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Lesson Plan

Give Them a Hand: Promoting Positive Interaction in Literature Circles

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Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 30-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lane Clarke

Cincinnati, Ohio


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



Students observe the characteristics of effective small-group discussions through video examples or a "fishbowl" technique. In subsequent discussions, they are encouraged to interact with one another in a productive and respectful manner, with a focus on the value of exchanging meaningful compliments. Through targeted self-reflection, students set goals for improving their participation in productive discussions and take responsibility for monitoring their progress. Although this lesson is recommended for middle school students, it could also be used effectively with both younger and older students.

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Clarke, L.W., & Holwadel, J. (2007). "Help! What is wrong with these literature circles and how can I fix them?" The Reading Teacher, 61(1), 2029.

  • Teachers cannot just trust that successful peer-led student discussion will emerge naturally on its own. Students need to be taught skills for engaging in productive discussions.

  • Minilessons for literature circles can promote positive classroom discussion.


Daniels, H., & Steineke, N. (2004). Mini-lessons for literature circles. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

  • Teachers can use minilessons to confront a variety of difficulties and implement more effective literature circle discussions.

  • A "friendliness and support" T-chart can help students define what a good discussion sounds like and looks like.

  • Reflection on the quality of group discussion can be used to celebrate positive contributions, designate goals for improvement, and plan for meeting these goals.

  • There is a good discussion of the qualities of a successful literature circle in this book on pages 4854. Other valuable resources in the book include the chapter "Eye in the Sky Videotaping"(pages 234238), which describes how to use videotaping effectively, and the video self-reflection sheet (appendix).

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