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The 3 Most Important Aspects of Middle School Literature Circles

literature circles Jun 23, 2020

I love middle school literature circles. Well, once I learned how to plan and manage them to my students’ benefit...then, I started to love middle school literature circles. In my 15 years of experience, I learned that there were 3 main keys to literature circle success.

 Provide students the opportunity to be responsible for their own learning.

Literature Circles are such an effective way for students to learn the idea of taking responsibility for their learning.  They are an opportunity for us to use our creativity and innovation to create an experience for students to take responsibility themselves. The two ways I do this are:

  1. Allowing students to schedule their own reading amounts and assigning their own jobs.
    • I provide student schedules and calendars to help them accomplish this goal.
  2. Allowing students the ability to choose how they will demonstrate their knowledge through a culminating project.
    • I provide a handout that allows them to track their ideas throughout the novel.
    • They are asked to reflect on what they have read with the idea of developing a project idea.
    • We conference and they plan their idea, and we agree on acceptable elements of their idea and ways to present their ideas.

Provide for student choice and student creation.

This is a concept generally accepted across the board in education.  With the development of Passion Projects and Genius Hour, we are not only promoting student choice in their learning, but also student creation.  Students have been able to choose their projects in many classrooms for some time now, but the newest development in best practices is also allowing students to create their own learning paths.  I proved these opportunities by:

  1. Choosing their own novels.
    • At times, they are from a list of novels that follow a class theme, while there are some times, they are completely their choice.
  2. Providing a classroom “Power” activity that allows students to develop their own ideas of what they found powerful in the novel.
  3. Guiding students to identify the skill they’d like to demonstrate and then allowing them to create their own project, elements, and presentation.

Provide students opportunities to be leaders.

It’s always amazing to see how students who are oftentimes shy or not a natural leader are able to shine when they are given the opportunity to lead and are set up for success.  This takes some intentional planning on our part, but it is always worth it to see students learn how to lead their peers.  I intentionally provide these opportunities and structure by:

  1. Designing the Discussion Leader Job so each student has the opportunity to rotate into the leader position.
    • The job is designed for the student to be well-prepared with questions that they’ve already thought about to use in leading the group.
  2. Specific weekly questions to assist in leading discussion.
  3. An easy-to-follow agenda and expectations to help the leader keep the meeting on track.    
  4. Accountability for all students in the group so they will come prepared to discuss each meeting and will allow for the leader to be successful.

You can find my entire Literature Circle Unit in the Membership area, along with units for every literary term students need to know from introduction, to practice, to deeper meaning, to mastery!  Additionally, you can find all the Social Justice and Global Issue projects I complete with my students throughout the year.  Take a look through my sample lesson plans and join our Teacher Tribe when you’re ready!


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