Executive Recorder and Editor of the Cardinal
Spanish Teacher, St. Gabriel Consolidated School, Cincinnati, Ohio
As a K-8 Spanish teacher whose classes span several different grades, I am always on the lookout for materials that would appeal to several age groups. When a local bookstore had a variety of children’s books on clearance, I thought I found the materials I needed. And so, I bought quite a bit taking advantage of a sale. However, after a while, reality set in. I had the books, but what would be the best way to use them? Eventually, I decided to try literature circles which I had used previously for my older students. Literature circles is not a new concept. Book clubs have been using this technique for a long time. Below is a definition of literature circles.
“According to Harvey Daniels, author of the book Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in the Student-Centered Classroom (Stenhouse Publishers, 1994), literature circles are small, temporary discussion groups of students who have chosen to read the same work of literature. Each member agrees to take specific responsibilities during discussion sessions. The circles meet regularly, and the discussion roles change at each meeting. When the circle finishes a book, the members decide on a way to showcase their literary work for the rest of the class.” This definition of literature circles can be found at http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr259.shtml.
In my classroom, I divide the class into groups of four. Groups smaller than four will result in the doubling up of roles. My responsibility is to find suitable material for the students and to monitor the groups and the discussion. The student roles (that I assign) are as follows:
- Vocabulary – this student will identify and define words essential to the story, or a word previously unknown. If students don’t know at least 90-95% of the words in the text, then I would view the story as too challenging and probably would not use it.
- Questions – this student would identify questions related to story. In my class, the questions can be either basic comprehension or opinion questions on something specific. My goal is for students to stay in the target language, and I have found that for the most part, questions are a mixture.
- Summary – this student summarizes the story.
- Editorial – this student provides an overall opinion.
Yes, I said that I usually have groups of four. According to research, there’s usually a director or guide to the discussion. I generally have students alternate this role among themselves. However, my literature circle activity is for a short children’s book and for a longer book that would take more time, in the future, I may add this role.
In conclusion, I have found that although my use of literature circles may not follow the exact definition as stated above, the roles that I have chosen for my students to follow work well in my classes. Referring to the quoted definition in conclusion, this is how I use literacy circles for students. Although I don’t assess students by using a rubric or any other formal method of assessment, I find that students collaborate, use the target language and that this activity is not teacher-centered. Since I do not see my students each day, by varying the student roles regularly – usually every 4th class – I find that I am able to reach my goal of every student reading every book available. And I find that my students enjoy not only the activities but also the different types of reading materials they are exposed to during class.