Literature Circles Do's and Don'ts

Ready to jump into Literature Circles but don't know where to start? Check out this list of Do's and Don'ts to get you going! 

Do: Literature Circles should be reader response driven! Not teacher driven. With a little modeling and practice, students can meet and discuss their books without the teacher driving the discussion. The teacher can provide questioning stems and guidelines to help students. However, Literature Circle time should be structured for student independence, responsibility and ownership.

Don't: Literature Circle time is not unstructured, or "talk time" without holding students accountable for their work. Students should be prepared for their group before they meet.

Do: Give students choice in the books they are going to read. Pick 3 or 4 different titles, give a book talk to get students excited, and then let them choose which book they want to read!

Don't: So, don't always choose the books for the students. Also, this may go against conventional thinking but try not assigning roles. There is a model of Literature Circles, where each student in the group is assigned a role (Summarizer, Questioner, Vocabulary Person, etc.) This might help structure the groups but ultimately it could limit an organic and authentic conversation about the book. What if I am a student who has a question or inference about the story but my role is Summarizer? 

Do: Use the text as a basis for applying reading and writing skills in context. Give students a purpose for their discussion, are you studying character's actions? Setting? Point of view, all your required standards can be met during their Literature Circle discussions. 

Don't: Use literature circles to do skills work or unnecessary worksheets. Would you love to read a chapter book if you knew you were going to have to answer 10 questions about every chapter? Probably not! Use your literature circle time to foster the love of reading, making connections to the text and practicing discussion skills. You can have students work in a booklet to be accountable for their reading and I'll share an example at the end of the post! (And I'll share a great freebie!)

Do: Choose texts with a variety of levels to meet the needs of all your readers. It's OK to choose books all on one theme or idea, like Black History month. If you have trouble finding 5 or 6 copies of a book, ask your fellow teachers and pool your resources. Check out your local libraries and thrift stores like Good Will. I find tons of great chapter books at Good Will.

Don't: Be mindful of how long the chapter book is! Depending on the level of your students, really long chapter books may be hard for your groups to stay committed to.

Ready to get started? Download this free some free posters and a planning sheet:
How about another great resource to get you going? Literature Circles Made Easy might just be the thing you need! Click the picture to get started:

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