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HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Literature Circles: Getting Started

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Literature Circles: Getting Started

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time Introduction: Ten 50-minute sessions; thereafter: 50 minutes per session
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Session Five

Session Six

Session Seven

Session Eight

Session Nine

Session Ten

Following Sessions

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • discuss, define, and explore unfamiliar words.

  • predict text events using previous knowledge and details in the text.

  • use evidence in text to verify predictions.

  • ask relevant and focused questions to clarify understanding.

  • respond to questions and discussion with relevant and focused comments.

  • paraphrase and summarize information from the text.

  • identify and analyze literary elements in text.

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Session One

  1. Introduce literature circles by explaining they are "groups of people reading the same book and meeting together to discuss what they have read" (Peralta-Nash and Dutch 30).

  2. Emphasize the student-centered collaborative nature of the reading strategy by discussing how the strategy places students "in charge of leading their own discussions as well as making decisions for themselves" (Peralta-Nash and Dutch 30). Share some of the ways that students will work independently (e.g., choosing the text the group will read, deciding on the questions that the group will discuss about the text).

  3. Introduce the Literature Circle Roles to the class, and answer any questions that students have about these roles:
    Discussion Director

    • creates questions to increase comprehension

    • asks who, what, why, when, where, how, and what if

    Vocabulary Enricher

    • clarifies word meanings and pronunciations

    • uses research resources

    Literary Luminary

    • guides oral reading for a purpose

    • examines figurative language, parts of speech, and vivid descriptions

    Checker

    • checks for completion of assignments

    • evaluates participation

    • helps monitor discussion for equal participation
  4. Preview the way that literature circles work for students, sharing the Literature Circle Process on the overhead projector or chart paper. Alternately, pass out copies for students to refer to.

  5. Explain that the class will practice each of the roles before students try the tasks on their own.

  6. Choose a short book with at least eight chapters to read as a whole class, beginning during the next class session.

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Session Two

  1. Review basic information about literature circles.

  2. Explain that during this session, you will act as the Discussion Director to demonstrate how to do the task.

  3. Review the requirements of the Discussion Director:

    • creates questions to increase comprehension

    • asks who, what, why, when, where, how, and what if
  4. Pass out copies of the Discussion Director role sheet and preview the information it contains.

  5. Read Chapter 1 of the text chosen during the previous session together.

  6. Demonstrating the Discussion Director Role, pause during the reading, as appropriate, to add details to the Discussion Director role sheet; or complete the Discussion Director role sheet after the reading is complete.

  7. Re-read the questions on the Discussion Director role sheet and make any revisions.

  8. Demonstrate how the Discussion Director would use the Discussion Director role sheet to lead discussion.

  9. Allow time to discuss the first chapter freely in order to show how discussion of questions and ideas that are not on the sheet is also appropriate.

  10. After discussion is complete, ask students to make observations about how the Discussion Director role works. Answer any questions that they have about the role.

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Session Three

  1. Review the requirements of the Discussion Director:

    • creates questions to increase comprehension

    • asks who, what, why, when, where, how, and what if
  2. Have students get out copies of the Discussion Director role sheet and review the information it contains.

  3. Explain that during this session, everyone will have a chance to practice being a Discussion Director.

  4. Ask students to recall how you recorded information on the Discussion Director role sheet during the previous session in order to establish the expectations for this session.

  5. Read Chapter 2 of the text together.

  6. Working in the Discussion Director Role, have students pause during the reading to add details to their copies of the Discussion Director role sheet; or complete the Discussion Director role sheet after the reading is complete.

  7. After the chapter has been read, have students re-read the questions on the Discussion Director role sheet and make any revisions.

  8. Arrange the class in small groups of 4-6 students each. These groups are simply for practice, so they can be formed informally if desired.

  9. Explain that each group member will serve as the Discussion Director for about 5 minutes.

  10. To make sure the process runs smoothly, have group members arrange turn-taking by deciding who will go first, second, third, and so forth.

  11. Have the first Discussion Director begin discussion. Watch the time so that you can cue students to change roles. Provide support and feedback as appropriate.

  12. After 5 minutes have passed, ask the second person take over as Discussion Director.

  13. Repeat this process until everyone in the class has had a chance to practice the Discussion Director role.

  14. After discussion is complete, ask students to make any additional observations about how the Discussion Director role works. Answer any questions that they have about the role.

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Session Four

  1. Explain that during this session, you will act as the Vocabulary Enricher to demonstrate how to do the task.

  2. Review the requirements of the Vocabulary Enricher:

    • clarifies word meanings and pronunciations

    • uses research resources
  3. Point out the classroom dictionaries and other resources students can use as they serve in this role.

  4. Pass out copies of the Vocabulary Enricher role sheet and preview the information it contains.

  5. Read Chapter 3 of the text together.

  6. Demonstrating the Vocabulary Enricher Role, pause during the reading, as appropriate, to add details to the Vocabulary Enricher role sheet; or complete the Vocabulary Enricher role sheet after the reading is complete.

  7. Re-read the questions on the Vocabulary Enricher role sheet and make any revisions.

  8. Demonstrate how the Vocabulary Enricher would use the Vocabulary Enricher role sheet to participate in the discussion.

  9. Allow time to discuss the chapter freely in order to show how discussion of questions and ideas that are not on the sheet is also appropriate.

  10. After discussion is complete, ask students to make observations about how the Vocabulary Enricher role works. Answer any questions that they have about the role.

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Session Five

  1. Review the requirements of the Vocabulary Enricher:

    • clarifies word meanings and pronunciations

    • uses research resources
  2. Have students get out copies of the Vocabulary Enricher role sheet and review the information it contains.

  3. Remind students of the classroom dictionaries and other resources they can use as they serve in this role.

  4. Explain that during this session, everyone will have a chance to practice being a Vocabulary Enricher.

  5. Ask students to recall how you recorded information on the Vocabulary Enricher role sheet during the previous session in order to establish the expectations for this session.

  6. Read Chapter 4 of the text together.

  7. Working in the Vocabulary Enricher Role, have students pause during the reading to add details to their copies of the Vocabulary Enricher role sheet; or complete the Vocabulary Enricher role sheet after the reading is complete.

  8. After the chapter has been read, have students re-read the questions on the Vocabulary Enricher role sheet and make any revisions.

  9. Arrange the class in small groups of 4-6 students each. These groups are simply for practice, so they can be formed informally if desired.

  10. Explain that each group member will serve as the Vocabulary Enricher for about 5 minutes.

  11. To make sure the process runs smoothly, have group members arrange turn-taking by deciding who will go first, second, third, and so forth.

  12. Have the first Vocabulary Enricher begin discussion. Watch the time so that you can cue students to change roles. Provide support and feedback as appropriate.

  13. After 5 minutes have passed, ask the second person take over as Vocabulary Enricher.

  14. Repeat this process until everyone in the class has had a chance to practice the Vocabulary Enricher role.

  15. After discussion is complete, ask students to make any additional observations about how the Vocabulary Enricher role works. Answer any questions that they have about the role.

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Session Six

  1. Explain that during this session, you will act as the Literary Luminary to demonstrate how to do the task.

  2. Review the requirements of the Literary Luminary:

    • guides oral reading for a purpose

    • examines figurative language, parts of speech, and vivid descriptions
  3. Pass out copies of the Literary Luminary role sheet and preview the information it contains.

  4. Read Chapter 5 of the text together.

  5. Demonstrating the Literary Luminary Role, pause during the reading, as appropriate, to add details to the Literary Luminary role sheet; or complete the Literary Luminary role sheet after the reading is complete.

  6. Re-read the questions on the Literary Luminary role sheet and make any revisions.

  7. Demonstrate how the Literary Luminary would use the Literary Luminary role sheet to participate in the discussion.

  8. Allow time to discuss the chapter freely in order to show how discussion of questions and ideas that are not on the sheet is also appropriate.

  9. After discussion is complete, ask students to make observations about how the Literary Luminary role works. Answer any questions that they have about the role.

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Session Seven

  1. Review the requirements of the Literary Luminary:

    • guides oral reading for a purpose

    • examines figurative language, parts of speech, and vivid descriptions
  2. Have students get out copies of the Literary Luminary role sheet and review the information it contains.

  3. Remind students of the classroom dictionaries and other resources they can use as they serve in this role.

  4. Explain that during this session, everyone will have a chance to practice being a Literary Luminary.

  5. Ask students to recall how you recorded information on the Literary Luminary role sheet during the previous session in order to establish the expectations for this session.

  6. Read Chapter 6 of the text together.

  7. Working in the Literary Luminary Role, have students pause during the reading to add details to their copies of the Literary Luminary role sheet; or complete the Literary Luminary role sheet after the reading is complete.

  8. After the chapter has been read, have students re-read the questions on the Literary Luminary role sheet and make any revisions.

  9. Arrange the class in small groups of 4-6 students each. These groups are simply for practice, so they can be formed informally if desired.

  10. Explain that each group member will serve as the Literary Luminary for about 5 minutes.

  11. To make sure the process runs smoothly, have group members arrange turn-taking by deciding who will go first, second, third, and so forth.

  12. Have the first Literary Luminary begin discussion. Watch the time so that you can cue students to change roles. Provide support and feedback as appropriate.

  13. After 5 minutes have passed, ask the second person take over as Literary Luminary.

  14. Repeat this process until everyone in the class has had a chance to practice the Literary Luminary role.

  15. After discussion is complete, ask students to make any additional observations about how the Literary Luminary role works. Answer any questions that they have about the role.

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Session Eight

  1. Explain that during this session, you will act as the Checker to demonstrate how to do the task.

  2. Review the requirements of the Checker:

    • checks for completion of assignments

    • evaluates participation

    • helps monitor discussion for equal participation
  3. Pass out copies of the Checker role sheet and preview the information it contains.

  4. Pass out copies of the other three role sheets: Discussion Director, Vocabulary Enricher, and Literary Luminary. Every student should have one sheet, but they will not all have the same sheet.

  5. Explain that for you to have information to record on the Checker role sheet, you need students in the class to take on the other roles.

  6. Read Chapter 7 of the text together.

  7. Pause during the reading, as appropriate, to allow students to add details to the different role sheets that they have; or have students complete the different role sheets after the reading is complete.

  8. When the chapter is finished, have students re-read the questions on their role sheets and make any revisions.

  9. Ask student volunteers to lead the class in discussion, serving in the role that they have prepared for.

  10. As students complete their role, demonstrate how the Checker would use the Checker role sheet to participate in the discussion. To include students more in the assessment, you might ask class members to talk about the work that each student volunteer does.

  11. Take advantage of the opportunity to talk about positive, constructive feedback and to warn against mean or bullying comments.

  12. Allow time to discuss the chapter freely in order to show how discussion of questions and ideas that are not on the sheet is also appropriate.

  13. After discussion is complete, ask students to make observations about how the Checker role works. Answer any questions that they have about the role.

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Session Nine

  1. Choose 6 or more students to participate as example literature circle groups. Select students who understand each of the roles that they are to complete well, and who will be able to understand the Checker role without as much practice as the rest of the class will have. You can ask for volunteers to serve these roles, but be sure that you choose volunteers who are confident about their ability to serve in the roles.

  2. Arrange the student volunteers in two small groups of model literature circles. Groups will switch after 5 minutes so that everyone in the classroom can practice the Checker role.

  3. Give the student volunteers copies of the the relevant role sheets: Discussion Director, Vocabulary Enricher, and Literary Luminary.

  4. Review the requirements of the Checker:

    • checks for completion of assignments

    • evaluates participation

    • helps monitor discussion for equal participation
  5. Have students get out copies of the Checker role sheet and review the information it contains.

  6. Explain that during this session, everyone will have a chance to practice being a Checker.

  7. Ask students to recall how you recorded information on the Checker role sheet during the previous session in order to establish the expectations for this session.

  8. Read Chapter 8 of the text together.

  9. Pause during the reading, as appropriate, to allow student volunteers to add details to the different role sheets that they have; or have students complete the different role sheets after the reading is complete.

  10. When the chapter is finished, have student volunteers re-read the questions on their role sheets and make any revisions.

  11. Ask student volunteers to complete a literature circle discussion of the chapter for other students to observe, serving in the role that they have prepared for. If desired, you might allow students to be creative and perform at levels other than their best work. For instance, one student volunteer might participate as an uncooperative group member or as a member who has not read the text.

  12. As students complete their role, have class members use the Checker role sheet to record details on the discussion. To include students more in the assessment, you might ask class members to talk about the work that each student volunteer does.

  13. After 5 minutes have passed, have the example discussion group switch so that the second group takes over.

  14. Repeat the discussion process with the remaining students in the class taking on the Checker role.

  15. Once the second round of checking is complete, have students share observations and discuss the feedback they have recorded on the Checker role sheet.

  16. Again, reinforce positive, constructive feedback and comments.

  17. After discussion is complete, ask students to make any additional observations about how the Checker role works. Answer any questions that they have about the role.

  18. If there are remaining issues on the chapter that students want to discuss, be sure to allow time for this exploration as well.

  19. Explain that during following class sessions, students will work in literature circles independently.

  20. If the text students have read is complete, explain that students will begin a new book during the next session. If chapters remain, explain that groups will continue reading the text during the next session.

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Session Ten

  1. If students are beginning new books, share basic details about the available texts and have students choose the books that they want to read.

  2. Arrange students in literature circle groups, based on book choice if students are beginning new texts, or based on similar interests or mixed abilities if the class is continuing with the text used for demonstration.

  3. Give each group copies of the Literature Circle Roles sheets, and ask students to choose the roles that they will complete for this session.

  4. Answer any questions, and then have students begin the reading and discussion process.

  5. As students work, circulate among the groups taking anecdotal data about their work and providing any support or feedback on the Literature Circle Roles. Remember that this is a student-centered discussion process, so take the role of a facilitator during these sessions, rather than that of a group member or instructor.

  6. At the end of the session, have groups rotate the literature circle roles.

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Following Sessions

  1. Have students continue the process of reading the texts and rotating the literature circle roles until the books are complete.

  2. Provide some structural scheduling so that students know how much reading and work they should accomplish during each literature circle meeting.

  3. When books are finished, set aside a day for groups to share information about their reading, and then form new groups around new reading choices.

  4. Before students move on to a new book, have them complete the Self-Reflection Worksheet or use the Online Self-Reflection Checklist. When students begin the next book, ask them to use this self-reflection to think about how they participate with their new literature circle groups.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Once students understand the basics of literature circles, try the ReadWriteThink lesson Literature Circle Roles Reframed: Reading as a Film Crew, which substitutes film production roles for the traditional literature circle roles.

  • Ask Vocabulary Enrichers to choose 2-3 words from the reading and create pages for the words using the Alphabet Organizer. Groups can compile all pages created using the tool to compose a focused dictionary for the text. The dictionary might be shelved in the classroom library with the specific book students have read, so that others in the classroom can use the resource.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • As students work, take notes on their participation and engagement. Remember that discussion topics should grow naturally from students’ interests and connections to the text. Their group meetings should be open, natural conversations about books. Personal connections, digressions, and open-ended questions are welcome.

  • Provide feedback to individual students in conferences and interviews. Base feedback on the feedback indicated on the Checker Role Sheets completed during the literature circle sessions as well as on your own observations. Suggest ways that students can improve their participation in the groups, pointing to the different role sheets that they have completed and relying on your anecdotal notes. Make connections to the Self-Reflection Worksheet or Online Self-Reflection Checklist that students complete when they finish the books. Encourage students to brainstorm strategies they can try in future literature circle meetings to improve their participation.

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