Sunday, October 31, 2010

How Do We Fix Literature Circle Problems?

My connection with the instructor in the article by Clarke & Holwadel (2007) "Help! What Is Wrong With These Literature Circles and How Can We Fix Them?" is minimal. After reading of the teacher’s struggles I was reminded how very blessed I am with the group I currently teach.

There are no issues with community among my students. All are same race and socio-economic level, come from families with similar political affiliations, values and beliefs. I also have no issues with students coming or going, thus no revolving door issues. I have rarely witnessed issues of unkindness or any sort, or the use of inappropriate words. There are no feelings of hostility displayed. I do not struggle with issues related to interruptions. My class meets every Friday from 8:30 – 4:45. There are no disturbances to our schedule during this time - although I do have to cover history, and science as well as language arts during this time period. Students do not switch teachers during this day. So I don’t have to deal with the issues related to that either.

I think that two of the concerns mentioned may be a problem for me when I begin to implement my first literature circles. One is that I have been presenting material in one fashion for several years, as prescribed by the program for which I work. This new method of student led discussion will be a great change for my students, and I expect it will take a few sessions for all of us to adjust.

The other obstacle discussed in the article, which I feel I may encounter is sharing airtime. I do have one student who would try to dominate the conversation if I am not a direct part of it. I will use the poker chips idea to try to head this off. I will need to give mini lessons on listening to other’s ideas and perhaps have that student be the one who “reports in” what the team discussed to ensure that he is listening to others.

I am sure I will encounter other problems when I begin. Perhaps there will be problems that others have not faced, as my group is so atypical.

Wish me luck!


  1. After reading the article, I also thought I have been very lucky that I have not had the difficulties that Clarke and Holwadel described. Your teaching environment sounds really unique and interesting. I like that you're planning to use the poker chips idea right away to teach students how to take turns and contribute equally. Have you had any luck finding supplemental texts to include in your curriculum for lit. circles?

  2. Oops, Penny, I just saw your previous post about the texts you are using; you wrote that your "texts for this year are _Silas Marner_, _Julias Caesar_, and _Ivanhoe_". I have not read _Ivanhoe_, but I have read the other two and I will keep my eyes open for supplemental ideas. Have you found any interesting shorter texts to go along with these three yet?

    My courses are remedial adult education now, with a focus on essay writing, so my curriculum is focused on having students read examples of essays and articles that they use to respond to in essay format. I haven't yet found other texts to bring in aesthetic reading.

  3. Hey Penny, I started postig the list of books middle schoolers think are funny on my blog. I hope this helps you. What grade level are you teaching?

  4. Wow, it sounds like you really have a great learning community to work with.You said that you were new to literacy circles, so it sounds like you are doing great with them. How often do you do them? How large are they? Which books are you using?

  5. Wow, your community sounds very interesting. I think the air time issue is a common problem. I like the report in idea but the poker chips also sound interesting. Do you plan on doing lit circle observations? How are you going to figure out what books you are using?