Benefits of Literacy Circles

There are many reading comprehension strategies that help with students understanding and ability to read.  All strategies can be taught and are essential for students to become proficient readers.  Below are the main strategies.

  • Summarizing
  • Sequencing
  • Inferencing
  • Comparing and contrasting
  • Drawing conclusions
  • Self-questioning
  • Problem-solving
  • Relating background knowledge
  • Distinguishing between fact and opinion
  • Finding the main idea, important facts, and supporting details

A lot of teachers try to teach these through lessons and worksheets.  It is hard for a students to use these naturally when they are set up like every other lesson.  Throughout lit circles students have a chance to use and develop all of these skills strategies without even knowing it!  By having discussions and various roles each students will have a deeper understanding of their reading  and strengthen their comprehension strategies.  If a student is weaker in certain areas they will benefit from having other students discuss them and get to see other points of view.

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Interactive Online Reading Activities

ABCsStarfall ABC’s

The basics. This website activity introduces the basics of letter shapes and sounds along with a section to learn the vowels. Very interactive and simple to navigate. It also provides fun animations and sounds to keep young audiences engaged. As an added bonus it also includes a section to learn your ABC’s in sign language.

Learn to ReadStarfall Learn to Read

A bunch of small activities and games to play to introduce the basics of reading full words. Again the presentation of these games and activities are presented in a very high-quality user-friendly manner. It also includes a section for users to read alongside with audiobooks. These books move very slowly through a story and break down each word making it easy for users to follow along and learn the components of different words.

Fun to ReadStarfall Its’ Fun to Read

In this section are activities exploring readings functions. Lots of different categories to explore and play around with.  Its sections include All About you, Art Gallery, Magic, Music, Poetry, Tongue Twisters, and Riddles. All will present the user with interactive games to play and stories to read about the chosen topics.

I'm ReadingStarfall I’m Reading

This is the last section of the Starfall reading activities and introduces users to full audiobooks to read alongside. It bolsters an impressive library of comics, fairy tales, myths, fables, fiction and non-fiction books!


Online Forum Summary

Rather than posting links or screenshots from all forums and comment sections I decided to compile and reflect on my findings. The majority of comments online are positively written and are meant to aid parents and professionals in working with children exhibiting opposition and defiance. The majority agree that time, modelling appropriate behaviours, and clear consequences are all strong strategies to aid a child with ODD. Many agree that ODD is often coupled with, or overshadowed by, other diagnoses such as ADHD or anxiety disorders. Most information is observation or opinion based and not backed on research or professional merits. Lack of peer-reviewed information makes these online conversations challenging, but also shows how new and evolving the information is.

Where the online community does not agree with each other is in the classification of ODD. Many see it as a strong neurological disorder, others a behaviour class based on trauma or stress, while others think it is completely made to explain behaviours from other diagnoses or events. This debate often caused people to forget why they were commenting in the first place – to spread information and support those working with defiant children.

Many parents believed their children should be diagnosed with ODD based on little to no information. This is a dangerous belief to hold as a parent, because you can begin labeling your child with issues they are not facing – just because my child fights bedtime doesn’t mean I need to diagnose him immediately.

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What Next…

Where do you start when thinking about inquiry through play in the classroom? This question doesn’t have one specific answer because there is so many different answers. I will say this though:

Before I could piece anything together I needed to understand that not every lesson will look the same and that there is no specific guideline on how to do this but rather a frame work, or an approach that may or may not work. The whole idea of it might not work out can be intimidating but it can also be very exciting and rewarding for the students and you.

My next step is trying it out more in my the classroom. To look at different ways of incorporating pieces of it into the daily routines my students go through.

For Lindsy Friendship and I our next step as collaborators is presenting at the West CAST conference. At this conference we will be presenting a workshop where we will share our understanding and knowledge.

We know that in our schools today we see a unique diversity of students. As educators we are trying to find the most meaningful way to inspire learners to develop and grow as individuals. Play brings students passions and interests in an organic form. We want to have authentic learning experiences for our students. There are many misconceptions of what play is and its importance. Our curriculum today supports the process of play and its effectiveness in inquiry. “Cognitive development stems from social interactions from guided learning within the zone of proximal development as children and their partner’s co-construct knowledge” (McLeod). As educators we continuously pursue to create an engaging environment, play allows for student to engage in social and cognitive interactions that stem from a realistic approach. When students develop ideas, wonders, and questions we call them an inquiry. Many teachers and pre-service teachers struggle to find the right starting point for inquiry in the primary grades. The best place to start inquiry is through play. “The benefits of play are recognized by the scientific community. There is now evidence that neural pathways in children’s brains are influenced by and advanced in their development through the exploration, thinking skills, problem solving, and language expression that occur during play.”  (The Kindergarten Program 2016) Play helps children to discover and make sense of the world around them. Its universal continuous and versatile in the outcomes its brings to students learning and is “not bound by culture.” (Knowing Home) During the workshop participants will have the opportunity to play, collaborate and share their wonders in a way that is meaningful to them.


Our learning intention for our work shop is to have participants be able to say ‘I can implement inquiry through play in my classroom’.


Please check out Lindsy’s site to get more information and perspective.

Lindsy Friendship word press link.




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What are Lit Circles?

If you are reading this and unaware of what a lit circle is then this post should help answer your questions.  A lit circle, or literacy circle is the equivalent to a book club.  The point of a lit circle is for students to have discussions on the reading and encourage the love for reading.  Usually, there are a variety of books in the classroom and students would be structured into small groups by book.  What this means is that students will be put into small groups where everyone is reading the same book.   Lit circles promote student independence, responsibility and ownership.  Groups have to move at a certain pace and it is different from everyone else because they will be reading different books.  Since there are many different books being read throughout the class at the same time the teacher will not be able to facilitate everything at once.  Having a variety puts the ownership back on the students to make sure they are keeping up with their group.

There are a few key components to lit circles and every class will be different and have variances.  The first and best part of literacy circles is variety.  The teacher needs to have a number of books that range in genre and level of difficulty.  This allows the students to choose a book that is best suited to them.  Students may also learn more about themselves and their classmates because they would be choosing material that they are interested in and not who is in their group.

The next important component is to have a regular and predictable schedule.  Every student reads at different paces and not all of the books are the same.  Students need a concrete schedule that they can plan for and work around.  An example would be to meet every Monday for eight weeks so the students would need to divide their book into eight parts.  The students would know exactly how much they need to read by when and they can dictate their time appropriately.

Throughout the group meetings it is important for the teacher to be a facilitator and not an instructor.  The teacher may help guide conversations and ask questions but it is up to the students in their groups to have the discussions.  The main role of the teacher would to have everything planned and organized ahead of time.  The teacher should have read the books already so approaching the groups as a fellow reader can often spark discussion.  In other words the teacher works alongside with the groups. The teacher should have scaffold how conversations should look and what is expected of the students.  The teacher may also need to model various jobs so the students understand what is expected (more on jobs below)

To keep the group work and discussions moving appropriate and smooth, it is often important for the groups to assign different roles or jobs to the members of their groups.  The teacher needs to make is clear how each of the jobs works and what is expected.  By assigning each student a different task it will make sure that all students are active and participating without the need to check in.  Usually each meet up will have the students switching roles so that students will have an opportunity at each of them or wont be stuck with one role the entire time.  Again, every class is different and no lit circle is perfect so one may have a class that is fluid in discussion and assigning roles would hinder the learning.


Discussion facilitator: The role of this student is to keep the conversation rolling and bring the group back on task when conversation wanders.  The person with this role often has a number of open ended questions about the reading to keep the group guided.

Commentator: The role of this person is to find parts of the text that are thought provoking or would generate conversation.  This person would generally bring quotes from the text that can be read aloud to begin discussion.

Illustrator: This role is to come up with some sort of image of the reading.  This can be a collage or drawing or painting or some other method that shows a depiction of the section of the story.

Connector or Reflector:  The function of the role is to make the book more personal.  This person finds passages and make real world connection to them.  Whether it be school or friend related or celebrity or media related.

SummarizerThis role is exactly what the title is, their job is to summarize the readings.  It is often the person in this role that tries to make the group see the bigger picture of the reading.

Word Master: The role of this students is to find vocabulary or important words from the reading.  Words chosen should be unusual, unknown, or stand out in some way.  It is usually required to have the page number and definition ready.

Traveler: This role is to keep track of important shifts in action or location.  This role is to give the group a description of time and place with detail.

Investigator: The role of this person is to find any background knowledge that may be useful to the group from the reading.  The information may be historical, geographical, cultural or any other information that helps connect the students to their reading.

Figurative language Learner: This students role is to find language such as similes, metaphors or hyperbole’s throughout the book.  This helps connect to the author and discussions on why they were used and if they were effective

Again, not all these roles are needed and every class is different.  You may find it easier to combine a couple roles or get rid of some all together depending on the size of your groups.  These are just general roles to help start lit circles in your classroom!

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Resources and Activities for Using Mindfulness in Your Classroom

A simple Google search will lead you to all kinds of resources and activities. Find what works for you and your students.

Here a few websites and articles that I have found to be useful:

Calmer Classrooms

Mindful Teachers

18 Amazing Mindfulness Activities for the Classroom

Outdoor Mindfulness Activities for Earth Day

Mindfulness Activities for Children and Teens

5 Mindfulness Practices to Bring to Your Classroom

3 Quick Activities for Teaching Students Mindfulness at Any Age

The Art of Chocolate Eating

7 Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids Mindfulness



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Why Lit Circles

Throughout my time at Valley View Elementary I will be given the opportunity to run lit circles with my students.  I feel that when lit circles are done properly they can actively encourage students reading.  I feel that there are many benefits to lit circles and throughout this blog I plan to help guide a people through them.

Lit circles were something that I had the opportunity to learn as a student.  Many years later I still remember the books that I read and the experience that it gave me.  I feel that reading is something that every person will deal with in their lives and therefor is a very important skill to have mastered.  There is so much more to reading than just saying the words that are on the page and I hope to open the minds of my students and allow them to begin their own reading adventures.

Often times when reading students just read because they are forced to.  There is silent reading throughout the school year and they grab a random book and read it until the time is up.  There are never any discussions about what they are reading and often do not even enjoy what they are reading.  Through lit circles I hope to allow my students the ability to try new things.  Lit circles require students to discuss what they have been reading and give their opinions and thoughts on certain aspects of the story.  An awesome part of lit circles is that there is no “best” way to do them.  Classes and learning needs are always changeling so picking appropriate books and planning an appropriate structure is very important.

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