Saturday, March 3, 2012

Literature Circles: Week 1

Hello Everyone!
   This week we were able to host 4 whole days of Literature Circles!  I didn't get as much done as I would have liked to in the first two but I felt better on Friday.  We had a SNOW DAY on Thursday---our very first one and seeing that we live in upstate NY we usually have many more/delays.  It's been such a mild winter---so mild that it makes me want to move South since if we aren't going to get snow up here, it might as well be eighty degrees!

   Anyway, as promised I am going to try to blog about what happened with my Literature Circle each day that we hold it.  It's my first time running one so I am trying to get a hang of it all.  For information on how these were organized across a 66 student 6th grade with 5 teachers, click here!

Okay, so I started Monday by:
1.) Signing books out to students and setting up team folders that they will keep in my room.  The team folders are just three of the same folder that I had lying around.  Each day, I put the activities and items the group needs inside.  This minimizes the passing out/organization confusion.
One side has our packets (more on that later), and this day had paint cards (more on that too!)
Day 1
  We gathered together and it was pandemonium for a moment...or ten.  The kids wondered if they were in trouble, why they had a different teacher, who they were working with, what were we reading, what were other kids reading, was this going to be hard/fun/boring, and when do they go back to their old room and if it takes the whole period....etc.  So after I answered some of the most pressing issues, we moved on.  I made a quick Xtramormal video on the different roles to provide an overview (the kids are in 6th grade but have NEVER done Lit Circles before so this is TOTALLY new).  We decided our roles would be "Head Honcho" "Connector Director" "Artist Extraordinaire" and "Word Wizard"  If you are interested in the Xtranormal video it is on YouTube and found HERE!  After that we made up our roles for being unprepared, rude, etc.  The kids were harsh!  Here are the rules written up by one of my kiddos before we signed them on the bottom:

We decided if you aren't prepared with a book, first time is a warning, second time you write an essay basically covering what you WOULD have done in the group.  For not reading you have to go read/not be included, make up the work and do one of the assigned tasks they devised.  They had fun with the "rules."  As for keeping track, I have a similar folder as the groups do and I just have a sheet of paper that I write down when someone is not prepared to keep a log.  This took most of the 40 minutes but at the end we had some time to begin a KWL on two pieces of paint cards glued back to back on what we know about Medieval life.  Here is a sample:
The "K" and "W" on one side, leaving lots of space for the "L:

Day 2
We gathered and started reading together to get us into the book.  My group is reading The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli.  It's TOUGH for being a page-wise short book.  The first chapter has a lot of medieval terms and language complexities so we read it together.  We agreed at the end that by our next meeting we would read up through Ch. 2 to discuss.

Day 3
Like I said before, my kids have never done these before so we needed structure.  And lots of it!  I decided to spend our third day with kids finally getting into the roles, but instead of independently, using the pages in the packets, and in their small groups, we would make one giant group.  Partners/3's each got one of the 4 roles on a piece of poster paper.  They had about 10 minutes to work together to complete their role.  We then got together and the two "Head Honchos" lead us all in a discussion.  Since there are only 11 kids in my room with me, this worked out well.  I don't think it would be as easy with 12.  We modeled how to speak, add something, clarify, and participate.  I am using the posters they created as anchor charts/reference for the rest of our Lit Circles time.

Word Wizard, (should say) Connector Director, and Artist Extraordinaire 

Head Honcho created discussion questions...Thick and Thin Questions
Day 4
LET 'EM LOOSE! When the kids came in they got into their groups.  I have two groups of 4 and one group of 3 (it would have been 4 but one of my little girlies changed districts more on that here).  Anyway, they took out a packet from their folders.  Actually, what happened is that 3 forgot to read.  So I ended up switching groups so that we had two groups of 4.  I know that in a true Lit Circle (and maybe in the future) we won't stay on the same pages.  But for now, this works because I just KNOW people will not have their reading done and it makes it hard to get everyone completed with their roles plus a mini lesson/activity during that short 40 minutes.  ANYWAY...

So we had two groups of 4 going.  Each group takes out a packet and a recording form to write down who has which role (since we will switch each meeting).  The one determined to be the Head Honcho takes the packet apart and gives each person the sheet with their role (looks almost identical to the posters above!)  I set the timer for about 10 minutes and students complete their sheet.  After that, we launch into group discussion.  It went sort of was contained but not very interactive, more just share their role and move on.  Overall, we wrapped that up and then I had them come back and cut apart a final page in the pack which has EVALUATION CARDS.  We called the three kids back who didn't read and had another task to do.  They had to rate themselves on what they did and how well they did (including being prepared and participating).  After that I started an activity with them in their groups that we will finish first thing the next time we meet (Tuesday...Monday we are a teacher short), so I will explain that in a separate post.

What To Try Next Week...
-I think I need talking chips so that I get them all participating.  Some of them were raising their hands and waiting to be called on.  One girl barely said anything the whole time except to read her connections like a robot.  I am thinking talking chips might help.

-Alternate Seating.  I think I will have at least one group get to use clipboards and sit in my comfy corner.  

-Keep working on independence for my almost-7th-graders!

Thanks for reading!


Ms. O'Brien said...

I am loving reading about your lit circles... I did them earlier this year and the students loved them. I'll definitely try out some of your ideas soon!

Emmy de Greslan said...

Thank you for sharing. I haven't had much experience with lit. circles so it's a big help.

I've awarded you one of my Top 10 blog awards Ms. D xx

Satya said...


You're site has a lot of great ideas that I can learn from! I'm the newest follower of your blog, a student teacher starting my very first teaching practicum in a month with a grade six class! I would really appreciate it if you could visit my blog and follow me back at:

By the way, I'm a Ms. D too! haha
Happy blogging!
Satya :)