“Say Something”

Say Something is a method that Faye Brownlie talks about in her book “Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses: A Unique Approach to Literature Circles.” It is a method where each group (4-7 people) come together. Each person has a passage that they wish to share. The first person will share and after they share the passage the next person will make a comment/connection/thought on the passage that was read. Everyone else in the group listens to the one speaker. After the thought is shared the next person shares their comment/connection/thought and so on. After everyone in the group shares there is time for free ranging discussion to go further. The next person then shares their passage and the process repeats. Over time it will go quicker and flow easily.

This method is inclusive to everyone because nobody can dominate the discussion and everyone can have their viewpoints shared. Also, for the students that read slower it is a method where they can still contribute to the discussions without worrying that they are behind the other readers. It is also important to stress to students not to select passages that are spoilers and could ruin the rest of the book for the other group members. Brownlie also says that the students that are ahead could provide motivation to the other students to catch up and get to the juicy parts of the book. Using the Say Something strategy gets rid of roles which is supposed to allow for more authentic discussions about the book.

As a teacher it is important to explain what types of passages students should look for when choosing one to bring to the discussion. According to Brownlie students should look for funny, well written, confusing or exciting passages. By emphasizing what passages fit under the criteria it can help create dynamic discussions. The discussions are meant for students to garner a further understanding. It is important for the teacher to sit in on the lit circles to hear what insights the students are making. Be sure to look for text to self, text to text, and text to world connections. This partnered with the students journals and assignments will be a big part of where their marks will come from.

I was fortunate enough to see the Vice Principal at my practicum school do an introductory lesson for the Say Something strategy. She told me to model this strategy with a text/article that is relevant to the students this then makes for an easy example for all students to follow. She had all the students read an article on social media and how it is affecting happiness in kids. She also made sure to have the students use highlighters to mark sentences or facts that resonated with the students. Next she made a group (3 teachers 1 student) to scaffold how to do the Say Something strategy. We each shared our thoughts on a passage and then had the class comment on the things that the group shared. The group then did another example of the strategy to really scaffold how to do it properly. Then the students broke into their lit circle groups and first tried the say something about the article, second about their books. At the end of the lesson the teacher did a recap and asked the students, “Why did we do this strategy?”

After seeing how to implement the strategy I would also recommend using a class wide text/article do demonstrate how to do the Say Something strategy. It makes it very clear and easy to follow. It is critical to select a text that is relevant to the students so they can easily make connections. Discussions are the foundations of lit circles so being able to scaffold and get the students on the right path to engage in the discussions is the first step in getting lit circles going in your classroom.

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Faye Brownlie and Setting up Lit Circles

I have been reading up on lit circles by reading Faye Brownlie’s book “Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses. A Unique Approach to Literature Circles.” It is a book that is essentially a set up guide on how to run literature circles effectively in a classroom. I was also able to interview the vice principal at my practicum school who highly recommends this book as she has relied on it for many years when doing lit circles. 26696254_1965114880415412_1323040451_n

Brownlie’s set up for lit circles is slightly different. She does not use designated roles for discussions as it can take away from the authenticity of the discussions. She also does not have set deadlines for students to finish books or read chapters. Everyone is going at their own pace and are mindful of giving away spoilers. Groups meet about once a week (one group at a time), and students are to fill out their journal 2-3 times a week. Every two weeks there is a comprehension activity. Similar to other lit circle strategies, the success of lit circles comes from student choice and their interests. After students finish a book then they select another and join that discussion group.

When I was talking with my VP she finds that she needs between 4-8 weeks to operate a successful lit circles unit. It depends on the other activities that the students are doing in their other classes. She has done it with grades 7-12 and finds that it works better the older that the students are, however, with the correct scaffolding and instruction the younger grades will be able to grow and gain an affinity for reading. She also tries to keep groups between 4-7 people, and will help students that struggle by offering 1-2 books that are easier to read and connect to. When she selects her books she will try to find books with similar themes or have books with different themes. She uses her class novel study to determine the level of books and what themes to look for. This year for her grade 7 class she did a book talk on each book to introduce the class to each book that is an option for lit circles. She shows the cover, text, back cover and will read a passage from it.With students grades 8 and up she will let students have a “dating” period with a book. The different books will be spread out and in small groups students will come up to look at the cover, read the first few pages, read the back cover, and physically feel the book. If needed students will have about two days to read the book and see if they are interested in it.

I have seen multiple resources say that to introduce lit circles often times teachers will do a class novel study to get the students understanding how to make different types of connections, respond to passages, find strong quotes, etc. Depending on the novel selected and if the teacher chooses to do lit circles after a novel study the two could take up approximately 12 weeks which is close to a whole term. It is a big commitment but it can be a rewarding experience for the students.

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