I love literature circles. Seeing students engaged in what they are reading and passionately discussing their current novel excites me. Recommending books that I have found myself reading through the night, unable to put down, makes me feel fulfilled.
I do not love all of the paper that comes with traditional literature circles. Roles such as summarizer and word finder bring mountains of paperwork to mark and continuously keep track of. Let’s save the trees, as well as ourselves, some work while we are at it!
Reinvent literature circles
A number of years ago I attempted to reinvent literature circles by putting the questions online and using Kidblog as the forum. The basic concept remained the same. Students still choose novels at their reading level and form groups. They still meet a couple of times a week to discuss the books they are reading, and make predictions about what will happen next. However, instead of each person being assigned a specific role, they work together answering deeper level questions in class, and then they break to individually answer those questions on Kidblog.
“What connections can you make to the story so far and what types of connections are they?”
“Which two characters have changed the most in the story and how have they changed?”
“What message was the author trying to convey when writing this book? What would you ask the author if given the opportunity?”
“Choose three words from the chapters you just read that are interesting or challenging to you. Explain what they mean and use them in new sentences.”
An even deeper level
One of the most wonderful parts of using Kidblog for literature circles is that the students can interact with each other about their books online as well as in person. Students respond to the answers of classmates from lit circles, asking new questions, making additional connections, and continuing the discussion of how they feel about the story. This brings the discussion to an even deeper level. It allows students time for reflection and the opportunity to speak out when they may have stayed quiet before.
“I enjoyed answering questions online because I can type faster than I can write and I can spell check my work!”
“I liked being able to respond to other people’s opinions.”
“I found it interesting to read other people’s point of views, especially when it was different from mine. It gave me new ideas about the story I hadn’t thought of before.”
Go even further
You could go even further and have students make posts reviewing the books, giving ratings and recommendations. I find students seem more excited to type out their answers rather than filling out sheet after sheet, and, personally, I find it faster and easier to mark. Not to mention, it helps students practice their typing skills which are so crucial in this day and age.
There are still some benefits to having them do some actual handwriting or drawing about their books, of course. Making Venn diagrams comparing themselves to the characters, redesigning the book cover, having them draw a map of the setting of the story, etc. Discussing their books in person, on Kidblog, and doing some drawing and writing on paper would be a perfect combination to engage students at all levels with varying strengths.
The possibilities of using Kidblog for students to demonstrate their learning in deeper, more authentic ways seems endless.