Lit Circles: A quest to have more meaningful, deep discussion

by Mrs. Nilsen on January 26th, 2014

Weekly ELA News 1/20 - 1/24

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” 
― Mortimer J. Adler

I've spent countless hours in my life reading.  Reading has been my entertainment, my escape, my friend.  I've learned and grown through the lives of the characters and discovered new interests and insight in the topics of non-fiction.  From climbing a tree with a falling apart copy of Tolkin to devouring "Pathways to the Common Core" for our MRA Staff professional development, I never have been able to get enough.
Even after years of reading, I'm still finding areas for growth.  As a fast reader growing up, I often skipped over hard names of places, missed little details, or didn't take the time to recognize the importance of some symbol that was right there for me to grasp.  I got by, I taught myself a lot along the way because I loved reading, but I would have really appreciated some focused instruction in how to read carefully, how to notice the author's craft and structure, and how to discuss what I was reading in meaningful ways.
The great thing about reading is that we never have to stop learning.  We can always dive deeper.  We can improve how we talk about what we read.  We can work with others to see a text through new eyes.  We can discern the author's biases.  We can compare texts with others about similar topics.  There's always room for growth.
As the 6th graders begin their Lit Circles (small groups that chose a book together and will meet twice a week to discuss the book) we keep all of those things in mind.  Below I've copied part of my "Lit Circle Discussion Guide" to help you understand the kind of discussions we're striving to have:

Student Rules
  1. Follow all classroom rules (be respectful, be cooperative, etc.)
  2. Take turns.  Each person is expected to share for every question.  Please take turns and help that happen.
  3. Reading the text is your responsibility.  The success of the discussion depends on you doing your work and participating fully.  If you didn’t read it, you don’t get to participate in the discussion. 
  4. I will be coming around during the discussions, but I will not be leading your groups.  You are responsible for creating deep, shared, meaningful discussion.
  5. Apply the discussion strategy we learned in the whole group meeting, as well as past lessons, as you discuss.  We are growing and learning how to have those deeper, more meaningful discussions about books.  We only get better if we practice.

Procedure – approximately 30 minutes

  1. Review with the group what happened in the chapters.  Go around the circle and share one thing each until you feel you have covered everything that happened in the chapter.  Go around the circle as many times as you need to review all of the key ideas.
  2. Share around the circle the part of the chapters that either:
    A. You loved
    B. You hated
    C. Surprised you
    D. You don’t understand
    Be sure to ask the person the most important question after you listen to them share: “WHY?”  “Why did you love that part?”  “Why did that surprise you?”  “What in the text made you feel that way?”  “How did you know this?”  “Can you tell us more?”
  3. Looking at the list of literary analysis terms (that we've been learning all year), each group member should pick at least one term and apply it to the chapters read.  Give every person a chance to share and be involved.  

As students begin to work through their novels we will build on the good skills we have, try to break some "bad" habits, and develop higher level comprehension strategies and shared insights.  I can't wait to get started!
Works Cited:

"Quotes About Books." (3395 Quotes). N.p., n.d. Web. 26  Jan. 2014. <>

Posted in 6th Grade ELA Updates    Tagged with Lit Circles, Novel study, CCSS


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