A crash course in literature circles (2)

Part 2

So… In my last post, which you can find here, I described my haphazard attempt at setting up a literature circle in the days leading up to the first day of class. In this post, I will let you  know what happened on the first day of discussion. In a later post, I will share student reactions to the circles.

Overall the first day was a success. The only major wrinkle in the first hour was the students who were unprepared because they never received the blog invitation. Though it’s time consuming, taking students through the necessary sign-up steps is a must. Students who signed up successfully posted a summary, list, or picture (depending on their role, like this…

The discussions began with the summarizer sharing the summary they’ve prepared for class. From there, the questioner leads the discussion until all participants have contributed something specific to their role. Prior to the class, I worried about timing – would 40 minutes be too much time, or not enough? Turns out that 40-50 minutes is just about right for the amount of reading they had. Once the discussions started, they continued naturally until the end of class. The connector, I believe, plays a central role. Connecting the text to events in their lives really adds life to the text and discussion. I was pleasantly surprised at this.

Writing classes are leveled, and my group is the highest level group, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t a significant gap in proficiency levels among students. On the first day, when I asked who traveled the farthest to get here, I heard “Chicago” and “Toronto.” So basically, the class is a mix of intermediate-mid/high students whose English education has been solely in Korea, and several students who have studied/lived abroad for a considerable amount of time.

This mixed high-level class really highlights the positive aspects of the literature circle framework. Students talked, mostly in English, about all aspects of what they had read. Everything, from main ideas to vocabulary items or cultural references that were confusing, was shared. When they didn’t understand each, they explained, they provided examples for each other. They connected events from the text to their own lives. The weaker reader and writers, though quiet in class, weren’t as quite. They had a week to read and prepare something for one specific role and they did it.

So, to wrap up what happened, students discussed main ideas, specific information, and specific language related to the text; all students participated in English; and they all left with a much better understanding of what they read.

Now only if my profs had considered academic reading circles when I was doing my coursework…

In the next post I’ll share some student feedback. Thanks for reading!!


4 thoughts on “A crash course in literature circles (2)

  1. Hi! I was pleasantly surprised to follow through to your post via a pingback to ARC. Thanks to Mura for linking it to you in the first place. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your two posts on your use of literature circles and am always happy to hear of their successes. I know you haven’t done ARC per se, but I look forward to reading your experiences of it when/if you do. Cheers.

    1. Hello Tyson, thanks for the message. I am not really sure how pingback works – I guess it lets you know that there was a link to your post in my post, right? Do you have more info on ARCs? I’d like to try something like that in the SLA course I teach at SMU-TESOL. Students read short articles/chapters on language components (phonology/morphology/syntax and also) and SLA theory (input/output/information processing/memory/interaction). I wonder how I could modify the roles so groups of 4 could bear the weight of the reading together. Have you or any of your colleagues tried anything with these types of texts? Thanks again!

      1. Yes, that’s how a pingback works. 🙂 Most info about ARC is on 4C in the menu bar at the top (they are in the form of blog posts). I am doing a couple webinars on them this Sunday and next Saturday. You can attend by clicking on the links in the @speak menu option. They’re listed there. Hope to see you.

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