Reading Workshop

What are Literature Circles?

Literature circles are small, temporary discussion groups of students who have chosen to read the same work of literature. Each member agrees to take specific responsibilities during discussion sessions. The circles meet regularly, and the discussion roles change at each meeting. When the circle finishes a book, the members decide on a way to showcase their literary work for the rest of the class.

Guidelines for Interaction
Guidelines for Interpretation
  • One speaker at a time.
  • Explain your thinking.
  • Let other people talk.
  • Stay on the subject.
  • Take your turn at listening.
  • Share your ideas.
  • Show respect for others' ideas.
  • Support your ideas using the book. (What words or pictures in the book made you think of your idea? Can you show where in the book it says that?)
  • Support your ideas with your own experience (What happened in your life that is like this situation? Who do you know that is like this character and why?)

Tips On How To Behave in Lit Circles

  1. Keep your eyes on the person who is speaking.
  2. Keep your hands still and empty.
  3. Sit up straight.
  4. Keep your mind focused on what the other person is saying.
  5. Ask questions.
  6. Politely disagree and explain why you disagree.
  7. Make sure only one voice is speaking during a discussion.
  8. Use what others have said as a "spring board" for something you want to say. (Ex. "Cory said the horseback riding part reminded him of the time he went out west and went horseback riding with his cousins. That reminded me of the time I went up to Mackinac Island and we rode horses around the island. But that's a lot different than the horseback riding in this book.")
  9. Always have your book with you in discussion and refer to it often.
  10. Encourage others when they speak. Say something like "Good point." Or "I like how you explained that." Or, "Would you explain that again please?"

A Few No No's

  1. Don't work on your lit circle task during discussion.
  2. Don't talk to others in a different lit circle.
  3. Don't make fun of others or their work. Ever.
  4. Don't come to your discussion unprepared.
  5. Don't fill out your evaluation sheets until the discussion is officially over.

Literature Circles DISCUSSION ROLES

These are predefined roles that students take turns fulfilling. Although the terminology used to name the roles may vary, the descriptions remain similar.

Discussion Director
Asks "fat" questions about the story to help the group have dynamic discussion. "Why...How...If..." Your task is to help people talk over the "big ideas" in the reading and share their reactions. Ask the questions only. You do not need to include your response here. The person commenting needs to answer the questions.

Passage Master
Locate a special section of the text that you think your group members would like to revisit. These can be funny, scary, confusing, interesting, a vivid description, or any other good part you read. You decide which passage is worth discussing. Include the passage and your response. The person commenting will react to your response.

Your job is to draw some kind of picture related to the reading. It can be a sketch, cartoon, diagram, flow chart or stick-figure scene. You can draw a picture of something that's discussed specifically in your book, or something that the reading reminded you of, or a picture that conveys any idea or feeling you got from the reading. Any kind of drawing or graphic is okay - you can even label things with words if that helps. Make your drawing on this paper. If you need more room, use the back.

your job is to prepare a brief summary of today's reading. Your group discussion will start with your 1-2 minute statement that covers the key points, main highlights, general idea and essence of today's reading assignment.

Finds connections between the story and the world outside. It can be current or past real world events and experiences. You can connect to life experiences, school, neighborhood, other people and problems, other stories or writings on the same topic, similar events at other times and places, and other writings by the same author. Your task is to understand the story better by relating to it and bring the connections to the discussion with others. Include the connection and your response. Those commenting will respond to the connection.

Word Wizard
Specialize in locating words that you choose. These are not passages but single words. The words can be new, different, strange, funny, interesting, important, or hard. Cite the word and the page on which it is located. Give the meaning. Write the sentence that includes your word. Tell why it was chosen. Write a new sentence with the word. Those commenting will give a response and write a new sentence with the word.

Search the web to locate some background information on the book and any topic related to it. The point is to find information that would be useful to gain a deeper understanding of the characters, setting, and plot of the book. You could even include information about the author. Share your links and your reasons for choosing them. Those commenting will visit the links and respond.

NCTE/IRA Standards

    1 - Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

    2 - Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

    3 - Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

    7 - Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

    9 - Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.

    11 - Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

    12 - Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).