extended and rich conversations around books or some selected sections of them.

Adaptability and simplicity are the keys to literature circles’ success. Many may think the most logical subjects that can benefit from literature circles are the ones heavy in reading, such as history, language arts, and English. However, other subjects too can use them. For example, science teachers can use literature circles to help students understand and discuss complex scientific terms.

In literature circles, teachers should ideally give students one thing to think about and focus on the conversation, beginning with a five- or ten-minute discussion. However, they should avoid giving students too much to do, such as complicated projects or a long list of questions. Else, the students’ energy will be focused on the tasks instead of delving deeper into the books. Students may be encouraged to use Post-it notes to identify pages or passages or even write down a phrase or quote they have come across while reading that they want to discuss.

Choose your Reaction!