Posted on October 15, 2017
One of the most pleasant surprises of teaching grades three and four has been the level of deep conversation occuring during our weekly literature circle discussions. The 4th graders have been amazing role models since this is a new process to the 3rd graders. The 3rd graders have embraced this new task with gusto and seriousness. Each and every student has come to the discussion prepared and eager to share.
Literature Circles have been used in classrooms for over 20 years. I first learned about them while I was a student at UH and tried them out in my first teaching assignment. Back then, the reason for using literature circles was to provide student choice, allow them a voice, and provide leadership opportunities since the students were running the discussion. Teachers were only to step in if the discusision went off-track or the points being discussed weren't relevant.
Fast forward to 2017 and while the role that literature circles provide in a school setting is still applicable, the purpose of the discussion is much deeper. Today we deliberately teach thinking skills to students. I've been doing mini-lessons on text-coding using both fiction and non-fiction. For many students, making connections and noting their thinking about non-fiction text comes easier to them due to their interest in the subject matter and all the work we do with inquiry as an elementary school.
However, I've been so impressed with the level of connections Noio 1 has been making during our Lit Groups. Students are allowed to text code in a variety of ways. While the majority prefer using colorful sticky-notes to annotate the text as they read, others choose to number their annotations in thr book and then write their notes in their reading journals.
Students have been focused and on-task during these conversations. I've been so amazed and impressed with their thoughtful commentary about the characters, the situations, and the issues happening in the novels we are reading (I am also completing the student-assigned reading nightly and completing my own annotations of the book). Here are some of my notes on these weekly conversations:
All the students reading Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing have expressed sympathy towards the main character, Peter, and often offer solutions to the ridiculous problems he is encountering with his younger brother. They are also commenting on how the parents in the story handle and run the family very differently than how things work in their own homes.
The group reading Matilda is so worried about how her parents treat her and they are making very insightful comments about how Matlida carries herself and is able to overcome her mis-treatment at home. They often remark on the absuditiy of such horrid parents and have even realized the hypocrisy the parents display towards their brilliant daughter. This group is about halfway done with their book.
The 2 groups reading Esio Trot decided to form one large group since they were listening to each other's conversations and were noticing the similarities of connections being made. Both groups have finished the book and also commented about the absurdity of the story and how the main character could have handled things differently. They also wondered why the tortoise was given away and didnt he miss his original owner.
The students reading the BFG are loving the book. There have been some challenges trying to decipher the giant's made-up language, but they can usually substitute a word and try to figure out what he's trying to say. They are noticing that the giant cares for Sophiem and she is enjoying her adventure. They are loving the colorful language and descriptive words such as "sausage-sized lips" and Sophie hiding in a "snozzcumber."
It helps that we are reading fun and interesting books for this first go-round. We will read more serious and thought-provoking books as the year progresses. I'm noticing that some students are circling unfamiliar words but aren't looking them up. This week the Rotary Club will be providing each student with a dictionary for use at home and school. As always, try to ask your children about what books they are reading. You can also ask them to explain text-coding to you and perhaps show you an example of some of their annotations in their books. We are off to a great start with Literature Circles!