|Circle Up! Literature Circles for Young Readers|
I will be honest...I thought to myself "wowzer!" when I saw how all over the place my incoming first graders were in their reading levels! These are some smart little babes! I do not fib when I say that the disparity between my lowest and highest readers upon entering first grade was, wait for it, 26 reading levels!!
Now I can not complain in the slightest about this incredible gap because it is truly a testament to how they have been encouraged to have a love for reading before ever stepping foot into my classroom from their own families and past teachers (THANK YOU!) But it must be said that I am a literacy-aholic. I love to teach all things reading and writing. In fact, oftentimes I find that my guided math rotations are planned to relate to certain texts or require story problem writing and book making. However, this wide range of readers issued quite the challenge. How does a teacher best meet with that many groups of children each week? What quantifies as "fair" in terms of meeting with each group for a sufficient number and amount of time? How do you best challenge first graders in a guided reading setting with time constraints of 15-20 minutes/group MAX who are reading long chapter books?! My answer (at least for now) is Literature Circles.
Hallelujah! The idea to use this strategy hit me when I was leading a guided reading group one day and realized that I simply can not meet frequently enough and for sufficient amounts of time to engage some of my young readers in truly brain-building discussion. So I began to reflect on a memorable reading group from my elementary school days...I even surprised myself that I remembered this with such great detail! It is quite a clear memory actually, which, when I really think about it, is quite sad because how many people really remember a fourth grade literature circle down to the very book title?? Yes. I was teased for being a teacher's pet in elementary school. It's out on the table.
The book was "In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson." I distinctly remember receiving the names of fellow students that would be in my reading group for this text. Then, we would rotate our jobs as we completed assigned readings periodically throughout the week as homework. Now as a kid, I recall feeling stressed out as anything about certain jobs because they just made me think so dang much! Go figure, right?! But it was always so much fun to come back to school and be involved in discussion groups with friends!
After having my flashback to fourth grade Literature Circles I realized that it must have made an impression on me for some beyond odd reason, but I decided it was worth a shot in my own, much younger classroom. Let me tell you, it has gone SO well! I am one happy teacher to be slowly backing away from the role as discussion leader as I train my little ones to ask their very own higher level thinking questions. They each complete their job tasks based on the night's assigned reading as homework. Then, they meet with their "Book Club" as we call it, two or three times a week. As they become more and more independent, I have to meet with them less and less for traditional guided reading. I find that this pen to paper thinking, reflecting, and discussion is much better than what I could possibly hope to accomplish in reading bits and pieces of various chapter books with them sporadically throughout the week. Where is the consistency in that?! I like for my little ones to know that I will ALWAYS follow up on what they are learning and thinking about while reading...always be ready and prepared y'all!
If you made it this far along in my suuuper long entry today, I am hoping that means you are interested in trying out Literature Circles in your own classroom! If so, please consider clicking on over to my tpt store and check out the roles I am using with my own little babes right now!
Happy (almost) Friday!