Digital Literature Circles

Digital Lit Circles
I have been so excited about how well the Digital Literature Circles went in my classroom, that I had to share them here with you!  It turned out better than I could have ever anticipated.  

For anyone who's new to lit circles, they are a collaborative and student-centered way to get students involved in the book they are reading.  Students are put into groups, based on the book they have been assigned or have chosen (whichever way you choose to do it).  Then, each student is given a job for the week. The ones I use are:  Discussion Director, Vocab Finder, Character Catcher, Main Idea Maniac, and Figurative Language Finder (if you happen to have 5 to a group).  

Doing these activities digitally is a great way to incorporate 21st century learning!  Every aspect takes place online through Google Classroom or whatever learning management program you use, except for the reading (unless they have the books on their own devices).   That also means no paper!  Everything from the tracking of the page numbers and jobs, grading of the activities, etc. is done virtually!  Now that Google Classroom has the new feature that allows you to assign work to individual students, groups, etc. it makes it EXTREMELY easy to assign digital lit. circle groups!  I LOVE THIS!!!  It makes differentiation a breeze!!!

This is how the lit circles are ran in my classroom:

When putting my students into groups, I  make sure that each group has 4, but no more than 5 members.  On the first day, I tell my students how many days they will have to read the book, and try to allow for approximately 20 minutes of literacy circle work each day.  Of course, this doesn’t always work out, so I also let them know that if our schedule changes (we don’t have class due to testing, school event, etc.) that I will add a day to the agreed upon days.  For example, if on Jan. 1st, I tell them they have until Jan. 31st to complete the book, that gives them approx. 20 class periods to complete the book.  If our schedule is interrupted and they lose a day for whatever reason, I add the day back and allow them to have until Feb. 1st to complete the book. 

On day 1, they are to see how many pages are in their novel, and then divide that number by the number of days they are given to complete the book.  This tells them how many pages should be read each day.  

At my school, I usually only have just enough books for each class to use, so this means they have to do all the reading at school and can’t take books however, if a student doesn’t get finished w/ the reading that day in class, they can come back to me at the end of the day and check a book out, as long as they bring it back first thing the following morning.  I also remind them that they may also want to try and check it out from the library or download on their personal device if they have one (just in case their aren’t enough books available for them to check one out that day).

One thing I have learned in doing these for several years, is that all directions HAVE to be EXTREMELY clear.  Students have to know exactly what it is that they’re expected to do.  Before we actually get started, I go over each “job” that they will have to complete at some point while reading the assigned book.  For the first week, I assign the jobs, mainly because I want to be the one to choose the discussion director--who serves as group leader-- for the first week.  Then I typically allow the students to decide who will do what job in the following weeks.

It’s also very important that they complete the Tracking Sheet (slide 1), because this tells me who is doing what, what pages they’re supposed to read, etc.  Then, when I go in to check their work, this allows me to see who was supposed to complete the discussion director, vocab finder, etc. jobs.

Since students are completing their jobs digitally, on the first day, I have the discussion director for each group pull up the file, which I have posted in Google Classroom., but you can share the link via whatever digital program you use..  Then I instruct the discussion director to share the document with each group member by clicking the “share” button, and then enter each group members’ email.  This way they are all collaborating/working on the same file.  Next, I instruct the discussion director to also make at least 4 duplicates of each slide.  This is so each person can have a copy of each slide when it is their turn to perform the job.  This is also why it’s EXTREMELY important for the group to accurately complete the Tracking Sheet each week, because again, this shows me who is completing each job that week, when I go in to check their work (see p. 17 for example).

Weekly Lit. Circle Meeting

Each week, usually Friday, the groups have their weekly meeting.  This is where each group member shares the information they were required to find for their assigned job.  This is also where it’s very important for students to follow directions and stay on task.  Otherwise, these meetings tend to not go as planned.  With this in mind—in addition to seeing what other experienced teachers do– I have my students follow a script that I have created and included on pages 18-19.  The script is also included for students in the slides on p. 2-3.   The script is used by the Discussion Director, who also serves as the group leader for that week.    At the end of the meeting, I make sure that each group has determined who is doing each job for the next week, and I also make sure everyone is aware of what pages they are to read.  I require that they document all of this on the tracking sheet before the meeting is over.

These activities also cover several of the Common Core Standards:
Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone
Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

Check my Digital Lit. Circles out here to use these digital activities with your students!  If you would like to see how to assign activities in Google Classroom, check out this blog post.

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