By Nicholas Pavlov ‘16 and Jesus Patino ’16
For years teachers have been searching for an effective way to create a classroom community in which students and teachers can learn from one another. Consequently, through trial and error, educators were able to create collaborative and student centered discussion groups that have grown into one of the most popular activities in language arts.
A school literature circle is tantamount to an adult’s book club. Literature circles are designed to engage students in thoughtful conversations about a certain literary work. Students are able to voice opinions, questions and predictions in an engaging and enjoyable way. Unity between students guides them into a deeper understanding about what they read .
“With literature circles, I have been able to grasp other people’s perspectives about the book,” said Fahri Albardak ‘16. “The more people I have in my group to brainstorm with, the more insight I gain.”
Literature circles require specific group roles in order to encourage a thoughtful and rigorous discussion. There are five roles that the teacher can assign: the discussion director, the literary luminary, the summarizer, the connector and the illustrator.
“I feel more confident talking to a smaller group than an entire class,” said Susanna Cheng ’16
“As the discussion director, I tend to get the conversation rolling and I allow everyone to give their individual insights towards the reading,” said Albardak ’16. “I enjoy my role because it allows me to create stronger bonds with my classmates.”
However, there are others who aren’t as enthusiastic about their role. Karen Cherkas ’16 was an illustrator in her group, and she said she struggled on multiple occasions.
“Being the illustrator was exhausting because it required a lot of creativity,” said Cherkas. “Coming up with a visual that represented the reading wasn’t as easy as it sounded.”
As students engage in their discussions, the teacher observes, walks around and takes notes on the students’ contributions. This assessment also allows the teacher to connect with students and know who did the reading and who didn’t.
“It’s interesting to see that students who don’t normally participate, now participate and express new ideas in their group discussions,” said Journalism teacher Catherine Kaczmarek.
Even though literature circles can enhance discussions, the unpreparedness of at least one of the group members can have a negative impact on the entire group.
“Whenever someone is missing the homework, it becomes a one-sided discussion, and it becomes difficult to keep the conversation going,” said Journalism student Tristan McQueen ’16.
According to McQueen, he once wasn’t able to participate in a class discussion because he lacked insight on the different literary elements used in the text. His group mates didn’t do their job and that affected everybody.
After the groups have completed their lengthy discussions, the teacher can smoothly incorporate a lesson about the literary work. The lesson incorporates the individual thoughts from each group and it unifies the classroom.
Literature circle s have benefits tha t have helped language arts classes soar in participation, cooperation and collaboration.
In the discussion, students can create their own meaning of the text as opposed to the teacher giving them one. Many students are also less afraid in groups because of the sense of unity. In addition, students become resourceful readers. Their specific roles help them improve different aspects of their reading skills and strengths.
“I feel more confident talking to a smaller group than an entire class,” said Susanna Cheung ’16. “I’m able to contribute more to the discussions and this helps me develop certain speaking skills.”
Literature circles have become a popular teaching style in many English classrooms across the nation and they have millions of students grow.