During the summer, I visit my school library once a week to water plants. One June day as I strolled through the library, I noticed how many “sets” of books were sitting on the YABA and fiction shelves.
Each year I order multiple copies of the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award (SCYABA) nominees and often recommend them (as well as non-nominee titles) to our book club officers for consideration.
Once the book club officers and sponsors select a title for discussion, I order more copies to ensure all book club members will have the opportunity to read it before our meeting. These two factors (book club-selected title and SCYABA nominee) mean we have five or more copies of certain titles.
Several discussions over the last year with my book club co-sponsor have focused on the lack of enough class sets of YA titles for her English II classes to read and discuss.
Light bulb moment: why not examine the titles with multiple copies in the library to determine if they contained common themes? When I did, I realized that many were either based on abuse or dystopia. Why not suggest using these titles in classroom literature circles?
I emailed Barbara, my book club co-sponsor, with the idea and she loved it.
So the year’s first collaborative effort was born.
I admit that in order to ensure we could offer each of her two classes six titles from which to choose, I had to stretch each theme just a bit. Listed below are the titles we are using.
Abuse: The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin, What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Things Change by Patrick Jones, Hate List by Jennifer Brown, and Shattering Glass by Gail Giles
Dystopia: Unwind by Neal Shusterman, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, Epitaph Road by David Patneaude, and Epic by Conor Kostick
On the first day of the collaboration, I would visit the class and booktalk each of the titles being offered as a selection for them. Students would complete the Title Choice Sheet I provided and Barbara and I would each take one class’s set of Title Choice Sheets and record the students’ first, second, and third choices. I would use those sheets as I created each class’s literature circles.
After I left the classroom on the first day, Barbara would explain literature circles to the students and assign “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst. This piece would be the basis for lit circle practice.
On the second day, students would practice two things:
- preparing for a lit circle discussion using one of the roles (Discussion Director, Illustrator, Summarizer, Fortune Teller, or Literary Luminary)
- participating in a lit circle
Barbara would assign a role to each row in her class. The rows would circle up and, using the role handout, decide what their role would bring to a lit circle discussion. Barbara and I would listen to each group as they planned. If we felt it was needed, we would provide direction.
After twenty minutes, Barbara would disband the role groups and have them regroup in lit circles composed of students representing the five roles for which they had just prepared. Barbara and I would would visit each lit circle and provide guidance as needed.
On the third day, I would announce the literature circles and distribute the books I had already checked out to each student. When I left class, Barbara would again discuss the purpose and workings of a literature circle and allow each lit circle to meet to plan how they would progress (the roles each would assume and the pages that would be read for each of the circle’s five meetings).
Ready, Set, Go!
We put our plan into motion on Aug. 16th (the first week of the 2011-2012 school year). The students were excited about having a choice in their first class read and did exceptionally well on the second day as they took part in the small group discussions. I looked forward to checking in on their progress and asking for their feedback on this venture.
Students made class presentations on Friday, Sept. 2nd. Each group sat in front of the class and shared a summary of their book, real life lessons they had gleaned from it, and then explained the posters that each individual had made on their book. (The requirements for the poster included three symbols, five quotations, and three things that represented a character.)
I was able to join both classes on Friday and listen to several presentations. Impressive! But I didn’t have to wait until that day to know that our lit circles were being successful: just a week after the students received their book, several boys came to the library to check out the sequel to their novel. They had finished well in advance of what we had planned and wanted to know what happened next in the story.
Mrs. DeLac is the co-sponsor of our book club and had shared with her classes the novels we would be reading for our September meeting. One young lady read Angry Management by Chris Crutcher and asked if she could present that novel to the class rather than create a poster on her lit circle novel. She still assisted her lit circle group with their presentation, but she was so blown away by Crutcher’s book that she wanted to share it with others. Mrs. DeLac’s flexibility in allowing this student to share another book demonstrated her desire to encourage her students to read for pleasure and talk with others about what they read.
Passion, enthusiasm, and the desire to read for pleasure. A winning combination for our first attempt with Literature Circles!
Image used through a Creative Commons License: