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.
Summarizer: This 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!