The literature circle is a student centered cooperative learning reading activity for a group of four to six students at any grade level or subject area.
Each member of a circle is assigned a specific role, with specific responsibilities, which are used guide the group in a discussion of the text material they are all reading.
Literature circles provide a way for students to engage in critical thinking and reflection as they read, discuss, and respond to books. Students reshape and add onto their understanding as they construct meaning with other readers in their group.
The literature circle assignments or roles guide students to deeper understanding of what they read through structured discussion and extended written and artistic response. Literature circles provide a constructive educational opportunity for students to control their own learning as they share thoughts, concerns and their understanding of the concepts, events, and material presented in the material being read. The benefits of literature circles include:
1. Help to teach, not merely check, comprehension
2. Allow you to teach many facets of comprehension
3. Encourage students to learn from one another
4. Motivate students naturally
5. Promote discussion more effectively than whole groups (Day 2002)
Literature circles can be known by many different names including: literature studies, literacy circles, book clubs, literature discussion groups, book clubs, and cooperative book discussion groups.
According to Schlick, Noe, and Johnson (1999), a literature circle is more than a book club. Where as a book club's discussion only centers on events and plot, a literature circle format promotes discussion from varying perspectives, which provides members with a deeper understanding of the text. During the reading of the selected literature, students complete various jobs emphasizing skills such as questioning, vocabulary development, and writing (MCPS 2000).
The students in their cooperative groups have an opportunity to share material gathered from their assigned or role and have a focused discussion of the material they are reading with their other group members with the teacher acting as a guide or facilitator.
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