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Must Read When Setting up Literature Circles in Classrooms

Mini Lessons for Literature CirclesHands-down this book is a perfect starting point if you are interested in doing literature circles or book clubs in your classrooms. Daniels and Steineke have written numerous books on this process so they would be the go- to in the field when learning how to start this necessary activity with your students. I say necessary because there are too many classrooms that teachers are forced to teach tests and skills and fail to teach the love of lifelong reading. The first chapter of the book impresses upon readers the idea that our ultimate goal should be that. Literature circles allows students to be involved and committed namely because they are allowed to have choice and voice.

I like how the book not only focuses on the Why but also How. Some of the mini-lessons discussed are tried and tested in ELA classrooms such as book passes and book talks but the book gives you how to do it correctly and why it is important to be done.

Book Tasting
Book Tasting with my 6th graders

The chapters are divided into How to get started, How to get your students to respond and discuss in groups but the chapters that really resonated with me were the chapters on examining author’s craft and assessment and accountability. This is really the area that I wanted to focus in on for next school year. I have started book clubs in my classroom; I've done the book passes and the book tastings; I've done the book talks but I really wanted to ramp up the discussions that my students have and hold them accountable without using the typical end of chapter quizzes or novel book report and this book gives great suggestions and methods to hold the students accountable and assess them while dealing with the requirements of text such as examining how the authors get readers to enjoy their well-written books. 

Takeaways

1. Daniels and Steineke KEEPS IT REAL! They know what it is like in the classrooms of today. They bring up scenarios that have happened to them to let teachers know they feel your pain. One of the best parts of each chapter is the What Can Go Wrong section which addresses issues that arise and ways to combat them.

2. The writers address one of the big issues teachers have when it comes to literature circles and book clubs: Giving students our own discussion questions to lead their discussions rather than having them generate their own. As Kylene Beers discusses in her book When Kids Can't Read, we have students that are dependent on us for their learning and our goal is the break them of that dependency so why force our own discussion questions on them? Mini-Lessons for Literature Circles suggests many ways to get our students asking the write questions and discussing on their own.

3. What I also enjoyed about this book is the authors constant reminder of the gradual release of responsibility model. In chapter 3 when discussing the tools for thoughtful responses the structure of the many lessons reinforces how we as teachers should guide or students from dependence to independence using tools that we provide. If you are not familiar with the GRRM model, check out Better Learning through Structured Teaching, a wonderful resource from Fisher and Frey. There is a lot of resources out there that talks about its importance so googling the name can also suffice if your Amazon cart is on the heavy side like mine. 

4. The book also reminds us to involve our students in the learning process by reflecting on the tools that we use. After discussing a text and how they used the tools with the text, reflecting upon how they like that tool or strategy you taught them (sticky notes, bookmarks, response journals, etc.). Remember that every system a reader has in place is a system that they have a developed as their own and we have to allow our students to own the strategies that they use and choose what works for them but for us to grow as a practitioner lending an ear to what students have to say is a key.

Wrap- Up



It is very obvious that these authors spend time not only teaching but going in and supporting teachers because they know the truth that can happen in some classrooms every day or every other day or every now and then. This comes across in their book which is part of the reason I highly recommend MiniLessons for Literature Circles as part of your PD Resources. 

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