6 Tips For A Successful Lit Circle In A Secondary Classroom

I love doing Lit Circles or Reading Circles in my classroom and at my school we have a well-established routine that works well across all of the grades. We don't all read the same novel, instead, we offer 5-6 titles to the class and students are grouped by the book of their choice.  I believe strongly that students be allowed to pick their book so I give a quick book talk about each book and then give students time to sample several books before picking the one they want to read.  Students usually end up with a book that they're quite happy with!  (Our librarian does a great job of creating themed book kits for each grade level.)

I also don't assign students roles - students are all given the same guidelines and requirements for each Lit Circle Meeting where they are required to come prepared with discussion questions and more!  Here are some tips and tricks I've picked up along the way for running a successful Lit Circle with secondary students when using ANY NOVEL and when student groups are reading different novels.
I allow students to pick a book from a selection of 5-6 titles that are all based on a similar theme. Some students pick titles based on what their friends pick, but most will pick based on their interests.  I have 5 copies of each title so I end up with groups of 4-5 students depending on class size.  We have spent time at my school working together to create kits of books that we are confident that students will enjoy at each grade level.  For example, our 9th Grade Kit is themed around "The World Around Us" and includes the following books:

Moon at Nine - Deborah Ellis
A Little Piece of Ground - Elizabeth Laird
The Bridge Home -  Padma Venkatraman
Inside Out & Back Again - Thanhha Lai
Now is the Time for Running - Micheal Williams

Our senior grades have had success with the following titles:

The Summer of Bitter & Sweet - Jen Ferguson
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
All My Rage - Sabaa Tahir
Everyday - David Leviathan
They Both Die at the End - Adam Silvera
Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Saenz

Be sure to offer books that represent the students in your classroom, that reflect their interests, that you've read and are familiar with, and that you think students will enjoy.

It is crucial to be organized when running the lit circles, especially if you have groups reading different novels.  My Novel Study Activities for Any Novel has everything you need to run a successful Lit Circle - student reading schedules, organizers, final projects, and chapter summary templates are just a few of the things that can be found in this package - be sure to check it out HERE.  I have run Lit Circles for many, many years using the schedule and reading logs included in this pack!
I typically give students 4 weeks to complete a novel study and therefore I must create a strict reading schedule.  Within their 4 week study, they complete activities for each Lit Circle Meeting and then a final project.  Students divide the number of pages in their book by four and come up with the number of pages they must read per week.  For the most part, however, students complete their books well before they need to because typically they really enjoy them.  I do however, monitor their reading through their Lit Circle Meetings - I make sure to stop by each meeting, engage in the discussion, and check that all work has been completed and that students are on task.  Student reading schedules are included in my Reading Journal resource!
With Lit Circles my students meet 1-2 times per week as a group to discuss the book.  Students must come to the meeting with a favorite quote, three questions for their classmates, and having read up to the designated point in the book.  Students share and discuss their quotes, answer each other's questions and generally share ideas they have about the book.  I allow students about 30 minutes for their meeting - although there have been many days when we've gone longer due to some awesome discussions.  
Students are given ample reading time in my class.  I know that many of them have after-school jobs, compete in sports, are active in clubs, and are generally quite busy.  Allowing students to complete some of their reading in class means there is less pressure on them to squeeze it in among everything else. It also emphasizes the importance I place on reading.  If the weather is nice, we'll read outside. Sometimes we'll read in the school library using their comfy chairs and quiet spaces.  Creating a quiet space for my students to read comfortably is important to me so I've added reading lamps (softer light) to a few corners of my room and some cozy chairs the kids rotate through.
Hopefully, your students have enjoyed the books they've read so much that they want to share with their classmates.  Grab a FREE book review template to use with your students... have them work on it individually and then complete one collaboratively as a group.  I have asked each book group to present their novel to the class (being sure not to give away the ending or anything too juicy!).  Often students want to read the other books, and if I'm lucky I can use the same set of books twice with each class.  Students must read a different book the second time!

For more awesome resources that will work with ANY novel please check out the links below from my fellow Coffee Shop ladies.

Planning a Novel Study That Gets Students Reading and Thinking - Room 213
Creative Book Reports - Presto Plans
Three Ways to Introduce a Class Novel- The Daring English Teacher

Reading Response Questions - Independent Reading Activities for Any Book- Nouvelle ELA

Independent Novel Study - The Classroom Sparrow

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