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Lesson Plan

Give Them a Hand: Promoting Positive Interaction in Literature Circles

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

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

Lane Clarke

Cincinnati, Ohio


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1: Qualities of a Good Literature Circle Discussion

Session 2: What Makes an Effective Compliment?

Session 3: Practicing Compliments

Session 4: Self-Reflection

Session 5: Setting Meaningful Goals


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Recognize the qualities of an effective book discussion group

  • Learn that an effective compliment is positive and specific

  • Recognize the difference between "warm" and "cool" compliments

  • Practice giving effective compliments to other group members

  • Recognize the value of self-reflection for goal setting

  • Evaluate their participation in group discussions based on the quality, as well as the quantity, of their contributions

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Session 1: Qualities of a Good Literature Circle Discussion

1. Distribute copies of the Indicators of a Good Book Discussion Group. Make sure students understand the headings on the chart. Go over each of the categories and the examples, and clearly define the terms verbal behavior, nonverbal behavior, and skill.

2. Present your chosen model of a successful literature circle (see Preparation, Step 4). If you are using a video, show a short segment and then stop. Model how to fill in the Indicators of a Good Book Discussion Group chart, talking through your thinking process to explain why you put your example in a given category.

3. Continue with the video and have students use their copies of the sheet to take notes and to comment on behaviors that they observe.

4. Have students meet with partners to discuss their observations.

5. After students have shared with their partners, conduct a class discussion to create a list on chart paper of the Characteristics of a Good Literature Circle Discussion. Display the list in the classroom as a reference for later sessions.

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Session 2: What Makes an Effective Compliment?

1. Review the chart of Characteristics of a Good Literature Circle Discussion created during the previous session. Using an example from the discussion in Session 1, show a hand cutout to visually emphasize a positive and specific compliment. Tell students that the expression to give someone a hand can mean to give a compliment.

2. Model how to construct an effective compliment. Explain that in order for a compliment to have an impact it needs to be both positive and specific. Use the sentence starter, "I give _______ a hand because _______." Refer to behaviors and skills listed on the chart of Characteristics of a Good Literature Circle Discussion.

3. Distribute a hand cutout to each student (see Preparation, Step 3).

4. Show one of the sample discussion videos (see Preparation, Step 4). Note: This should not be a video of classmates as it is easier to practice giving compliments to unknown parties.

5. Instruct students to choose a participant in the video discussion group to whom they can give a compliment, and write on their hand cutouts, "I give _______ a hand because _______." Each student should write at least one compliment in this format to a participant in the video group.

6. Explain the features of a warm compliment versus a cool compliment. A warm compliment designates a specific behavior and refers to the positive skill demonstrated by that behavior. An example would be "I give Quinn a hand because he did a nice job nodding his head (specific behavior) and actively listening (positive skill) to other group members." A cool compliment does not indicate either a specific behavior or a positive group skill. An example could be something like, "I give Lilly a hand because she did a good job."

7. Distribute copies of the Warm/Cool Compliment T-Chart and explain that students will be using the chart to evaluate compliments, with warm on one side and cool on the other. Provide a model of each type of compliment to get students started.

8. Have students work in small groups using the T-chart to categorize the compliments they wrote while watching the video. Each student should read his or her compliment aloud, and the group will decide whether it is a warm or cool compliment. The group should also suggest ways to improve upon the compliment. When all compliments have been sorted and discussed, each group should present their T-chart and suggestions to the class.

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Session 3: Practicing Compliments

It is important to monitor students during this activity to be sure everyone is included. You may wish to assign each student another group member before the group meets to avoid having everyone pick the same person to compliment or having someone left out entirely. Also, be on the lookout for students who give backhanded compliments (e.g., "I give Jazzire a hand because she was behind in the story and never prepared, but today she was prepared") or who turn the activity into a chance to pick on another student. Be very specific about how this strategy contributes to the idea of building a positive learning community.

1. Explain that students will be meeting in their literature circles to discuss the text they have been reading and that they will also be practicing the skill of giving effective compliments. Display the list of Characteristics of a Good Literature Circle Discussion that the class created in Session 1 and suggest that students refer to it to guide their practice.

2. Distribute a blank hand cutout to each student. Remind students that their compliments should be both positive and specific.

3. Explain that following their literature circle discussion, each student will write one compliment to another group member based on the models presented in Session 2.

4. After students write their compliments, give them an opportunity to celebrate and share the compliments. Remind them to use these compliments to guide their future group discussions.

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Session 4: Self-Reflection

Prior to Session 4, make a video (or audio) recording of at least one meeting of each of the class literature circles.

1. Show students a sample video recording of one of their literature circles. Using the Reflection Worksheet as a guide, demonstrate for students how to write an effective reflection. Explain to students that in order for a goal to be measurable, it has to be observable. For example, "I will think more" would not be measurable-how can we see "thinking"? But a goal such as "I will add one more comment" is measurable.

2. Discuss with students the difference between quantity and quality in group discussions. Just talking a lot does not signify that someone is an effective group member. Students should also reflect on the quality of their contributions. Are the comments relevant to the text being discussed? Do they make text-to-world or text-to-text connections? Are they responsive to the comments of other group members?

3. Have students watch the videos of their own discussion groups. Explain that as they are watching, they should complete the Reflection Worksheet and establish at least one goal for a future group discussion.

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Session 5: Setting Meaningful Goals

Prior to Session 5, meet with students individually to help them engage in higher-level reflection. Review their individual Reflection Worksheets using the following criteria checklist:

  • The student has identified one specific area in which he or she did well.

  • The student has identified one specific area that he or she needs to work on.

  • The student has created at least one measurable goal based on this reflection for the next meeting.

  • The student is focusing on the quality of his or her interactions, not the quantity.
1. Have students meet in their literature circles for discussion and refer to their Reflection Worksheets to track the desired behaviors.

2. After the literature circle discussions, have students reflect on whether they met their stated goals.

3. Following their reflection, have students formulate new goals. Stress to students that self-reflection and goal setting is a never-ending process, and that engaging in this process will help them become better learners, better group members, and more articulate members of the community.

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Formative Assessment

  • Collect the Indicators of a Good Book Discussion Group to see if students have identified appropriate characteristics.

  • Collect a written compliment from each student during Session 2 to determine that they can produce a compliment that is both positive and specific.

  • Collect the Warm/Cool Compliment T-Chart to assess whether students understand the difference between warm and cool compliments.

  • As students practice giving positive and specific comments to other group members during Session 3, collect a sample compliment from each student.

Summative Assessment

  • After Session 3, have students write a reflection in response to the following prompt: What makes an effective compliment and why is this important to a group discussion?

  • Observe the discussion groups during Session 3 and subsequent discussions, and keep anecdotal records of how students compliment one other.

  • Collect the Reflection Worksheets and use them to evaluate each studentís growth as a positive group member.

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