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Home > Educator Resources > Literature Circles

Literature Circles

Literature circles enable students to read any selected work of literature and discuss their interpretations with a predetermined group of peers. By allowing students to structure their own discussions, they are required to engage the text at a much higer level than teacher-directed reading lessons.

Sometimes students are a little reluctant to speak in any group situation, no matter how small. The completion of literature circle role sheets gives these students something to say in the discussion. Role sheets also can help teach students how to have an effective discussion. Once students learn how to hold and sustain a conversation about literature, they can move from the use of role sheets to a reading response log.

The concept of literature circles was developed by Harvy Daniels http://www.literatu

Another good resource is the Guide to Online Schools article How To Use Literature Circles.

The Standards for the English Language Arts

Sponsored by NCTE and IRA


1. Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound- letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.

11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

  • Reader Response Log
    When students read novels, a response log may help them to record their feelings, insights, and factual evidence. This information can be shared in the literature circle discussion.

    application/msword (22.0 kb)

  • Literary Guide for Lit. Circle
    The literary guide will help teachers reinforce plot elements as students read novels. Also guides may be modified to emphasize many other literary elements. By recording specific examples of figures of speech or some other element of literature, students have the ability to share these examples during literature circle discussions.

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  • Literature Circle Reflections
    When the literature circle discussions are over, students should evaluate their participation. The reflection enables students to share their level of preparation, their clever insights, and the knowledge they gained from listening to peers. The reflection prompts students to set goals for improving future literature circle discussions.

    application/msword (23.0 kb)

Other materials:
  • Novels, articles, essays, or other reading material
  • Reading Response Logs or Role Sheets
  • Student Reflections
  • Teacher Evaluation Rubrics (http://rubistar.4teach

Instructional sequence:
  • Assign reading selection to students and announce the day literature circle groups will meet. Novels, short stories, poems, and nonfiction articles can also be selected by students.
  • Students read assigned selection and respond in a response log. If students are just learning how to conduct successful literature circles, teachers can issue role sheets. The role sheets should be completed by students before the assigned discussion date. Role sheets will ensure that each member of the circle has a prepared focus for the discussion. When assigning roles, be sure that each student in individual literature circles has a different role.
  • On the day of the discussion, students get into prearranged groups and are given a time limit. Students discuss their ideas, opinions, and questions about the reading selection.
  • Students select one topic or idea from their discussion and share with the entire class.
  • The class will then explain to the teacher what went well in the discussion and what could be improved for the next discussion.
  • Students complete evaluations of their participation and group members' participation in the literature circle discussion.
  • The teacher concludes by giving students a new reading assignment and announces the date for the next literature circle discussion.

  • Writing assignments: Newspaper articles on novel concepts, friendly letters to characters, modified endings or scenes, scrapbooks of characters, or letters to the author
  • Anaylsis of Fact vs. Fiction: When students read fiction, they can read carefully to determine what part of the novel or work is based in fact and what was created by the author. This analysis can then be presented in various visual formats or discussed in Socratic Seminars.
  • Comparison of Themed Selections: Students read different selections in their groups on a selected theme. (Example: The class is studying the reintroduction of wolves, so each group reads a different novel on wolves. The entire class can then examine the difference in the portrayal of the wolf in each novel.)

  • Teacher Evaluation
  • Rubrics
  • Student Self-Evaluation
  • Student Group Evaluation

Literacy advancement:
  • Students are motivated to read because they have a part in selecting reading material and because they drive the discussion. There is a high level of responsibility placed on students to anaylze text.
  • Students feel empowered to select texts, decide on discussion topics, and assess peer participation.
  • The emphasis of this strategy is discussion. Students can practice their oral skills in a nonthreatening environment. Small group, student led discussions often build self-confidence.

Author: Isenhour, Kim

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