I wasn’t quite sure how to title this, swinging back and forth from “Passionate Conversations” and “Growing Readers”, both of which I believe Literature Circles to be. I’ve been working with a fabulous teacher on engaging her class with “Lit Circles“. Oh not the process with all the jobs/roles (which I’ve done many times before), but the approach outlined by Faye Brownlie in Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses. Our goal was to encourage enthusiasm for reading and create environments for deep conversation (in other words, give ‘choice and voice’). We chose to extend our notion of ‘environment’ to include not only the physical classroom, but also online using our class blogs to extend the walls of conversation. In doing so, we believed that we could complement the innate need to find community, purpose and audience. Thankfully, I work with a great team who came along to help and document our journey. We hope to share both the instructional content as well as the conversations and some video clips along the way.
How did we start? Our DLRC (District Learning Resource Centre) has a wide range of book bins just meant for lit circle conversations. Choosing the bin was easy (each bin is themed with 5 copies of 6 different novels of varying degrees of readability). A book talk (Lesson 1) was given that was no more than 2 minutes each, served as hooks – we dangled intrigue, angst, curiosity, mystery and downright fun. Students were given time to roam the room to check the books out “up close”. Book groups were organized by student choice and availability of texts. We also promised them that if they did not receive their first choice, that throughout the weeks they would have free reign on reading all the books if they wanted. We waited until the next day just to generate the buzz and then handed the books out. Lesson 2 was simply allowing them the entire period of just solid reading. The teacher wasn’t too sure about this as previous experience told her that there was no way that we could extend this to 45 minutes. You could have heard a pin drop the entire time as students found their comfy spots and dug into their texts. Matching student lives to books that “leap off shelves” was the key.
If you’re thinking of starting the journey yourself, click here for our instructions. And we’re very interested in hearing your story here.
(…Part 2 – The Circle Morphs)