If you've read my blog posts, you know I love literature circles. I love the freedom and choice they provide students. I love that the learning is student driven. I love that literature circles most closely mimic the feeling of sitting around a dinner table discussing books.
This year, I wanted to maintain literature circles in my 7th grade classroom. We have been hybrid all school year, so half of my students are in the classroom and half are at home on a rotating basis. The challenge was organizing literature circles that worked for ALL cohorts of students. I wrote extensively about that here.
Implementing literature circles digitally with half of my students at home and half in the classroom also meant we would have to rethink the necessary roles in a literature circle group. Providing students with structure and clear expectations is key anytime teachers pass the reigns to student learners, so I knew I would need to reconsider the roles student leaders would need to play to make their literature circle experience successful.
Below are four roles that help students to successfully run and participate in digital literature circles. Rotate the roles each week so students have the opportunity to experience different aspects of their literature circle:
Digital literature circle meetings take place in Google Meet or Zoom breakout rooms, so each group needs a student who is designated to share their screen. Instead of throwing kids into a room and having them debate who will share their screen for five minutes, the discussion director knows that sharing their screen and leading the group through tasks is their job. This job also rotates each week, so each student has a turn taking ownership.
Taskmaster is a role we use in traditional literature circles, but it's even more vital in digital literature circles where some kids are in the classroom, some are home, or maybe all students are remote. For all tasks, I give my kids a time limit. Google Meet allows us to set a timer that displays in breakout rooms (more on that here). You could also give all groups a time to be back (for example: finish this task by 10:30 am). The task master would keep track of time and make sure the group is focused on finishing the alloted work.
3. Text Detective
In all of our literary endeavors, my biggest goal is to teach students to go back to the text for evidence. All answers and discussions must be text based. The text detective is the student in charge of ensuring that answers are based on actual events and evidence in the text, not on personal experiences or assumptions.
4. Personnel Director
A challenge to all virtual learning is engaging students. The personnel director is in charge of encouraging engagement, making sure all students are understanding and completing the work individually, AND recording notes/assignments for absent students. Obviously, this student is not held accountable for getting all group members to turn on their cameras (something I don't recommend as a requirement anyway), but think of the personnel director as a cheerleader, encourager, reminder. This student helps to make sure reluctant learners don't get lost in the mix.
Literature circles are a great classroom tool. With the right roles, students can successfully do the work of learning and teachers can step back into the role of facilitator, helping groups as needed.
Do you use literature circles in your classroom? Share your must-have student roles in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!
Do you need literature circles for your hybrid, remote, or in-person classroom? These digital literature circles work for any novels and include everything you need to implement standards-based literature circles in your 7th-10th grade ELA classroom. Made in Google Slides, these literature circles are super easy to share in Google Classroom.