Literature Circles Organization

Quick Background:

It has really been a struggle to meld what my heart says about reading with what I am required to do with reading.  We’ve used Reading Street for a very long time, but we have just implemented the CC version in the last two years.  The biggest change….weekly tests cover a new passage.  I do like this as it assesses the ability to apply the skills rather than regurgitate a story that we’ve spent days on….actually memorizing it.  But that’s not what readers do.

Enter Daily 5 into the mix.  One of my teaching partners and I read the books, Daily 5 and CAFÉ, and we both wanted to implement these with the Reading Street.  It’s been a struggle finding the balance.  We start strong, building stamina, using the required skills as part of D5, then at some point, it dwindles.  This was my second years of trying to implement D5, and I was more successful this year overall.  I can really see Literature Circles being the perfect compliment to D5.

Enter Literature Circles.  I’ve read about them and new I wanted to try it.  But it’s kind of like reading baby books.  You can’t really know what works until you HAVE the baby.  So, look back to my page where I created a log for my kids HERE

So, we’ve been at it for about two weeks, and I am loving it!  I am learning a lot from my students by observing their patterns, too.

This is how I’m handling it for now:
I found a great freebie from Creekside Teacher Tales that really helped me get started when I really didn’t know what I needed. 

You can read her entry HERE 
I really loved how the sweet pond animals "went" with all the frogs in my room.

First step was to provide several books to choose from.  I wasn’t really concerned if the books were in their level right now.  I wanted them to experience enjoying a book together.  I might not do this at the beginning of the year.  They wrote their name, 1st and 2nd choices on a sticky note, and put it in a bin.  After going through the lists, I was almost able to accommodate everyone’s first choices. 

Next, I stapled my groups together and announced the groups. 

Using Creekside’s group label, I displayed the group with a cute little pond animal.  Works great for my Frog room, don’t you think???  

I passed out the books and their Literature Circle booklet.  Using some of her smaller labels, I labeled some Target Dollar Spot magazine racks I had stashed away as the spot to keep their books outside of our Lit Circle time.

I met with each group, helped them divide the book into 5 sections (so everyone gets a job in the groups of 5), helped assign the first task and when to meet next.  I fully expect them to finish at different times.  I’m totally okay with that.  I don’t want to stretch the experience to a predetermined timeline.

Then, I cut them loose!  We just finished our second round of meetings (one group of 2 just read the whole book and completed the booklet by themselves.  That worked better for those speedy readers).

I haven’t let them meet on their own yet.  I meet with the groups to help them conduct their meetings.  I’m not completely letting them go, but we are establishing a routine.

1. Start with the Summarizer.  This person writes a synopsis of what has happened since the last meeting.  People can add verbally anything they think is important. 

2. Illustrator shares next.  He/she explains the moment from those pages that was chosen to illustrate and why.

3. Character Captain discusses the characters: anyone new to the story, the main character to see how they are feeling or if our opinion has changed about them.  Lost of talk here!  Kids are free to bring up another character, too.

4. Word Wizard shares their interesting or difficult words.  A few kids haven’t actually looked up their words yet, so we use the context of the story to help us figure it out together.  The kids give their ideas!  Score!

5. Director asks some planned questions and kids chime in with responses.  Director then coordinates the next set of jobs. 

So far, these are my “loves”:

1. Word Wizard is their favorite job!  They like it so much that we decided that everyone can be a Word Wizard (even if it isn’t their job for the session).  The WW will lead the talk, but they can ask if anyone else found any interesting or difficult words.  They are hunting for them like you would not believe!  Love it!

2. Character Captain is kind of hard for them at this point, and I am glad.  Glad because I have the chance to help pull out better words from them.  “Nice” is such a weak word, but they resort to it frequently.  By talking with the group and listening to each other, they are citing moments in the text to help find better words.  I can see progress!
****Bonus Love-One of my students was the Character Captain first and then moved to another job.  During the second meeting, he kept talking about the characters.  He discovered that focusing on that one aspect for a period of time really created a habit! Yeah!

I   3. I am so impressed with the questions my Directors have come up with.  Some are coming up with surface level questions-the kind you’d get on an AR Test.  Some are really using deeper questions.  They are predicting, reflecting about moments in the story, and feelings about characters.  Great dialogue from each other.  I am hearing great responses, and they spur each on more that I could!

    4. The Talk.  I love the talk.  I hear kids making connections to characters from other stories, they are making connections to things that have happened to them, etc.  I will never know this about their reading from an AR test or from the summary they write for Book Camp.  This is the missing piece to the puzzle.  AR is a great tool.  Their genre summaries are great, too.  We are doing great things, but I have felt in my gut for a long time that there was more.  It’s like closing the triangle.

Where are my goals at this point?

1. I’m still observing a lot, making it up as I go, at times.

2. Create a bookmark for the kids.  (Ahem….UPDATE…I’ve already done it, and you can get it in my freebie if you download it again.)  Some of the less organized kids lost track of their “jobs”.  A bookmark should help them keep focused as to the job at hand.

  3. I’m going to put together some “Question Sticks”.  I see
 these on TPT and talked about in blogs.  I think these will make a great closer or when the Director needs some help finding good questions.  When they HEAR good questions, I think it will spur them to CREATE their own good questions.

4. Add to my booklet.  I want more jobs!  Thinking of creating more jobs and letting the group pick the 5 or 4 jobs they want.  My teammate would really like to me to design some booklets that are oriented to the genre.  Like, if it is historical fiction, there should be a job where they describe the setting, compare with modern times, etc.  If its non-fiction, provide areas to log in facts learned, etc.

I’m super-energized!  I will definitely be putting together more things this summer.  Hoping to put together a great packet so you can Print and Go!

Assessing Using Task Cards

Wow!  Where has the time gone!  Spring truly does fly by!

I've been working on a few items for my kids this weekend.  The priced items will be 20% for the first 2 days, too.
Who's ready?!?!

Monday Made It #1
Our next Grammar unit covers abbreviations.  I'd like to kick off the week using this set as a formative assessment to see where we are.  I THINK my kids pretty much know the abbreviations, but I'm not so sure about the days of the week.  We'll see!  This Scoot game will really let me know where I need to emphasize more in the coming days.  

I plan to put these cards in a center and allow the kids to "Pick 5" to do some writing in a meaningful way.  It's not DEEP enough to just recall the abbreviations.  They need to use them.  I'd like to see them team up our review of Capital Letters at the same time!  I'll be using the Pick 5 Answer Document to do just that!  It might turn out nicely to trim the frame and display what they create.  Kids love a chance to see each other write.

Monday Made It #2
Those middle tricky facts keep hounding some of my kids!  AAH!  So, I decided to create an "I Have, Who has" game for that group of students.  The facts in this set range from the 6s -9s and multiplying them by 4s-9s.  They are so chatty this time of year, so I hope this helps them get the words out and in a purposeful way.  I made TWO versions of the cards, too.  

One set asks, "Who has 8 x 5", for example, and the person will need to be ready with the card that says "40".  

The other set is is in the reverse.  The student will ask, "Who has 40" and the person will need to be ready to know if their card has a way to make 40, like 8 x 5.

Thinking of giving this group a timer.  After passing out the cards, set the timer to see how quickly they can go through the cards.  Note the time on a post-it, pass out the cards again, and see if they can pass their time.  Really want them to be fluent before all the testing that is coming up in the next few weeks.

Monday Made It #3
I wrote about this FREEBIE earlier this week.  Click on the link to this post and snatch this one from my TPT store.

Sunday Afternoon Smile
Spent the day with my sweet daughter in Nashville yesterday.  We attended "Wicked" in the afternoon-my Christmas present my hubby then a bit of shopping at Opry Mills.  It's the first time I've gone since it was flooded a few years back.  Had some great new stores, too.  I SCORED in the Vera Bradley store, too.  Thinking about our day brings a smile to my face while being sad that she has already gone back to college.  Looking forward to her being home for the summer though!

Have a great week y'all!  We're in the home stretch!


Using Literature Circles Booklets (+Freebie!)

I've read about them, talked with teachers who love doing them (older kids though), but I haven't taken the leap to TRY them.  I've been reading The Book Whisperer, and I love so much of what she has to say.  I love the joy she gets from reading.  I was certainly the Reluctant Reader as a kid.  I was a good reader, great vocabulary, but I never FINISHED books.  Encyclopedia Brown was my best friend.  I could read half of the book and return in on "library day" feeling satisfied that I had read most of it with no urge to finish.  How SAD is that!  I truly did not enjoy reading until college.  Summers were spent at the used book store buying all of the Flowers in the Attic series and devouring them.  Not literature, for sure, but I enjoyed the escape and the freedom to read what I wanted for a change!

Since beginning the Book Whisperer, I grew to appreciate the talks that I often have with my kids when they read a book or are trying to find a book.  What was missing was the dialogue they could have with each other.  Back to that voice in the back of my head that wanted to try Lit Circles with my kids.  I have an amazing group of readers this year.  We are focusing school-wide to broaden our genre reading which has really lent itself to the talks I've had with my kids.

I knew before we tried Lit Circles, I had to choose a read-aloud that was more than funny or entertaining.  I went with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane.  Wow.....
What a great read!  I sat at my desk reading aloud with tears coming down my face, my voice quivering, and a silent classroom hanging on every word.  We had wonderful class talks about Edward.  Great book to see a character change.  I highly recommend and will read this book much earlier in the year next year!

After these book talks, I am ready to cut them loose to talk with each other.  I don't know how this will go.  I'm making it up as I go along.  We'll learn this together, but I have to try it out before I can improve it!  Promise to keep you posted on our progress...hopefully!

I teetered back and forth on how I wanted them to document their roles and decided on personal logbooks.  That way, they have their own keepsake of their journey.  I'm putting my attempt on TPT as a Freebie.  I'd love for you to try it out and give me your feedback!  I'd love it if you would Pretty Please follow my TPT store in return.  I'd love to share future updates to the packet with you, and let you know when I make other items that might work for you!

Here is the simple way I decided to put these together without the kids pulling out their scissors.

Step One:
Made 12 sets that were collated on the copier

Step Two:
Stapled the upper edge for each booklet

Step Three:
Trimmed the outer sides

Step Four:
Cut the two booklets along the center line

Step Five:

Added a few extra pages for the Summarizer in case they need more than one page.  I put that page in the back of the booklet....just in case.

None of these on the floor!  Yeah!

Click on the image below to grab your OWN copy!  Let me know if you LOVE it!