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Nuts & Bolts: Literature Circles for Young Students

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Literature Circles for Young Students

by Linda Geist

On February 22 1999, Linda Geist posted on the national multiage listserve a description of how she has adapted the literature circle concept to her primary multiage classroom. Literature circles are frequently used with older children. Linda shows us an excellent way to structure them for younger children in a 1st/2nd grade multiage classroom. With her permission I have reposted it here.


First, I do not think that literature circles will work until a child has become a mostly independent reader. If you use Fontas Pinell guided reading as a resource, I find that level "L" works best. (Comparable literature would be Cam Jansen, Junie B Jones, etc.) I have used them with level "K" as well, (Nate, the Great, Frog and Toad) but at this level, the children are still too newly independent.

I like to use a group of 4 to 6 students. As I introduce a new book, I use standard prereading discussion questions. I try to relate the story to something they have read before or something in their lives.

I like to read the first chapter to them. Even though these readers can read, I still think it's important for them to hear a fluent reader reading. This also insures that they understand the first events of the story. Usually the first chapter has critical events that impact the remainder of the story. Surprisingly, after I began introducing stories in this manner, their fluency and intonation improved as well!

There are six jobs that I use for literature circles. They are adaptations of the ones outlined for the upper level readers. I introduce one job at a time. The first time they do a "job", everybody in the group does the same job. I do not start mixing the jobs until each child has done them all two or three times.

The six jobs I use are:

  • Discussion Director
  • Wild and Crazy Word Finder
  • Selection Director
  • Art Director
  • Connection Director
  • Summary Director

As with anything that we teach, I feel that it is important to model each job thoroughly before expecting the children to produce the kind of product that you want. I think that how well I model it and teach each job directly effects their end result. I have "cut and pasted" the directions for the jobs from the worksheets that the children use below.

***************************

Discussion Director
Name ___________________________________
Write four to six questions about what you have just read. These questions will be used for group discussion during the next reading session. Think about the question helpers in the box below.

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
Details? Inferred? What if? Opinion?

I feel that this is the easiest job for the children to learn. I usually model it after reading the first chapter to the children. I have found that they gradually develop quite interesting questions. I like turning the discussion over to them during the next meeting. It has promoted some wonderful discussions within our group.

Wild and Crazy Word Finder
Name ___________________________
Find four to six interesting, powerful or tricky words from today's reading. Write them below along with the page number. Use flags to mark those words. You will be asked to share those words during our next guided reading meeting.

 

  • ______________________________ Page ___________
  • ______________________________ Page ___________
  • ______________________________ Page ___________
  • ______________________________ Page ___________
  • ______________________________ Page ___________
  • ______________________________ Page ___________

This is a good job to encourage the children to explore new words. Often at this level, they do not want to admit that they don't know a word, or don't know the meaning of it. I use this time to expand their vocabulary or to track words that they might want to use in their writing. Of course, I can always use this to teach decoding strategies: (root words, prefixes, dictionary skills, etc.) They really really really like using the neon colored post-it flags that are being made now, too!

Selection Director
Name _____________________
Pick the most interesting part to read to your group during our next guided reading meeting.

Book Title: __________________________________________
Pages to read: _______________________________________
Today's Date: ________________________________________

Why I chose this part:

The kids love this job. They always want to read to the group and they have learned to give some creative answers as to why they chose a certain part. I encourage them to choose parts that are important to the story. (By important, I tell them that the story would change if you left that part out.)

Art Director
Name __________________________
Use the back of this paper to draw a picture of what happened in today's reading for the group. Be sure to include details from the story in your picture.

Title _______________________________________
What I included in my drawing and why I included it:

This was fairly self-explanatory. It is always interesting to hear the details that they choose to include. It's funny how the times we have done this that they often come up with many of the same ideas!

Connector Director
Name ____________________________
How is this book like real life? Find a way to connect what you read today, to something that might happen, or has happened in real life.

This one takes a good bit of explaining. After modeling and discussing what a connection is, they are able to do this. After they do this job two or three times, they get better at it. It is fun for them to use this in historical fiction. (Molly's Pilgrim, etc.)

Summary Director
Name _____________________ Today's Date_________
Write two to three paragraphs summarizing the chapter or today's reading. Use the chart that guides you through summarizing.

I feel that this is the most difficult for them to learn. It is helpful if they have experience in writing paragraphs prior to the job. However, I have done this with the group by coming up with the topic sentences together (the chart). I have had them develop one sentence that tells the most important part of the story beginning, middle then ending.
After coming up with the topic sentences together, they can then write supporting sentences to complete the paragraph. Again, as they master it, they can learn to develop their own topic sentences. Of course, for some children it comes easier than to others.

***************************

Well, this is pretty much it. I meet with my groups every other day. The opposite day they have to work on their assignment.

Hopefully this is helpful to you.

Good luck and happy reading!

Linda Geist
Linda915@aol.com
French Run Elementary
Reynoldsburg, Ohio

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