Sunday, May 4, 2008

macbook air & literature circles

I'm gazing upon the newest addition to our family with love!  Here, the Apple store sales associate helps me set up the remote access to my MacBook (on table, out of picture) and install iWork.  Yes, this is partly my Mother's Day gift.  I say "partly" because, in my opinion, it's the equivalent of giving your wife an energy-efficient, front-loader washer/dryer for your anniversary.  NOT that I'm complaining, because it's a thing of beauty.  The other "part" is that our little family of 3 really needs a second computer, as we all (including 7 year old who loves Webkinz World) want computer time at home.

At school, we wrapped up the Earth Day 2-week unit last Friday.  I still have to collect business envelopes, stamps, and some petition forms before mailing off the letters "for real".  It was a fun project!  (I haven't done anything about planting flowers with the students yet.)

This week, we start literature circles!  This is one of my favorite units EVER.  This time, the choices are: Freak the Mighty and Stargirl.  Students indicate first choice of novel, then I assign novel based on preference, availability, group dynamics, teacher's executive power, etc. Then small groups meet, rotate discussion roles (summarizer, questioner, predictor, visualizer, passage keeper are the ones I'll use this time; also common - word collector, making connections), conduct discussions...  (The next part I never did before, leading to students who complained about always doing the roles.)  Eventually, theoretically, groups no longer need assigned roles and can generate their discussions of the reading naturally, organically, magically...  Wait, sorry, I dozed off and daydreamed a bit there.  I know that's a very quick summary of literature circles, so let me know if clarification is needed.


jenamoured said...

rct. i want to do literature circles. teach me the ways.

roller coaster teacher said...


1. Give them a few book choices (start with 2, ha ha), introduce the books (book talks), then give them a chance to state preference (they love this part - they fight and BEG for their first choice, even kids who usually HATE to read).

2. Teach them discussion roles (these are basically reading strategies) - summarizer, visualizer, etc. You can use simple picture books to teach each role/strategy if they're not already familiar. You can find these worksheets for the discussion roles on the internet - search for lit. circle or reading circle.

3. Assign books to students, and group students. My inclusion classes - the spec. ed. teacher usually prefers to have 1 or 2 homogenous groups, and she would read with them in class, do more guided reading and guide their discussions.

4. Each group is responsible to follow your homework reading schedule (ex. 2 chapters per day), PLUS assign each member with a discussion role for that reading. The next day, their discussion consists of each member contributing their summary, visualization (drawing), questions, predictions, etc.

5. You can add minilessons each day for the whole class, either addressing common novel themes, or literary elements or techniques, etc.

6. When groups conduct their discussions, you can conference with certain groups. You can monitor their discussions, and once they get rolling, you can grade papers, catch up on email, whatever you need to do! How soon or IF your groups can be independent depends on ... them, of course.

7. Grading rubrics - I hate this part. I've seen rubrics for group assessment, self-assessment, and so forth. Right now I just check and give homework grades for the summaries/drawings/questions/etc. - meaning I don't grade for content, just completion. It's up to you. THEN, I am going to give them reading comprehension questions and other review questions that they have to study with their groups, and give quiz and test.

I confess I only know 7th and 8th graders, and they are fairly self-sufficient in my class by May/June. Some of my coworkers find it scary to do b/c it gives students a lot of freedom and you give up a lot of control - but the point is, the kids get out of it what they put into it, and THAT's a life lesson. Students who don't do their homework are a drag on the group, and I make that point often, another good life lesson.

OK - let me know if you have specific Q's!

jenamoured said...

thanks. that was a pretty good crash course in lit circles. i'm definitely going to try that next year!

Sarah said...

That Macbook thin I almost didn't see it!! Have fun playing with your new toy!

Tricia Grissom said...

Pretty, pretty computer. I like.

Orchid in the Bronx said...

mmm... a thing of beauty indeed.

Jayme said...

Love the new computer! Hope you enjoy!