Science/Inquiry Literature Circles
Don't you just love sitting down with
friends to discuss the latest bestseller or even better, introducing them to an
old favorite? There's a certain excitement to sharing what you read, letting
others know how you are impacted by a particular text and finding out if they
had the same reaction to it. There is pleasure to be found in learning about new
authors and trying a new genre on for size. The excitement and pleasure of book
discovery and the sharing of response is an experience that can be passed along
to your students by making literature circles a regular routine in your
What are Literature Circles?
Literature circles tend to look and run a bit differently from classroom to
classroom. In spite of the variations that you might find, there are some
similarities, or core parts, to literature circles.
- Literature circles generally consist of small groups of students, usually 4-6
students per group.
- Even though literature circles are somewhat open-ended, there is teacher
direction and established rules and expectations.
- The success of a literature circle depends on each student reading the
assigned text, preparing notes for the meeting, completing their assignments, if
any, and taking an informed, active part in the discussion.
- Although teachers monitor the groups, they usually do so as facilitators and
observers rather than active participants.
- In any one classroom, the groups can be reading the same book for different
purposes or reading different books for the same purpose.
- Although teachers may book talk books or give lists of suggested reads,
students have a say in the books read in the groups.
- Many teachers assign particular roles to members of the groups. These roles
usually change on a weekly basis so that students' assigned roles and
responsibilities change from week to week.
- Literature circles generally have an assigned meeting day and/or time.
What do Literature Circles Bring to the Classroom?
The benefits to incorporating literature circles into the classrooms are many
and varied. We offer just a few reasons why you might consider using these
discussion forums in your classroom.
- Research and reports purport that students who participate in literature
circles are more motivated to read and more excited to read.
- Students read and write for particular purposes.
- The students use prior knowledge and reading experiences, as well as their
own life experiences, to engage in critical analysis and reflective practices.
- Students are empowered. They have choice and voice.
- Students read and respond to texts in both oral and written formats as part
of distinct literary communities.
- Students gain practice in using textual support to emphasize their opinions,
observations, questions and ideas about the book being read.
- Having individual groups share their experience with the rest of the class
introduces students to a wider range of books, much in the same way that book
talks or reading recommendations do.
- The format and expectations of literature circles help students to make sense
of what they are reading.
- In sharing their opinions about a particular text students experience how
individuals might interpret and react differently to the same piece of writing.
- In literature circles students apply the skills they are learning about
language and the written word.
Using Literature Circles for Science
Another advantage you gain by using literature circles with your students is
the ease with which they might be used in subject areas other than language
arts, making them particularly good choices for integrated curricular practice.
Consider how you might use literature circles in your science classroom and
science in your language arts classroom.
- Rather than focusing on fiction, turn to nonfiction, in particular science
nonfiction, for book choices.
- Put together a text set for your current science unit of study. Have students
select from this list of books so that while they are reading and discussing the
book they also are reading and discussing science subject content.
- If the focus is on a particular type of book select science-related books
that fit your language arts focus. Studying biography? Use books about
scientists and their work. Focusing on poetry? Select science-related poetry
- Use literature circles to discuss and compare the various ways that science
information on the same topic is presented differently from book to book.
- Have students examine the various choices that authors make by having each
group read a different book about the same science notable. Afterwards, have the
groups share and compare what they learned about the person from the books that
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9912078. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.