Literature circles in the elementary classroom are one of my favorite ways to boost students’ reading engagement and get them excited about reading! After successfully launching literature circles in my 4th grade classroom, I knew that when I moved down to 2nd grade, I had to find a way to make literature circles work there as well. After establishing routines and creating new resources, my students THRIVED IN LITERATURE CIRCLES and I will never teach without them again!
The KEY TO LITERATURE CIRCLE SUCCESS is HOW you introduce them!
I have been fortunate enough to coach many 2nd-5th grade teachers on how to implement literature circles, and I have put together a FREE LITERATURE CIRCLES TRAINING that will teach you my step-by-step process to planning, organizing, implementing, and managing literature circles. You can access the FREE training on LITERATURE CIRCLES MADE SIMPLE HERE!
But if you want just a quick overview of literature circles before diving into the one-hour training, here’s the gist….
SMALL GROUP ROUTINES ARE KEY!
- Students have to know how to work in small groups in order for literature circles to run smoothly. In both my 2nd grade and 4th grade classrooms, students were well accustomed to working together in small groups. After the first two months of school (usually November) is when I began teaching the literature circles jobs. We didn’t actually begin literature circles until December or January.
PRACTICE THE JOBS AHEAD OF TIME
- Around November (second month of school where I live) I introduce the concept of literature circles.
- I use a specific process to teach the different jobs.
- I created six jobs for grades 2/3 and eight jobs for grades 4/5. The wonderful thing about the job sheets is that they are differentiated, so really, I could use what best suited my students’ needs.
- For primary grades (2nd/3rd), I introduced one literature circle job a week. For upper graders, I introduced two jobs per week.
- We would use our grade level anthology to practice each job. After completing a reading section together, I would give all students the same job sheet and we would complete it whole class. This allows students to ask questions for clarifications. It also allowed me to model what a complete job sheet looked like vs. an incomplete job sheet.
- Once we have gone through all the jobs, students are ready to begin literature circles.
Here are the eight literature circle jobs:
- Discussion Director
- Creative Connector
- Passage Predictor
- Super Summarizer
- Artistic Artist
- Word Wizard
- Spotlight Seeker
- Events Evaluator
- I have ran literature circles in the classroom with both homogeneous and heterogeneous reading groups. I prefer to group students who are reading at a similar level because this allows me to differentiate and challenge my students that need a push.
- For 2nd and 3rd grade, I like to start literature circles by reading the same short chapter book as a whole class.
- For 4th and 5th grade, students get to go “book shopping” and select their books and we begin literature circles.
- We begin with a pre-reading activity to get students excited about their books (“Book Cover of Predictions” activity is my favorite).
- Once groups have their books selected, I pre-plan out the pace of reading for each lit. circle group. I use a Student Planning Page to divide up the reading for each book, as well as pre-assign jobs. This makes transitions smooth from group meeting to group meeting, because students already know what job is next.
- For older students, and ones that can work really well together, I have let them independently choose which job they want to do next. The rule is that they just can’t repeat a job before doing all the others.
BEGINNING LITERATURE CIRCLES
- For the first day of literature circles, I assign students their literature circle job and have them get together in their group to read the first chapter (or two). For 4th and 5th graders, this is usually the only time they read their book together in class. However, in 2nd and 3rd grade my structure is a little different and students have reading time in class and job completion time in class. Whatever they don’t finish becomes homework.
- After the initial reading together, students go back to their desks and independently complete their job. If they don’t finish it in time, I assign it as part of their homework.
- The next day, students meet together in their literature circle group and share their completed job sheets. Students use “Literature Circle Discussion Prompts” to use for any extra discussion time.
- I use a Group Agenda, so students know their order and stay on track with the time.
- When lit. circle time is up, I collect job sheets and give out the new jobs for the next portion of reading. I like to organize the jobs in a file crate that students can easily access the job sheets.
- I assign the next chunk of reading for each group and students complete that independently during class reading time or as homework.
MANAGING LITERATURE CIRCLES
- When students are meeting in their literature circle groups, I like to float from group to group to listen to their discussions. Remember, literature circles are student led, NOT teacher led!
- The Discussion Director writes down notes on their job sheet to report about group time. I also use Group Rubrics so students can rate their group members’ participation and job completion. These can be used towards participation grades or just as an informal check-in tool.
- When groups finish up their books, I like to give them a final book project.
LITERATURE CIRCLES RESOURCES…
If you are ready to jump in and start literature circles in your classroom, I have created a comprehensive Literature Circles Made Simple resource, that includes ALL THE TOOLS you need to effectively launch literature circles!
This resources includes differentiated versions of each job sheet, so you can pick and choose what bests suits your students’ needs! Group rubrics, planning pages, job slides, and more are all included to help you run literature circles with ease! There are also included Google Slides™ versions of each job sheet, planning pages, and more!
I LOVE literature circles and I LOVE that they can be done in both primary and upper grades! I hope you will give them a try in your elementary classroom!
Laura Laufman says
I am starting lit circles (for the first time EVER) with my second grade RTI group on Monday. Nervous, but grateful to have found your amazing (and free!!!) resources. THANK YOU!
Mrs. Albie's Bunch says
Do you have any recommendations are great literacy circle books?
Hi, Laura! Yay! I am so excited that you got literature circles going in your class. Second grade is the perfect age to introduce them. I hope they are off to a great start!!!
Fee Krelwitz says
Quick question- I purchased your Literary Circles packet and am going to get the Comprehension packet as well…but how do you split your groups when there are 27 kids. Do you just drop some jobs from that group then? I'm trying to incorporate this – not with novels but with my 4th graders and our Reading Street Stories. Thanks!
Do you switch their jobs weekly or switch them when they start a new book?
Thanks for any info!
Hello! It depends on the book. 🙂 If it is a longer chapter book, then I switch jobs every time I assign a new chunk of reading. That can mean two different jobs for the week. If it is a shorter book, that students will finish within a week, I have them only do one job. I hope that help and thanks for the question. I wish you all the best! Erin
Hello! I teach a very struggling third grade group (many on first grade level, high students are on level). Once you moved away from anthology stories, did you change groups so that they were levelled as opposed to mixed? Also on Wednesdays, what kind of whole group activity went on as a literature circle activity?
Hello! Thanks so much for your question! I definitely try to keep literature circles mixed, especially when starting them out. Even after moving away from the anthology stories, I like to have mixed groups for the first few chapter books, too.
However, because you have such a handful of third graders that are struggling, I think leveling them might be more appropriate. I think it really depends on the group of kids that you have each year, whether or not leveling them is necessary. When students struggle so much with a text, it makes it almost impossible for them to do their lit. circle "job." That is why leveling them and giving them a text that is more appropriate will help them be successful in lit. circles.
As for the Wednesday activity, this is during the anthology reading. We take a break from lit. circles for a day to work on a whole-class comprehension activity. It varied week to week, but that's what the time was designated for.
I would love to hear how literature circles went for you this year! I'm so sorry it took me so long to respond, I somehow missed your comment. Please feel free to email me at [email protected].
Have a wonderful rest of the year with your third graders!
Asim Shaikh says
Thankyou for this wondrous post, I am glad I observed this website on yahoo.
Do you have a recommended book list for students in third grade?
Oh my! As I was reading the blog post, I just kept thinking how AMAZING it sounded. As I kept on scrolling, I couldn’t help but feel nervous about what type of money I was going to be hit up for. I am AMAZED and SO THANKFUL that you are so willing to share this free resource. I am SO excited to start this with my Year 3 Aussie kids!