Better Late Than Never: I Finally Try Lit Circles
Today my class started literature circles. It's something I've always wanted to try, but haven't until now. In my first two years, it was a mix of fear of letting go of so much control and in the last two years, it just felt like there was never enough time. Luckily, the last days of school provide the perfect freedom for experimentation.
We spent the last week or so practicing each individual role of the literature circle - Discussion Director, Summarizer, Story Connector, Real Life Connector, Word Wizard and Illustrator - so the kids would be ready. These roles vary a bit depending on your resource, but they're more or less universal. I used these worksheets from Super Teacher Worksheets, my current favorite web site, when the kids practiced, but today the students used their reading notebooks.
I can definitely understand my hesitation toward literature circles after today. First of all, it requires a fair amount more planning than a typical lesson. You need to group the students by level, and possibly by interest depending on the students in your class. Then you have to find an appropriate text for each group and multiple copies of each text. That was a tricky step for me, because my school's library didn't have many group sets of books at second and third grade reading levels.
In addition to the planning, you have to make sure the kids are familiar with the roles and protocols of lit circles. I tried to set this up over the past week, but still spent some time today reviewing the roles, establishing the protocol and brainstorming lit circle rules with the students.
After all this we were finally ready to go. I was nervous at first, because my students had been held in during lunch because they weren't listening to the lunch aide. Were they ready for lit circles if they couldn't even line up quietly long enough to go outside and play? Knowing that my management is a little tighter than the school aide's, I opted to forge on. In spite of my worries, the kids did pretty great.
One of my higher level readers was of course overly talkative, and didn't want to do his assigned role. Two of my lower students got confused about their jobs, because they weren't listening carefully during the three times I explained the jobs and asked if anyone had questions. And of course, The Scowler aka Living Inertia, didn't get any of his work done as the Story Connector. All of these were expected bumps in the road though, considering this was the first attempt at lit circles for the students and me.
In some ways I regret not doing this earlier as a teacher or earlier in the year. At the same time, this was a perfect way to help the students establish some independence and try something new for our final days together. I was proud to see the kids staying focused, following directions, doing their different jobs, and most of all, having fun.