Have you ever wanted to let students choose their own novel to read, but you couldn’t figure out the best way to assess all those books? Don’t want to write 20 tests? Tried to find literature circle materials that weren’t for elementary kids?
Well I might be able to help!
How This All Started
Originally I started using literature circles to manage a multi-level GT class I started at my former school for 6-8 graders. I wanted each grade level to read a different book, but I wanted them all to do meaningful work. I found a literature circle product, and since it was my first go-round with them, it seemed to work out okay. Not great, but it was a start.
Fast forward a bit. Between then and now, I’ve taught English I PAP, English III on-level, English I, 8th grade and GT again at public schools, and 6th- 9th grades at an accelerated charter school. My old lit circle stuff worked with the 6th and 7th graders here, but I knew they wouldn’t cut it when I moved up to teach the 8th and 9th graders. So for a couple of years, I didn’t do them.
Looking forward to the last quarter of this year, I knew I wanted to try lit circles again with my 8th graders, but I knew I’d have to overhaul the materials I had. So I did.
I started out with the jobs I wanted. I created new names (no alliteration!), expectations, job chart, record sheets, evaluations, bookmarks…yeah, it was a lot. But by the end of the process, I feel that I now have a set of materials that will bring the rigor I want for my students to the literature circle experience.
The New Jobs
Here are the new jobs with a short description of each:
- Inquisitor- leader of the meeting; prepares 5 discussion questions to ask the group and records the answers
- Grammarian- collects specific grammar examples from the text to present to the group
- Global Thinker- collects 3 connections that they have made between the text and their world
- Raconteur- presents 4 passages from the reading to share with the group; must also prepare an explanation for each choice
- Visualizer- chooses a scene from the reading to visually represent with a drawing, collage, or digital art piece
- Vocabularian- collects 10 words from the reading that the teacher might include on a quiz
- Social Media Manager- character analysis through an “Instagram” page for one of the characters in the section they are assigned
- Prognosticator- makes two predictions based on the reading and explains what each outcome would be
For each job, there is a set of expectations and a sheet on which to record their job requirements.
So far, I have collected several sets of novels to offer the students. I have 5 classes that will be participating in lit circles, and I have 17 different books for them to choose from. I will offer certain books to certain classes based on reading level and interests (which I collect through a survey). Here are some of the titles:
- Pride and Prejudice
- Jekyll and Hyde
- Lord of the Flies
- Animal Farm
- The Hobbit
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
- Across Five Aprils
- Things Fall Apart
I will say that lit circles are A LOT of work for me up front, but once the students start the process, they are pretty much in charge of their own learning. Once I choose which books to offer each class, they’ll have a book tasting and write down their choices ranking them from 1-4. I have found that I’m usually able to give them one of their top two choices, but sometimes I have to go to the third choice for a couple of kids.
I Can’t Wait!
I have high hopes for lit circles with my 8th grade group this year. They have the potential to create some great work, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.