Literature Circles

An Effective Approach to High School English Language Learning

The development of reading skills continues to be a focus at TIS, especially for our ELLs. We recognize the necessity of strong literacy skills in the academic success of our students. Literature circles and guided reading are a common approach used in elementary classrooms, but are now being taught in progressively more middle and high school classes at TIS. They are an excellent way to differentiate instruction and enable students to be active in the learning process.

Although there are many different approaches for both guided reading and literature circles, at their core they allow students to practice and develop the skills and strategies of good readers.

In this particular ELL10 class, the students are grouped by reading level and are given the opportunity to collectively choose a book, provided the book is within each members’ zone of proximal development, according to our reading assessments.

Upon selecting a novel, the students are then required to not only read, but to interact with the text at a deeper level than they typically would by performing numerous responsibilities. These tasks can vary, but include roles such as discussion director, summarizer, connection maker, illustrator, predictor and vocabulary builder. The students assign each other a role and rotate through the tasks. At the beginning of each session, the students share these roles with each other. For example, the discussion director’s task is to lead the reading and ask probing and exploratory questions while doing so. The vocabulary builder identifies unknown or interesting words. The summarizer provides a review of the story, while the connector makes connections between their reading and the world around them. The illustrator provides an illustration and the predictor predicts what is to come in the story.

Both academic and anecdotal research supports the benefits of this type of differentiated learning. Students are able to read and comprehend material at a deeper level than they normally would. In particular, this gives our ELL students a contextually rich and common source of information so that they can have authentic conversations and relevant background knowledge for writing activities.

Tom Rabbit, English Language Learning Coordinator

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“A literature circle is a students’ equivalent in the classroom of an adult book club. The aim is to encourage student-choice and a love of reading in young people.”DaLie, 2001