What Are Literature Circles?

Literature circles are designed to spark students' curiosity about literature, providing them with an engaging opportunity to dive into books. These small and informal groups give students a chance to meet together at a designated time to discuss specific books, exploring plots, story lines, characters, and other aspects of the work. With the premise that kids often learn most effectively when they're given the chance to explore at their own pace, literature circles are an effective way to gather readers in a setting that will encourage and foster exploration. The Peachtree Literature Circles are organized by grade with groups created for students between grades six and 12.

What Are Literature Circles?

Literature circles are designed to be a component of a full literacy program, giving students a chance to explore and apply what they're learning from what they've read. Literature circles are not designed to stand on their own. Instead, they are a part of an overall literacy program that exposes students to a variety of written works. Students participating in literature circles work together to choose a book. Once chosen, the participants read the selected book over a set period of time. Students meet regularly as they read to discuss the book. Discussion topics can vary, and the students collaborate to choose topics. Faculty advisers oversee the literature circles and provide support for the students. The advisers don't exert control over the discussions; instead, they serve more as facilitators to help students if needed. Students are free to ask questions, share insights, and engage in open discussion as they explore what they're reading. The natural conversations that ensue from this open style of exploration makes it possible for students to zero in their focus as desired.

Advantages of Literature Circles

One of the biggest advantages of literature circles is the interest they tend to spark in reading among students. As students become more interested in reading, they'll spend more time engaging in this pastime. The more time spent reading, the better readers students will usually become. Avid readers have stronger critical thinking skills, and they have a more well-rounded knowledge base. Literature circles are also an ideal vehicle for exposing students to a wide array of literature genres. It's beneficial for students to have exposure to works outside of what they know they like because they'll often discover new interests in the process.

Planning Literature Circles

Book clubs have long been a standard for encouraging a love of reading. However, with book clubs, it's easy for some students to fade into the background without being active participants. With literature circles, the design is such that everyone is involved and engaged to get the most out of the activity. Students are often assigned specific tasks such as leading discussions, taking notes, or keeping time. Students can also be directly involved in book exploration by illustrating the book's scenes or making a video about the book. With an open approach to exploration, students can feel free to contribute to the literature circle in ways that showcase their own abilities and talents.

Ideas for Activities

As students progress through a book with scheduled meetings, they should be finding ways to discuss what they're reading. One idea for sparking discussion is to fill a hat with topics related to the book or with specific themes associated with the story line. Students could also write down a few questions they have about what they've read on pieces of paper to toss into the hat. Have students draw from the hat at each meeting, and the discussion for that meeting can be based on what's pulled out. Encourage students to relate what they're reading to issues or activities they're experiencing in their lives. And any time it's possible to connect current technology to themes in the book, it's a win. Perhaps students could create a slideshow or design a compilation of music snippets that fits the tone and plot of the story.