Discussions can be
one of the most challenging aspects of literature circles.
With guidance, however, students at all levels can learn to carry
on meaningful and rich conversations about books. Here are
some steps to take:
- Select a discussion
format: Decide how the groups will meet -- the format
that fits your personality, your goals, and your students' experience
students how to discuss: Model, discuss, and practice the
social skills needed for true conversation.
- Help students prepare
for discussion: Provide simple tools to help students
prepare for their discussions.
after discussions to refine skills: Build in time for
students to consider, "What is working well?" "What do we
still need to improve?"
Alternatives to Role Sheets
Many teachers use role
sheets – but others find that the roles take focus and energy
away from the discussion. Nearly all of the teachers we know who
used roles early in the process abandoned them after awhile. By
teaching strategies through focus lessons, students can choose
whether to share a passage, an illustration, or a question. Students
can learn collaborative and individual accountability strategies
to make their discussions work without the constraints of role
However, you may feel
more comfortable starting out with a limited number of roles,
such as facilitator and recorder, that may be familiar to students
from cooperative learning activities. If you find that
roles would be helpful for you, we recommend the clear descriptions
in Harvey Daniels's book, Literature
Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups
(2001). You will also find helpful information about
roles at LiteratureCircles.com,
a web site based on Harvey Daniels's book.