Literature Circles 1
Running Head: Literature Circles
Slippery Rock University
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Learning to read is a major focus of most first grade classrooms. First grade
classrooms are also a place of varying ages and skills. In this study, the first grade
classroom of twenty students had twelve boys and eight girls. There are no low, middle,
and high levels. Most of these students are below level or on level. Thirteen of the
twenty students need to be pulled outside the classroom for additional support. This
support consists of reading, speech, instructional, and occupational therapy. While this
class has below level students overall, there is a small percentage that still need the
basics. Since the majority of the class is below expected level there is a lot of repetition
on skills. The classroom teacher’s attention is focused on the thirteen below level
students and the seven other students are not getting enough support at their level. These
other seven students who are on level still need the basics, but needed to be
supplemented. These students were becoming off task due to boredom from the
repetitiveness that was needed for the majority of the class. The seven students needed
the curriculum to be delivered to them in a different way. To push these seven students
to a higher level of thinking a literature circle was formed.
Review of Literature
Most literature says that literature circle is a big name for a simple idea. Katherine L.
Noe says that, “they provide the opportunity for small groups of students to come
together and talk about their personal responses to a book and to reflect upon these
various responses. An emphasis is put on extensive reading and meaning making” (Noe
1999). Literature circles are an extra component of a classroom’s reading program. The
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literature states that all classrooms need to have a balance of types of reading instruction,
such as read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading. Noe also
states, “The predominant goal as a teacher should be to give students both the skills and
the motivation to want to continue reading on their own” (Noe 1999). She believes, “The
power of literature circles at the primary level centers on creating a community of
readers, since all children can respond to and enjoy books with supportive instruction”
In Children's Literature and Reading Instruction: Past, Present, and Future it is said,
“Literature circles are reader response centered, part of a balanced literacy program,
groups formed by book choice, structured for students independence, responsibility, and
ownership” (Martinez, 2000).
Literature circles have a perfect fit into any classroom. They are a part of the “best
practice” classroom. In Methods that Matter, Daniels and Bizar state, “literature circles
fit into: integrative units, small group activities, representing – to – learn (journals and
logs), classroom workshop, authentic experiences, reflective assessment, and reading
workshop” (Daniels, 1998). Noe agrees that literature circles are an essential part of the
classroom because they “are one way for students to apply what they are learning about
reading and writing” (Noe, 2004).
The David Booth states that the teacher can assess learning by watching the students and
observing their “discussion etiquette” (Booth 98).
Overall, most literature agrees that literature circles have a great place in today’s
classrooms. Most researchers say that they can bring together the reading and writing of
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a classroom but also give students the opportunity to discuss what they are reading and
learning with their peers.
Action Research Design
To monitor progress a pre-test was given to the seven students. This pre-test consisted of
a DOLCHE word test, answering story element and character trait questions on a cold
book. A “cold book” means one they haven’t read or seen before. This book was a
leveled book with words they could read or sound out.
The students on average scored 94 percent on the DOLCHE list, 91 percent on the story
element questions, and only 29 percent on the character trait questions.
Test: PRE-TEST PERCENT POST-TEST PERCENT
DOLCHE LIST 93.7
STORY ELEMENTS 91.4
CHARACTER TRAITS 28.6
The literature circle was designed the following way:
Day 1 (Friday): This day was set aside for choosing new books. After the new books
were chosen the students were to look at the cover and take a picture walk through the
book. The students then made predictions of what was going to happen on post-it notes.
Fridays were also the day of book report presentations. These book reports were simple
with just a few things included in them. Students were to write the title of the book, the
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author, the illustrator, and then either to sequence the book, or tell their favorite part of
Day 2 (Monday): The students first read the book aloud. The post-it notes were then
discussed on each page. The students were to place any post-it words in their glossary.
The students then discussed their predictions and what actually happened in the story.
Day 3 (Tuesday): The students filled out a story map about the story. Discussions took
place on the plot, setting, problem, solution, and conclusion. The students wrote a
sentence or two about their favorite part of the book. If time permitted they were allowed
to illustrate their sentences.
Day 4 (Wednesday): Activity Day. The students completed an activity that was pre-
chosen by the teacher and that dealt with the story. For example while reviewing “The
Very Grouchy Ladybug” by Eric Carle they completed a ladybug book that included
pages on the character traits of the grouchy ladybug and the friendly ladybug.
Day 5 (Thursday): The students filled out a character map on the main character of the
story. Sequencing of the story is also discussed.
The student’s book, post-it notes, and papers are all kept in an orange folder that they
were to take home every night. On Fridays the new book was sent home so that the
students could read it with their families over the weekend. The ideal situation would
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have been that the students read it at least two times over the weekend, but that was not
always the case. The concept of character traits was reviewed briefly each day, because
that area was the one in which the students’ scores were the lowest.
At the conclusion of three weeks the pre-test was given again as a post-test. A new cold
book was used.
Test: PRE-TEST PERCENT POST-TEST PERCENT
DOLCHE LIST 93.7 94.6
STORY ELEMENTS 91.4 94.3
CHARACTER TRAITS 28.6 89.3
The post-test scores were about the same in the DOLCHE list at 95 percent. The story
elements part scored about the same at 94 percent. The character traits part held a
significant difference in results with the post-test scores at 89 percent. The students were
able to describe what a character trait was and list certain character traits about the main
character of the story.
Implication For Other Elementary Teachers
The results of the posttest show that the students did have quite an improvement in the
area of character traits. This concept could be focused on because of the small group
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construction and that there was no unnecessary repetition of skills these students were
This type of activity also helped the students become more confident in themselves and
their reading. It was evident which students were reading the book at home with their
families, because they were more fluent in class. This seems to show teachers that the
more a book is practiced the better the students can read it.
This activity also shows that literature circles give students an enjoyment in reading.
They love to have the freedom of choice and can choose books that interest them
therefore helping to get them to read more.
Teachers can use this activity in their classroom with the help of parent volunteers. The
parent volunteers can administer the literature circle group so that the teacher can still
give the rest of the class his/her full attention or split the rest of the class into literature
circles and oversee them.
Literature circles do not have to be used to enrich students, but also with other levels of
students to reinforce the curriculum.
Pretest and posttest results:
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Booth, D. (1998). Guiding the reading process : techniques and strategies for successful
instruction in k-8 classrooms. Markham, ON: Pembroke Publishers.
Daniels, H., & Bizar, M. (1998). Methods that matter: six structures for best practice
classrooms. Boston: Stenhouse Publishers.
Martinez, M.G., & McGee, L.M. (2000). Children's Literature and Reading Instruction:
Past, Present, and Future. Reading Research Quarterly. 35(1), 154–169.
Noe, K. (1999). Literature circles and response. Norwood, MA: Christopher – Gordon