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					Literature Circles: Motivating Junior High School Students to Read

                          Shannon Curry

                  California Lutheran University




               A Capstone Action Research Project

         In Partial Fulfillment of the requirements for the

                   Master of Education Degree

                            May 2006
                                            ABSTRACT

   Eighth grade students from a small school in California participated in this study to determine

students‘ feelings about literature circles. The purpose of this study was to collect student

feedback about literature circles to determine whether literature circles motivated students to

read or improved students‘ reading comprehension. Students completed questionnaires and

interviews to explain their feelings about the process and effects of literature circles. Data

revealed that literature circles motivated some students to read and helped some students to

better understand books they read in class, depending on students‘ personal preferences such as

group size or reading interests and students‘ ability or effort to complete teacher assigned tasks.




                                                  ii
                                                         Table of Contents
ABSTRACT .................................................................................................................................... ii
CHAPTER ONE ............................................................................................................................. 1
 Statement of the Problem ............................................................................................................ 1
 Professional Significance ............................................................................................................ 2
 Overview of Methodology .......................................................................................................... 3
 Connection to Teacher Performance Expectations ..................................................................... 4
 Summary ..................................................................................................................................... 4
CHAPTER TWO ............................................................................................................................ 6
 Literature Review........................................................................................................................ 6
   What are Literature Circles? ................................................................................................... 7
   History................................................................................................................................... 10
   Benefits of Literature Circles ................................................................................................ 11
   Benefits for Students with Special Needs ............................................................................. 13
   Challenges ............................................................................................................................. 14
 Summary ................................................................................................................................... 15
 Research Question .................................................................................................................... 16
CHAPTER THREE ...................................................................................................................... 17
 Demographics ........................................................................................................................... 17
 Needs Assessment ..................................................................................................................... 20
 Goals ......................................................................................................................................... 21
 Administrative Concerns .......................................................................................................... 21
 Research Design........................................................................................................................ 22
   Approach ............................................................................................................................... 22
   Methods................................................................................................................................. 22
   Data Collection ..................................................................................................................... 24
   Analysis................................................................................................................................. 25
   Pilot Study............................................................................................................................. 25
 Summary ................................................................................................................................... 27
CHAPTER FOUR ......................................................................................................................... 28
 Questionnaire Results ............................................................................................................... 28
   Literature Circles and Student Motivation ............................................................................ 29
   Literature Circles and Reading Comprehension ................................................................... 33
   Literature Circles and Student Motivation ............................................................................ 35
   Literature Circles and Reading Comprehension ................................................................... 36
   Student Suggestions .............................................................................................................. 36
 Summary ................................................................................................................................... 37
CHAPTER FIVE .......................................................................................................................... 38
 Methodology ............................................................................................................................. 38
   Data Collection ..................................................................................................................... 38
   Data Analysis ........................................................................................................................ 41
 Results ....................................................................................................................................... 42
 Relationship to Previous Research............................................................................................ 46
 Recommendations ..................................................................................................................... 47
 Reflections ................................................................................................................................ 48
 Suggestions ............................................................................................................................... 49

                                                                       iii
  Conclusion ................................................................................................................................ 50
CHAPTER 6 ................................................................................................................................. 52
  Implementation ......................................................................................................................... 52
    Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation ...................................................................................... 52
  Closure ...................................................................................................................................... 61
    Best Action Research Project................................................................................................ 61
    Best Chocolate Chip Cookies ............................................................................................... 62
References ..................................................................................................................................... 63
Appendices .................................................................................................................................... 67
  Appendix A ............................................................................................................................... 68
  Appendix B ............................................................................................................................... 69
  Appendix C ............................................................................................................................... 70
  Appendix D ............................................................................................................................... 72
  Appendix E ............................................................................................................................... 73
  Appendix F................................................................................................................................ 83
  Appendix G ............................................................................................................................... 84
  Appendix H ............................................................................................................................... 95
  Appendix I ................................................................................................................................ 99
  Appendix J .............................................................................................................................. 100
  Appendix K ............................................................................................................................. 101




                                                                        iv
                                                                                                1

                                                CHAPTER ONE

                   Literature Circles: Motivating Junior High School Students to Read

     In 1998, Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding found that students‘ reading scores were directly

related to the amount of time students spent reading independently. Students who scored in the

98th percentile on standardized reading achievement tests read an average of 65 minutes per day

independently, compared to students in the 50th percentile who read less than five minutes per

day outside of the classroom. Students who read less each day scored much lower on these tests

than well-read students.

      How can teachers motivate students to do more independent reading and improve their overall

reading comprehension? Literature circles may be the answer. Across the nation teachers have

implemented literature discussion groups, known as literature circles or book clubs, to improve

student enthusiasm to read and aid students‘ comprehension of challenging literature. Research

on literature circles over the past decade has shown that students were more motivated to read

when they participated in literature circles, but more research was needed to determine whether

literature circles could be successful in classrooms like those at Brighton School1.



                                           Statement of the Problem

      Students enrolled in eighth grade language arts classes at Brighton School demonstrated

varied reading levels; some students read well below grade-level standards. The course textbook

contained short stories only appropriate for students who read at an eighth-grade level, and

language arts teachers at Brighton School expressed the difficulty and/or inability to improve all

students reading skills using only one textbook designed for students who read at grade level.


1
    A pseudonym was used to protect the anonymity of the school.
                                                                                                2
Teachers also had difficulty selecting stories from the literature textbook that engaged all

students. Teachers expressed a need to try a different reading comprehension strategy that might

be effective and engaging to students of varied reading levels and interests.

   Students also lacked motivation to read books in and out of the classroom setting. Some

students borrowed books from the school library only to return the books two weeks later

without having read a single page. Other students admitted choosing books to read based on how

―short‖ or ―easy‖ they perceived the books to be. Teachers hoped to find a reading

comprehension strategy that encouraged students to read appropriately challenging literature. In

an effort to better understand what motivates eighth graders at Brighton to read, language arts

teachers expressed a desire to incorporate more student feedback in evaluating the effectiveness

of reading comprehension strategies.

   The purpose of this research was to study how eighth grade language arts students perceived

literature circles as a tool to improve students‘ reading comprehension. Student data provided

teachers with insight into students‘ feelings about reading. Data also revealed what motivated

students to read and participate in literature circles, and how literature circles scaffolded

students‘ comprehension of challenging text.



                                      Professional Significance

   Previous research studies reported that literature circles improved students‘ motivation to read

and students‘ reading comprehension skills (Peralta-Nash & Dutch, 2000; Lin, 2004). Only one

teacher at Brighton School had used literature circles previously, so a study at Brighton School

was necessary to research whether literature circles were motivating and engaging for Brighton

students. This research contributed to knowledge and practice by providing Brighton School
                                                                                              3
teachers with data on eighth-grade perceptions of literature circles, thus expanding language arts

teachers‘ understanding and evaluation of this commonly used reading comprehension strategy.



                                     Overview of Methodology

   Prior to the study, the Brighton School principal signed a letter to approve the research project

methods and research instruments (see Appendix A). Letters were also sent to parents of the

target population, eighth grade language arts students at Brighton School, to request consent for

students to participate in the study (see Appendix B).

   A mixed-method approach was the best method to obtain both general and detailed accounts

of students‘ experiences as participants in literature circles. First, participants responded to a ten-

item questionnaire about student perceptions of reading and literature circles (see Appendix C).

Participants were selected using purposeful homogenous sampling of 8th grade language arts

students from Brighton School who were present in language arts class on the day of the study,

and who returned a signed parental consent form to participate in the study. Students were given

20 minutes to complete the questionnaire. Questionnaires were then read, and participant

responses were evaluated. Quantitative data were analyzed while short-answer responses were

coded for themes to be used in the research report (see Appendix D and E for raw data).

   Next, semi-structured interviews were conducted on six of the questionnaire participants (see

Appendix F for interview protocol). The six interviewees were chosen using maximal variation

sampling to present perspectives from students with varied grades in language arts as determined

by the participants‘ second quarter report cards. Interviews took place over the course of one

week with each interview lasting approximately 10 minutes. Interviews were held outside one

teacher‘s classroom during the interviewees‘ elective class period. Interviews were tape-
                                                                                                4
recorded, then transcribed for further review using a word processing computer program.

Transcriptions were read and coded for descriptions to be used in the research report (see

Appendix G for transcriptions). Notes were also taken during the interview to supplement the

interview transcriptions (see Appendix K).

   The questionnaire produced general data on student perceptions of literature circles, while

open-ended interviews provided more detailed data on student perceptions of literature circles. A

detailed discussion of research methods will be discussed in Chapter Three.



                        Connection to Teacher Performance Expectations

   This study was aligned with Teacher Performance Expectations (TPEs) 8 and 13. The study

met requirements for TPE 8, ―Learning about Students,‖ by asking students to describe their

reading interests and perceived learning needs. The results of this study were shared with

language arts teachers at Brighton School, which provided teachers with student feedback on

past practices for teaching reading. This met requirements for TPE 13, ―Professional Growth,‖

because teachers were able to use data from the study to better understand their students‘

perceptions of literature circles (California State University San Marcos, 2005). Teachers were

informed of students‘ interests and opinions, thus enabling teachers to better meet students‘

needs in language arts classes.



                                             Summary

   Teachers at Brighton School expressed a need to implement a reading comprehension strategy

that met the needs and interests of Brighton‘s diverse student population. Prior research studies

reported literature circles as a successful reading comprehension strategy for groups of diverse
                                                                                               5
learners. In questionnaires and interviews, Brighton students, who had participated in literature

circles on prior occasions, were asked to report feelings about reading and discussing books in

literature circles. The data from participant questionnaires and interviews aided language arts

teachers at Brighton School in planning future reading lessons. A comprehensive overview of

research pertinent to the topic of literature circles can be found in Chapter Two.
                                                                                                 6


                                         CHAPTER TWO

                                         Literature Review

   Teachers working in a rural school in California observed a high number of eighth grade

language arts students who lacked motivation to read books in and out of the classroom setting.

Teachers also expressed difficulty in engaging students of varied reading levels in activities that

effectively improved students‘ reading comprehension levels. In an effort to build a more

successful reading program for these eighth graders, teachers wanted to understand how students

perceived certain reading comprehension strategies. Through questionnaires and semi-structured

interviews, teachers elicited student feedback on the effectiveness of literature circles as a

reading comprehension strategy.

   Teachers across the United States have used literature circles as a strategy to motivate middle

school students to read and discuss literature in the classroom while improving student reading

comprehension. Junior high school teacher Ahang (1999) had students who ―hated SSR‖

(sustained silent reading) and her students had ―difficulty selecting books they could enjoy‖ (p.

49). Ahang then tried literature circles as a strategy to motivate students to read more than

―comic books and magazines‖ and encourage them to think critically about literature (p. 49). She

studied her students‘ involvement in literature circles over the next six weeks and found that

literature circles encouraged her students to go far beyond the reading of a text: ―All children

participated equally‖ in the literature circles; ―listening, clarifying, and responding occurred at a

consistently high level in all groups‖ (p. 60). Students also ―shared personal experiences that

linked with texts, sorted out misunderstandings, interpreted philosophical questions, clarified

meanings of words, and argued about authors‘ craft‖ (p.60). Literature circles motivated students
                                                                                                7
to read, while providing students with a forum to discuss and think critically about the text they

read.

   Literature circles also encouraged Ahang‘s (1999) students to persevere through challenging

texts. Ahang concluded that literature circles involved her students in texts that ―might have

otherwise been abandoned within a few pages.‖ This finding encouraged her to re-evaluate her

teaching practices (p. 60). She realized that her ―previous choices of (learning) activities had

severely restricted opportunities for students to show (her) what they could do,‖ but literature

circles provided students with a variety of activities and forums to show what they learned from

a text (p. 61). Ahang‘s reflections encouraged her to make literature circles common practice in

her classroom.

   Could literature circles promote students‘ motivation to read and students‘ understanding of

literature in all United States classrooms? This paper serves to examine and report the strategies,

successes, and challenges researchers found with the use of literature circles in the classroom.



                                    What are Literature Circles?

   In his 1994 book Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups,

Daniels defined literature circles as ―small, temporary discussion groups of students who have

chosen to read the same work of literature‖ (as cited in Brown, 2002, p. 4). While forms of

literature circles may vary according to the needs, abilities, and characteristics of the students in

a classroom, Daniels recommended that all literature circles have three basic elements: 1)

diversity, 2) self-choice, and 3) student initiative (as cited in Lin, 2004).

   Daniels suggested that teachers gather a variety of sets of books for students to choose from

and allow three to five students to read the same book. He reminded teachers that literature
                                                                                          8
groups may have learners of varying levels because groups are formed by book choice (as cited

in Lin, 2004). In literature circles run by Daniels, students who read the same book met each

week to discuss their book. Student discussions were not simply ―answering a series of questions

or attending to a collection of details, but …a transaction between a reader and a text‖

(Rosenblatt as cited in Egle, 2002, p. 249). Daniels encouraged his students to discuss and offer

their own interpretations of the text, ―each of (the interpretations) profoundly dependent on prior

experience brought to the text by the reader‖ (Daniels as cited in Egle, p. 249). Students‘ levels

of participation were key factors to the success of Daniels‘ literature circles.

   Daniels contended that student roles and responsibilities throughout literature discussions

were a central organizational feature of literature circles; the teacher should set ―parameters of

(the) overall literature circle experience, but students run the operation of group discussions‖ (as

cited in Moen, 2005, p. 52). Daniels‘ students decided how much of their book they would read

before each weekly literature circle meeting (to finish the book within a teacher-set time frame),

and students were responsible for choosing a ―role‖ to play at each meeting. Students‘ roles

included:

   a)discussion director- develops questions about the book that the group can discuss, b)

   literary luminary- locates interesting passages in the text to share with the group, c)

   illustrator- presents a drawing of an interesting scene in the book and invites the group to

   guess what is going on, d) connector- finds links between the text and other books, films,

   television programs, events, or experiences, e) summarizer- summarizes events in the

   section, f) vocabulary enricher- locates interesting, difficult, or unusual words in the text and

   shares them with the group, g) travel tracer- focuses on settings in the text and presents a

   description, map, or diagram of each setting, h) investigator- researches some background
                                                                                                 9
   information related to the text concerning events or places in the text, and i) character

   connector- uses a diagram to present key traits of the major characters in the book (as cited in

   Katz & Kuby, 2001, p. 42).

At the end of each meeting students engaged in some collaborative response, and after the last

meeting students chose, completed, and shared an art-related project to express their

understanding of the book.

   While Daniels strongly recommended that literature circles be student-centered and directed,

he stressed that literature circles must be teacher-facilitated (as cited in Moen, 2005). Teachers

needed to prepare students to run literature circles by giving and modeling clear guidelines and

expectations (Lin, 2004; Wood, Roser, & Martinez, 2001). For example, students needed

guidelines for how to ―handle unknown words, respond and provide feedback to circle

participants, select topics for discussion, (and/or) get along as a group‖ (Lin, 2004, p. 24).

Researcher Gilbert explained, in order for students to hold ―rich, often unpredictable

conversations…there need to be predictable structures in place to hold them‖ (Gilbert, 2000,

p.16).

   Several researchers reported spending months training students to run literature circles by

modeling expectations and practicing roles prior to encouraging students to direct their own

literature circles (e.g.; Lin, 2004; Peralta-Nash & Dutch, 2000; Wood, Roser, & Martinez, 2001).

Once students began to run literature-circles independently, teachers observed and often joined

groups as a fellow readers and problem-solver (Evans, 2001). Teachers also assessed students‘

individual contributions to literature circles by evaluating student journals, conferencing with

students, and reviewing teacher/peer/and students‘ self- evaluations (Manning, 2005; Moen,

2005).
                                                                                               10
                                              History

   Literature circles grew popular in the 1990s, but teachers used and researched literature

discussion groups long before that (Egle, 2002, p. 249). Research dating back to the early 1900s

presented findings on key elements of literature circles, such as reading in small groups and the

importance of student involvement (Egle, 2002; King, 2001).

   Student-centered reading groups were researched in the 1930s by Rosenblatt and reported in

her work, Literature as Exploration. Rosenblatt argued that the reader, not the teacher, was

―central to the process of assigning meaning to the text‖ (as cited in Egle, 2002, p. 249). Reader-

response theory rejected the idea that there was one fixed meaning in a literary work, and held

that the ―individual creates his or her own meaning through a ‗transaction‘ with the text based on

personal associations… All readers bring their own emotions, concerns, life experiences, and

knowledge to their reading, (and therefore) each interpretation is subjective and unique‖ (Mora

& Welsh, n.d., ¶ 1). Students‘ understanding of texts improved when teachers allowed students

to assign and discuss their own interpretations. Rosenblatt also found that readers were more

likely to engage with the texts they read when they were able to ―bring their own experience to

their reading, to predict, hypothesize, picture, compare, assess, and evaluate‖ (as cited in King,

2001, p. 33). Students benefited most when they were responsible for the discussion, not the

teacher.

    Rosenblatt also found that small reading groups, where students read and discussed the same

book, helped students become more thoughtful and confident readers. Rosenblatt believed that

small groups enabled students to better ―articulate their reading processes, recognize what they

do as readers and why, and learn from what others say‖ (as cited in King, 2001, p. 33). She found

that reading in small groups even encouraged reluctant readers to ―persevere with challenging
                                                                                                11
texts‖ (p. 33). Small groups allowed readers actively participate in the reading and learning

processes.

   Like Rosenblatt, researchers Eeds and Wells believed students, rather than the teacher,

should assign their own meanings to literature. Eeds and Wells argued that ―most children‘s

experience with literature was similar to ‗gentle inquisitions‘ in which discussions consisted of

the teacher asking and students attempting to answer‖ (as cited in Evans, 2001, p. 17). Eeds and

Wells proposed that ―grand conversations‖ occurred when teachers ―allowed for multiple

interpretations of a text‖ and encouraged students to ―share their own meanings‖ (p. 17). Eeds

and Wells ―contended that when teachers (allowed) students to share the meaning and

interpretations they (had) created while reading a text, a deeper meaning and enriched

understanding (became) possible for all students, hence the discussion became a grand

conversation‖ (Evans, p.17). Student initiative and interpretation continued to appear as key

elements in research on successful literature discussion groups.



                                   Benefits of Literature Circles

   The organization of literature circles, with its proven successes, quickly became a well-

respected and popular teaching strategy. Davis, Resta, Davis, & Camacho (2001) used student

surveys, journal entries, and videotaped interviews to study the effects of students‘ participation

in literature circles. They found that participation in literature circles improved students‘ reading

motivation, ability to make personal connections, comprehension skills, and self-confidence in

reading. Davis, Resta, Davis, and Camacho also found that literature circles had a profound

impact on their literature programs including increased student motivation, reading

comprehension scores, and opportunities for students to demonstrate critical thinking.
                                                                                          12
   Many researchers attributed students‘ engagement in literature circles and improved reading

motivation to the elements of student choice and responsibility in literature circles (e.g. Burns,

1998; Egle, 2002; Katz & Kuby, 2001; Lin, 2004; Manning, 2005). Middle school teacher

Burns explained, ―Students are able to make several of their own decisions, which is motivating

to many reluctant readers and gives students a feeling of control over their own learning‖(1998,

p. 125). Teachers Katz and Kuby also agreed, students loved ―being able to choose what book to

read and (seemed) to connect more deeply with books because they disclosed what (was)

important to them‖ (Katz & Kuby, 2001, p. 43). Students read and discussed more when teachers

offered them more choice and responsibility.

   Students and teachers also described literature circle discussions as helpful to understanding

the meaning and elements of texts. When students discuss elements of literature, notice

connections, and evaluate text as a group, their ―literature circles put comprehension into

practice‖ (Egle, 2002, p. 251). Researchers found that students better recalled and understood

story characters and themes in literature circles because they made and discussed personal

connections to the literature (Evans, 2001; Parker, Quigley, & Reilly, 1999). One student

explained, ―I think it helps me because sometimes when I read I get lost and I just keep on

reading and then after I stop [and discuss] it helps me to remember what happened‖ (Evans,

2001, p. 9).

    Research findings also indicated that literature circles allowed students to make

interpretations and think critically about literature. Peralta-Nash and Dutch (2000) studied

student participation in middle grade literature circles and found that ―students were moving

beyond the text, making text to life connections and discussing issues not often addressed in

everyday classroom conversations‖ (p. 34). Long and Gove‘s (2003) students also demonstrated
                                                                                                13
―tremendous investment and enthusiasm. We saw them being purposeful and reflective,

questioning and pushing themselves to read, write, think, feel, talk, and take action beyond the

obvious‖(p. 360). Students in literature circles made interpretations beyond the literal

information in texts because they were able to talk, collaborate, and raise topics of interest (Egle,

2002). After learning how to discuss books in literature circles, one student concluded, ―I just

don‘t read the book I think about it now‖ (King, 2001, p. 34). In these studies, literature circles

provided students with opportunities to ―think critically about literature, express their ideas in

oral and written forms, and better enjoy their literature experiences‖ (Lin, 2004, p. 23). Students

enjoyed communicating their ideas about literature and benefited from the experience.



                               Benefits for Students with Special Needs

   Blum, Lipsett, and Yocom (2002) studied how students with disabilities and struggling

readers felt before, during, and after participating in literature circles in inclusive middle school

classrooms. From pre/post surveys, Blum, Lipsett, & Yocom found that students with

disabilities and struggling readers ―perceived an improvement in their reading skills due to

literature circles‖ (p. 106). Anecdotal records, discussion rubrics, and interviews also indicated

that ―students (were) willing to take risks and communicate with groups,‖ and literature circles

fostered ―risk-taking, communication, listening skills, (and) self-assessments‖ (p. 107). Students

with special needs felt that they were better able to read and understand literature after

participating in literature circles.

   Peralta-Nash & Dutch, (2000) also found literature circles to be a beneficial strategy for

English language learners. Studies showed that English learners ―took language risks in English

reading groups‖ and learned ―conversational practices of the mainstream community‖ in small
                                                                                                14
group literature discussions (p. 36). Literature circles enabled English learners to listen to and

practice speaking the English language.



                                             Challenges

   While many researchers found that literature circles improved students‘ critical thinking skills

and engaged students in meaningful discussions about literature, some researchers described the

difficulties of organizing and running productive, student-led literature circles. Evans (2001)

recalls, ―I had a difficult time reconciling the research examples with examples from my own

teaching…A voice in my head kept reminding me that the discussions I heard my own former

students having (in literature circles) were a far cry from what I was reading… I knew things did

not always go perfect in my classroom‖ (p. 19). In Evans book, Literature Discussion Groups in

the Intermediate Grades: Dilemmas and Possibilities, she included examples of students‘

literature circles that failed to replicate the ―grand conversations‖ described in popular studies at

the time. For example, during one literature circle, two of her students blamed each other of ―not

doing anything.‖ Hidalgo accused, ―Brad, you never asked no [sic] questions!‖ After the event

Evans reflected, ―The boys (knew) what they (were) supposed to be doing,‖ but the conversation

did not flow and the boys didn‘t know how to improve their discussion (p. 14). For Evans,

literature circles did not guarantee in-depth discussions among her students, despite the fact that

she researched literature discussions, implemented all of the recommended factors, and ―used

them extensively‖ in her own teaching- she ―was the ‗expert‘‖ (p. 15). Evans, a teacher who

studied and frequently used literature circles, encountered difficulties running literature circles

effectively.
                                                                                                   15
   Moen (2005) also struggled to help her students participate in ―grand conversations‖ in

literature circles, because students did not adequately fulfill their ―roles.‖ For example, Moen

―became frustrated with the poor quality of questions‖ that student "Discussion Directors" wrote

to prepare for literature circles (p. 52). Students needed to write quality questions to inspire

thoughtful and critical thinking, but her students often wrote simple recall questions. Moen‘s

students‘ ―discussions (were) not always in-depth and multi-faceted‖ (Evans, 2001, p. 20).

Evans‘ and Moen‘s findings demonstrated some of the challenges teachers experienced when

using literature circles in the classroom.



                                              Summary

   Most researchers agreed that ―helping middle-schoolers work productively in collaborative

groups requires patient, steady, thoughtful work‖ (Daniels, 2002, ¶ 8). For literature circles to

run as collaborative and productive small groups, teachers modeled, practiced, and adapted the

organization and details of literature circles to meet the individual needs of students in their own

classrooms (Manning, 2005). Researchers also concluded that teachers needed to incorporate

students‘ interests and choices to improve students‘ reading motivation and engagement in

literature circles.

   Literature circles proved an effective strategy for many teachers, but not all. Further research

at specific school sites was important to help teachers assess the benefits and challenges of

incorporating literature circles in their unique school sites and classroom settings. Then teachers

could adapt and refine practices as necessary. Chapter Three describes the methodology used in

this study to determine how students at Brighton School perceived the effectiveness of literature

circles.
                                                                                          16
                                       Research Question

   How do eighth grade language arts students at Brighton School feel about participating in

literature circles as a reading comprehension strategy?
                                                                                             17
                                       CHAPTER THREE

                                          Demographics

   Brighton Elementary School District was founded in the late 1800s in a rural, agricultural

community of California. The surrounding community has grown significantly over the last

century, with a population nearing 30,000 residents at the time of the last United States (U.S.)

Census, more than 7,000 of which were of school-age children. Of these residents, 71 % were of

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, most of whom were Mexican. More than half, 56%, of the

population over five years old spoke primarily Spanish in the home. Of the residents over 26

years of age, 57.8% attained a high school degree or higher and 8.6% earned a bachelor‘s degree

or higher.

   Income data revealed that 12.2 % of families earned a household income below the poverty

level, and many of the families who made up that 12.2% percent lived within the Brighton

School District lines. Some of the families who earned an income below the poverty level were

single-parent families living in the area surrounding Brighton School. Nearly one third, 32 % of

these households, reported living in a single-parent (mother) family (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005).

This 2000 U.S. Census data represented the diverse races, languages, education levels, incomes,

and family statuses of residents living within the Brighton School District.

    Data from Brighton School‘s 2002-2003 school-year reported demographics similar to the

2000 U.S. Census data. The School Accountability Report Card (SARC) for Brighton School

showed a total enrollment of 269 students for the 2002-2003 school-year. SARC data also

reported that 82% of students were Latino, 16% of students were white, and less than 1% of

students were Asian or Pacific Islander (California Department of Education, 2005). Enrollment

for the 2004-2005 school-year was similar with a total student population of 272. Recent reports
                                                                                                            18
stated that 60% of Brighton students participated in the free or reduced lunch program as

determined by household income. Brighton School also served large numbers of students who

spoke primarily Spanish in the home, 4% of whom were beginning English learners.

Approximately 31% of students in the Brighton School District also came from migrant2 families

(greatschools.net, 2005).

    To accommodate Brighton‘s diverse student population, the school administrators encouraged

diverse teaching approaches, frequent assessments, supplementations to student learning, and

community involvement through in the following programs: (1) Parent Faculty Organization

(PFO), (2) Migrant Parent Advisory Committee (MPAC), (3) English Language Development

Committee (ELDC), and (4) School Site Council (SSC). The district also encouraged monthly

Student Study Team (SST) meetings to discuss concerns for an individual student's learning

needs (California Department of Education, 2005).

     Brighton students‘ improvement on recent state test results was promising. The Academic

Performance Index (API) was used to determine Brighton School‘s ―rank‖ based on students‘

scores on state standard tests and the California Achievement Test; the API was graded on a

scale of 200 to 1,000, with 800 being the statewide target. In 2005, Brighton school earned an

API of 731, up 37 points from its 2004 API score of 694 (California Department of Education,

2005). Brighton School administrators and teachers wanted to continue helping students achieve

to the best of their ability.

     The population researched for this study was one classroom of eighth-grade language arts

students at Brighton School. This classroom had 26 students, 14 females and 12 males. Nine


2
 One or more parents are ―migratory workers who relocate across school district boundaries in order to obtain
seasonal or temporary employment in agriculture or fishing‖—children are ―often at high risk of educational failure
because of educational disruptions resulting from repeated moves and irregular attendance, language barriers, and
poverty‖ (Kirby, McCombs, & Naftel, 2003, p.1).
                                                                                         19
students spoke English only, 15 students spoke English and Spanish, and two students spoke

Spanish only3. Two students in this class were identified as having special needs, but were able

to function in the regular classroom setting with minor accommodations to assignments. All

students presented individual differences and challenges which required daily accommodations

and modifications to Brighton School‘s adopted curriculum.

     This class was taught by one teacher, a second-year intern who was finishing her teaching

credential and Master‘s degree at a local university. There were no other adults assisting in the

classroom. Parents did not volunteer in the classroom, so parents were informed about classroom

activities through Back-to-School-Night, fall conferences, notes home, periodic grade reports,

and postings on the school‘s Web site. The small size of the community was beneficial for

parent communication because some families worked together and knew each other. This helped

bridge communication between school and home because parents often communicated with each

other about school information and happenings.

    In this language arts classroom, students were expected to (1) come to class prepared with

materials, (2) listen when others talk, (3) participate in class discussions, and (4) speak and act

courteously toward others. When students followed rules, their behavior was reinforced by (a)

encouragement, (b) ―gotcha tickets‖4, and (c) full points on work in class. When students did not

follow rules they received (a) verbal warnings, (b) phone calls home to their parent, (c) points

subtracted from their class-work grade, and/or (d) a written referral5. Most students in this class

responded positively to behavior rewards, and misbehavior and disruptions were minimal.




3
  These students were identified as ―Beginning‖ English learners according to their recent CELDT test scores.
4
  a school-wide raffle ticket for monthly prize drawing
5
  Referrals were a school-wide discipline form; Accumulation of four or more referrals resulted in a lowered
citizenship grade and inability to attend school dances for the quarter.
                                                                                         20
   The classroom desks were arranged in small groups of four to promote student discussion and

cooperation. Classroom activities were also designed to keep students engaged throughout the

entire language arts period by assigning several different types of activities. Brighton students

had language arts classes three days a week for approximately one and half hours each class. A

typical day in this classroom included (1) a grammar and spelling activity at the beginning of

each class period, (2) whole group reading or notes and discussion for approximately 25 minutes,

then (3) small group rotations for the remainder of the class period.

   For small group rotations students were divided into three homogenous groups (A, B, and C).

Group A worked on an independent reading or writing activity for forty minutes, Group B

completed an interactive computer activity for 20 minutes, and Group C met in literature circles

for 20 minutes. Groups B and C switched after 20 minutes and all groups rotated to a different

activity the next class meeting. Each week all groups participated in independent reading and

writing activities once for 40 minutes, computers twice for 20 minutes each, and literature circles

twice for 20 minutes each. The teacher walked around the classroom and monitored all three

groups. This classroom schedule allowed students to work in various group sizes and experience

various types of activities each week.



                                         Needs Assessment

   Many students in this language arts class failed to meet grade-level standards for their recent

language arts assessments. Some students achieved low scores on the Brighton School District

reading comprehension assessment as well as low scores on the reading comprehension portion

of the state of California‘s annual assessment. This research was necessary to determine whether

literature circles motivated students to read more in class and at home and to understand what
                                                                                          21
students‘ believed helped them to comprehend the text they were reading. Students benefited

from this research because data helped administrators and language arts teachers to make more

informed decisions when planning the language arts curriculum. A committee of language arts

teachers, the school principal, and students was constructed to implement literature circles

school-wide.



                                               Goals

   The purpose of this research was to determine whether 8th grade language arts students

perceived literature circles as a beneficial and/or motivational tool to improve their reading

skills. Following the study, the goal for the next six months was to meet bimonthly in a site team

consisting of one administrator, all four language arts teachers, and two seventh and eighth grade

students. The site team‘s goal was to discuss effective teaching strategies and assessment in the

language arts classrooms. This included discussions about literature circles and plans to

successfully implement student feedback about literature circles into the classroom curriculum.

The goal for the following school-year was to refine the school‘s reading curriculum to reflect

common themes and unique needs of students as determined by formal assessments, teacher

observation, and student feedback.



                                     Administrative Concerns

   To carry out this research study, several administrative concerns were addressed. First, the

school principal had to approve the study and research tools (see Appendix A). Second,

permission was needed from participants‘ parents since all participants were under the age of 18.

Letters of consent were given to all parents of eighth graders (see Appendix B). Students who
                                                                                           22
returned a signed consent form were cleared to participate in the study (see Appendix B). Third,

interviews had to be scheduled during participants‘ lunch-recess or elective period. Elective

teachers were asked if participants could miss 30 minutes of class without penalty to participate

in the study. Fourth, a tape recorder had to be purchased to record interviews. Finally, a research

assistant was enlisted to help transcribe interviews.



                                          Research Design

                                              Approach

   A mixed-method research approach was used to determine students‘ feelings about literature

circles. The quantitative element of this study elicited general information on students‘ feelings

about reading and literature circles. The qualitative elements allowed students to respond in

detail to questions about reading and the effectiveness of literature circles as a strategy to

increase students‘ motivation to read and/or understanding of text.



                                              Methods

   Three questions guided this research study: (1) Do eighth grade students read more than usual

when they are assigned pages to read for literature circles? (2) Do discussions in literature circles

help eighth grade students effectively comprehend challenging literature? (3) What can teachers

do to make literature circles motivating and meaningful to students?

   The research population for this study consisted of 25 eighth-grade language arts students at

Brighton School, 7 boys and 18 girls. Participants were selected using a purposeful homogenous

sampling of students who were present in language arts class on the day of the study, and who

returned a signed parental consent form to participate in the study. These participants responded
                                                                                              23
to a ten-item questionnaire about preferences for reading and literature circles. After all

questionnaires were read and analyzed, a smaller sample was selected to participate in

interviews. Maximal variation sampling was used to select 6 of the original participants. The 6

participants were chosen to represent diverse genders (3 boys and 3 girls) and mixed abilities in

language arts as reported by participants‘ second quarter grades.

   All participants responded to a ten-item questionnaire during their language arts class period.

The questionnaire asked students to respond to statements about reading and literature circles

(see Appendix C). Before the questionnaire was distributed, participants were first reminded to

refrain from writing their name on the paper because their responses were not associated with

their class grade in any way. Second, participants were reminded that they could choose not to

answer any or all of the questions. Third, participants were reminded of the study‘s purpose and

goals. Fourth, participants were encouraged to answer questions to reflect their own opinions,

and to complete items to the best of their knowledge and ability. Finally, participants were asked

to refrain from looking at other participants responses or discussing the questionnaire until all

questionnaires were completed and collected. Participants were given 20 minutes to answer

questions, and then the questionnaires were collected.

      Two weeks later, semi-structured interviews were conducted on 6 of the questionnaire

participants (see Appendix F). These 6 participants were interviewed individually during the

participants‘ elective class period. Interviews took place over the course of one week, and each

interview lasted approximately 10 minutes. Prior to the beginning of each interview, participants

were reminded that their name would remain anonymous, and that the interview was not

associated with their grade in any way. Second, participants were reminded that the interview

would be recorded, but their name would not be used and all data would be kept in a secure
                                                                                           24
location. Third, interviewees were reminded that they could choose not to answer any or all of

the questions. Fourth, participants were reminded of the study‘s purpose and goals. Finally,

participants were encouraged to answer questions to reflect their own opinions, and to the best of

their knowledge and ability. Interviews were tape-recoded and then transcribed for further

review using a word processing computer program (see Appendix G). Notes were also taken

during the interview on an interview protocol form to supplement the interview transcriptions

(see Appendix K).



                                          Data Collection

   The first instrument used was a ten-item questionnaire. For each item, students responded to

a statement about reading or literature circles using a likert-type scale. Students were asked to

circle the word that described the extent to which they agreed with each statement. All items had

the same scale of choices: (1) strongly disagree, (2) disagree, (3) undecided, (4) agree, (5)

strongly agree. For each item, students also then asked to write an explanation of their response

in more detail (see Appendix C).

   The following week, three student interviews were conducted in a one-to-one setting. The

interviews were semi-structured with five open-ended questions (see Appendix F). Student

interviews were tape-recorded and written notes were also recorded on an interview protocol (see

Appendix K). Each interview took approximately 10 minutes to conduct. A research assistant

then transcribed the tape-recordings on a computer word-processing program for later review

(see Appendix E).
                                                                                             25
                                             Analysis

   The questionnaire was analyzed in two parts. First, student responses to the likert-type rating

scale were analyzed. Participants were told to circle one of five choices for each item on the

questionnaire: (1) Strongly Disagree, (2) Disagree, (3) Undecided, (4) Agree, (5) Strongly Agree.

Each of the five answer choices was pre-assigned a number score. The data was then visually

inspected to ensure that all scores fell within the appropriate range (1-5). Incomplete

questionnaires, missing a score for one or more items, were noted, but not eliminated from the

overall data analysis because the questions were not analyzed for correlation. Means and

percentages were adjusted to reflect the number of actual respondents to each question. The

percentages, mean, and standard deviation were calculated for each questionnaire item using

Microsoft Excel. These figures indicated central tendencies in the data. Results were summarized

in Table D1 for the results report (see Appendix D).

   Written responses on questionnaires and interview transcriptions were read and coded for

meaning (see Appendix E and J for a sample). Codes were recorded in the right margin of

interview transcriptions. Codes were then examined for overlap and redundancy; descriptions

that best described codes were written in the left margin of interview transcriptions. Potential

themes were then narrowed into specific themes. Evidence for each theme was underlined to

present in the research results.



                                            Pilot Study

   The instruments for this research were tested in a pilot study in November of 2005. The

questionnaire was given to one class of eighth grade students, 12 boys and 13 girls, during the
                                                                                           26
students‘ language arts class period. Students were given 20 minutes to respond to items on the

questionnaire. All students returned the questionnaire within ten-minutes after receiving it.

   After reviewing students‘ responses several changes were made to the questionnaire and

administration directions. First, many students circled the extent of their agreement or

disagreement with each item, but did not explain their responses on the lines provided. To

encourage students to respond more completely in the research study, the statement ―Please

explain your response in more detail‖ was added after each of the items on the questionnaire.

Second, item number three on the questionnaire asked students to agree or disagree with the

statement ―I often read at home.‖ Two students asked if reading at a daycare provider‘s house

was the same as reading at home. One student asked if reading at home could include being read

to. In light of these questions, item three was changed to be more specific: ―I often read

independently outside of school.‖ Finally, several students were seen looking at other students‘

papers or talking with nearby students. To prevent students from copying others‘ responses in the

formal study, two directions were added to use prior to the formal administration of the

questionnaire: (1) ―Answer questions to reflect your own opinions, and complete items to the

best of your knowledge and ability,‖ and (2) ―Please refrain from looking at other participants

responses or discussing the questionnaire until all questionnaires are completed and collected.‖

   One student was interviewed to test the interview protocol as well. The student responded to

all items on the interview protocol, and her responses influenced small changes to the final

protocol. First, the student responded to item number two ―How have literature circles affected

your motivation to read‖ by explaining that she‘s always loved to read and literature circles

haven‘t affected her motivation. To accommodate students with similar feelings in the formal

study, the phrase ―if any‖ was added to interview questions two and three, and four.
                                                                                        27
   The pilot study influenced changes to make the questionnaire and interview protocol more

specific, and to improve the accuracy of the data. The interview questions were also changed to

omit bias. The pilot study was beneficial to diagnose flaws in the instruments, and make changes

to elicit more accurate results in the formal study.



                                              Summary

   Brighton School served a racially and socio-economically diverse student population. Within

Brighton School, many eighth grade students appeared unmotivated to read and were not

achieving grade-level standards for reading comprehension. In order to meet eighth graders

needs, language arts teachers expressed a desire to incorporate student feedback in future

assessments of certain reading comprehension strategies. For this study, research was guided by

several key questions: (1) Do eighth grade students read more than usual when they are assigned

pages to read for literature circles? (2) Do discussions in literature circles help eighth grade

students effectively comprehend challenging literature? (3) What can teachers do to make

literature circles motivating and meaningful to students? A mixed-method approach was used to

study a purposeful, homogenous sample of eighth grade students at Brighton School, in an

attempt to elicit student perceptions about reading and participating in literature circles. Student

participants responded to items on questionnaires and interviews, and resulting data was

analyzed to determine central tendencies and themes. Chapter Four describes the results and

findings from this study.
                                                                                                  28
                                         CHAPTER FOUR

   Students enrolled in eighth grade language arts classes at Brighton School demonstrated

varied reading levels and interests. Language arts teachers at Brighton School tried literature

circles as a strategy to address students‘ varied needs and reading interests while scaffolding

students‘ comprehension of text. This chapter presents the results of the 2006 study at Brighton

School, which was used to determine how students felt about literature circles and their

effectiveness in improving students‘ motivation to read, as well as their effectiveness in

improving students‘ understanding of books. Twenty-five student participants completed

questionnaires, and six of these 25 students participated in one-on-one interviews to provide

further feedback and insight on literature circles. Results showed that students had mixed

feelings about literature circles depending on their personal preferences including group size and

general interest in reading. Most students agreed that they would complete more reading

assignments if they could choose the type of activity or assessment tool to demonstrate their

understanding of the book (i.e. drawings, posters, written report, or multiple-choice test).



                                       Questionnaire Results

   On the questionnaire, participants responded to items by circling a degree of agreeability on a

five point likert-type scale (5= strongly agree, 4= agree, 3= undecided, 2= disagree, 1= strongly

disagree). Participants then wrote written responses to explain their choice in further detail.

Three major steps were followed to analyze and code the questionnaire data. First, participants‘

numeric responses to the likert scale were entered by the researcher into a spreadsheet on

Microsoft Excel. The data was grouped by questionnaire item number in rows. Microsoft Excel
                                                                                                             29
was then used to calculate the percents, mean, and standard deviation for responses to each

questionnaire item (see Appendix D).

      Second, participants written responses for each questionnaire item were typed onto a

Microsoft Word document (see Appendix E). Written responses were then grouped, first by the

questionnaire item number, and second by the participants‘ responses on the likert scale. For

example, all responses for item one were typed onto the same page, and all responses to item one

that indicated ―strongly agree‖ on the likert scale were grouped together.

      Finally, written results were coded. The researcher identified and wrote codes in the right

margin and underlined key words to support the codes. For example, on item three, codes

including ―fun,‖ ―learn,‖ and ―work with others‖ were written in the right margin next to

statements by participants who selected ―Strongly Agree‖ or ―Agree.‖ Key words or phrases to

support these codes were underlined including, ―people in your group help,‖ and ―it is fun and

you learn more.‖ Once written responses were coded, the researcher grouped similar codes into

themes and counted how many times students wrote about particular themes for each item. This

determined which themes were most prevalent for each item number. The results of this analysis

follow.



                                   Literature Circles and Student Motivation

      Students expressed mixed opinions about literature circles. Of the students who responded to

the statement ―I enjoy participating in literature circles,‖ 12% strongly agreed, 44% agreed, 12 %

selected undecided, 32% disagreed, and 0% strongly disagreed (see Chart 16). After selecting one

choice on the likert-type scale rating, students could write an explanation of their response in

more detail. Common themes emerged from this additional qualitative data to explain why
6
    Note. Chart values are displayed as n (number of students), p (percent of students); example ―5, 21%.‖
                                                                                             30
students enjoyed or didn‘t enjoy literature circles. Five students who agreed or strongly agreed to

enjoying literature circles used the word ―fun‖ to support their reasoning. For example, one

student wrote, ―I strongly agree because it is fun and you learn more and you find out what other

people think.‖ Four students also reported enjoying literature circles because they liked to work

with others. This was said in numerous ways. One student explained that it was ―fun to read

with your friends,‖ and another student agreed, ―I enjoy [sic] because you can see what others

think of reading.‖

   Students who did not enjoy literature circles either preferred to work alone or did not like to

work in groups. For example, one student remarked, ―I like to work alone. I can concentrate

easier,‖ while another student wrote, ―It‘s alright but when everyone gets together, everyone just

messes around instead of work [sic].‖ Students‘ specific reasons for wanting to work alone

varied.

                        Chart 1: Students Enjoy Participating in Literature Circles




                                               Strongly Disagree
                                                     0, 0%         Undecided
                                                                    3, 12%




                        Disagree
                         8, 32%




                                                                                Agree
                                                                               11, 44%

                       Strongly Agree
                           3, 12%
                                                                                            31
   When responding to the statement ―I would like to continue participating in literature circles

for this school year,‖ 12% of participants strongly agreed, 36% agreed, 36% were undecided,

16% disagreed, and 0% strongly disagreed (see Chart 2). Students who agreed or strongly agreed

wrote comments including ―fun‖ as their reason. Other reasons participants listed for wanting to

continue literature circles included the ability to achieve higher grades in language arts class, the

opportunity to get help from others, and their improved reading ability after participating in

literature circles. Students who disagreed and did not want to continue doing literature circles

shared explanations including a general dislike of reading or a preference to work alone.

                          Chart 2: Students Want to Continue Literature Circles




                                              Strongly Disagree
                                                    0, 0%         Strongly Agree
                                   Disagree                           3, 12%
                                    4, 16%




                                                                                   Agree
                                                                                   9, 36%

                       Undecided
                        9, 36%




   Students also expressed mixed opinions about the affect of literature circles on their

motivation to read. In response to the statement ―At home I read more than usual when I have a

reading assignment for literature circles,‖ 24% of participants strongly agreed, 24% agreed, 16%

selected undecided, 32% disagreed, and 4% strongly disagreed (see Chart 3). Five students who

agreed explained that they read more for literature circles because it was ―homework,‖ they
                                                                                       32
―have to,‖ or because they want ―good grades.‖ These comments suggested students‘ agreement

because of their obligation to do school work or their desire to perform well in school. Four

students who agreed also mentioned words relating to a preference to work at home rather than at

school. These students may have misunderstood the question. Some students who disagreed

explained a dislike for reading in general, while other students who disagreed explained an

opposite attitude towards reading; they are already frequent readers, thus literature circles did not

increase their reading at all.

                      Chart 3: Students Read More When They Have Literature Circles




                                        Strongly Disagree
                                              1, 4%

                                                                     Strongly Agree
                                                                         6, 24%




                       Disagree
                        8, 32%




                                                                        Agree
                                                                        6, 24%


                                   Undecided
                                    4, 16%




   Participant data was more aligned in response to the statement ―I would complete more

reading assignments for literature circles if I could choose my role in literature circles.‖ All

students selected strongly agree (21%), agree (50%), or undecided (29%), and zero students

selected disagree or strongly disagree (see Chart 4). Students‘ explanations included both general

and specific reasons for their agreement or indecision to this statement. One student who selected
                                                                                           33
―undecided‖ responded, ―I might put more effort into a project if I got to choose who (which

role) I would play (which assignment I would do).‖ Another student explained more specifically

what type of assignment he or she would prefer to do to demonstrate understanding of a book, ―I

would choose to draw things because it [sic] much better then [sic] wrighting [sic] things.‖

Responses to this questionnaire item showed that most students would complete more reading

assignments in literature circles if they could choose the type of assignment they completed to

demonstrate their understanding of a novel they read.

               Chart 4: Students Would Complete More Assignments for Literature Circles if They Could
                                                Choose Their Role

                                                           Disagree
                                                             0, 0%
                                                           Strongly Disagree
                                                                 0, 0%
                                                                          Strongly Agree
                                                                              5, 21%
                               Undecided
                                7, 29%




                                                                 Agree
                                                                12, 50%




                           Literature Circles and Reading Comprehension

   Results varied for student responses to questionnaire items about the effects of literature

circles on students‘ reading comprehension. In response to the statement ―Discussions in

literature circles help me understand the books I read in class,‖ 12% of the respondents strongly
                                                                                      34
agreed, 56% agreed, 24% were undecided, 8% disagreed, and 0% strongly disagreed. Students

who agreed gave reasons including the ability to get help from others and the opportunity to hear

other people‘s perspectives. Students who disagreed explained that they ―understand it well

enough‖ or ―work better‖ by themselves. Students who agreed that literature circles enhanced

their understanding of books attributed their enhanced learning to the contributions of others in

their reading groups, while students who disagreed explained their understanding of books

without contributions from others in reading groups.

   More students (50%) were undecided when asked to identify whether discussions in literature

circles helped them to achieve higher scores on reading tests; 0% strongly agreed, 42% agreed,

8% disagreed, and 0% strongly disagreed. Students who agreed to this item listed a range of

reasons why literature circles help them to score higher on reading tests, including the ability to

discuss their book with others, remembering the book better after discussing it, and working

better in groups than independently. Students who selected undecided wrote responses that

insinuate a poor or confusing questionnaire statement. For example, one student wrote, ―I don‘t

get the question,‖ and another student wrote, ―What kind of reading tests?‖ Three students wrote

the words ―not sure.‖ Item nine‘s results are inconclusive do due the high proportion of student

comments that imply a poorly written or confusing questionnaire item.



                                         Interview Results

   Following completion of the questionnaires, six interviews took place. The researcher

conducted the interviews one-on-one, just outside of the researcher‘s classroom door, because

the initial location planned (the library) was occupied. Interviews lasted approximately 10

minutes each (about five minutes less than expected). All interviews were tape-recorded with the
                                                                                               35
participants‘ knowledge and consent, and the researcher took notes during the interview to

supplement the tape-recording. Following all interviews, the researcher and one research

assistant transcribed the interviews onto a Microsoft Word document (see Appendix G).

   Interview transcriptions were then coded. Codes were written in the right margin of the

transcriptions using words to indicate topic and symbols to indicate positive, negative, and

indifferent meaning (happy, unhappy, indifferent faces). Words and phrases were underlined to

support each code. For example, when students were asked if literature circles affected their

motivation to read, their responses revealed codes including ―increased reading,‖ ―increased

interest,‖ ―fun,‖ and ―increased understanding.‖ These codes were written in the right margin

next to the responses. Reoccurring codes and codes with similar meanings were then focused

into themes such as ―increased interest.‖ Themes were written in the left margin of

transcriptions.



                             Literature Circles and Student Motivation

   Students were asked how literature circles have improved their motivation to read if at all.

Three students explained that they ―read more‖ for literature circles, citing reasons including

more interest due to the exposure of new or different books, a necessity to complete homework

assignments, and a desire to better understand group discussions about a book. One student

explained, ―I do read it more because then I understand when other people do their little

summaries, and I get to understand it. Then I actually want to read it.‖ All students named

positive aspects of literature circles in response to this question. Other reasons given for

increased reading in literature circles included ―fun‖ and ―help in reading.‖ These responses were

analyzed for major themes. Students were motivated to read in literature circles due to the
                                                                                              36
accountability of teacher-assigned tasks, and students were motivated by social aspects of

literature circles such as getting help from other students, enjoyment of group discussions, or

enjoyment of reading books with other students.



                         Literature Circles and Reading Comprehension

   Three of the six students interviewed explained that discussions in literature circles helped

them to better remember details of a story. The other three students interviewed contributed

increased understanding of books discussed in literature circles to the help they received from

other students in their group. One student commented, ―If I miss something we go over it in class

and then I can understand it more because usually some people bring it up.‖ Discussing a book in

groups helped students remember details and enabled students to get help from other students

when needed.



                                        Student Suggestions

   Students‘ suggestions to improve literature circles varied. Two students said that they would

like to spend more time meeting with their groups to discuss their books, while two other

students had specific suggestions. One recommended the use of games to sustain or increase

students‘ motivation to read a book, ―We can do games with it, like see who could figure out

what happens next, or like a prediction, who‘s the closest?‖ The other student recommended that

students buy dictionaries to assist them in preparing for literature circles at home (so students

could find definition for words they don‘t understand while they read at home). Two students

had no suggestions to improve literature circles. Overall students‘ suggestions to improve

literature circles were minor.
                                                                                              37


                                              Summary

   Literature circles motivated some students to read and helped some students to better

understand books they read in class. Questionnaire data revealed that the effects of literature

circles on students‘ motivation to read and reading comprehension varied by student and

depended on several factors. These factors included the student‘s preference to work alone or

with others, the students‘ ability or effort to complete teacher assigned tasks, and the students

general like or dislike of reading itself. Interview data further supported these findings. Chapter

five presents further analysis of the research results.
                                                                                              38
                                         CHAPTER FIVE

   Students enrolled in eighth grade language arts classes at Brighton School demonstrated

varied reading levels and interests. Students also lacked motivation to read books. Teachers

expressed a need to try a different reading comprehension strategy that might encourage students

to read appropriately challenging literature, thus literature circles were introduced. Following the

implementation of literature circles in two classrooms, teachers expressed a desire evaluate the

effects of literature circles on students‘ reading comprehension and motivation to read. Student

feedback was a crucial element of this evaluation process.

   The purpose of this research was to study how eighth grade language arts students perceived

literature circles as a tool to improve students‘ reading comprehension and motivation to read.

Twenty-five eighth grade students at Brighton School in California participated in this study to

determine students‘ feelings about literature circles. Participants completed a ten-item

questionnaire about reading and literature circles. Six of these participants also explained their

feelings about the process and effects of literature circles in one-on-one interviews. Student data

revealed what motivated students to read and participate in literature circles, and how literature

circles supported students‘ comprehension of challenging text.



                                           Methodology

                                          Data Collection

   Prior to the data collection for this study, approval to conduct the study was granted by the

school principal, parents of participants, and California Lutheran University‘s Internal Review

Board (IRB) (see Appendix A and B for letters of consent and approval).
                                                                                                 39
Purposeful homogenous sampling was used to select 25 participants (7 boys and 18 girls).

Participants were eighth grade language arts students from Brighton School who were present in

language arts class on the day of the study, and who returned a signed parental consent form to

participate in the study.

       On the day of the study, participants were first reminded to refrain from writing their

name on the questionnaire because their responses were not associated with their class grade in

any way. Second, participants were reminded that they could choose not to answer any or all of

the questions. Third, participants were reminded of the study‘s purpose and goals. Fourth,

participants were encouraged to answer questions to reflect their own opinions and to complete

items to the best of their knowledge and ability. Fifth, participants were asked refrain from

looking at other participants‘ responses or discussing the questionnaire until all questionnaires

were completed and collected. Finally, participants were then given a ten-item questionnaire to

complete within 20 minutes (see Appendix C).

           For each item, students responded to a statement about reading or literature circles

using a likert-type scale. Students were asked to circle the word that described the extent to

which they agreed with each statement. All items had the same scale of choices: (1) strongly

disagree, (2) disagree, (3) undecided, (4) agree, (5) strongly agree. For each item, students were

asked to write an explanation of their response in more detail.

       As students completed the questionnaire, one student noticed an error on item number

six, ―I would complete more reading assignments for literature circles if I could choose my role in

literature circles.‖ The word ―choose‖ was mistakenly omitted, so the teacher instructed students to

write the word ―choose‖ in the appropriate place on item number six.
                                                                                              40
      As students finished completing the questionnaires, questionnaires were collected in two

separate piles; one pile for students who returned signed parental consent forms, and another pile

for students who did not return consent forms7.

       Next, semi-structured interviews were conducted on six of the questionnaire participants. The

six interviewees were chosen using maximal variation sampling to present perspectives from

students with varied grades in language arts as determined by the participants‘ second quarter

report cards. Interviews took place over the course of one week with each interview lasting

approximately 10 minutes (5 minutes less than originally expected). Interviews were held outside

of the researcher‘s classroom because the original location selected was occupied.

      Prior to the beginning of each interview, participants were first reminded that their name

would remain anonymous and that the interview was not associated with their grade in any way.

Second, participants were reminded that the interview would be recorded, but their name would

not be used and all data would be kept in a secure location. Third, interviewees were reminded

that they could choose not to answer any or all of the questions. Fourth, participants were

reminded of the study‘s purpose and goals. Finally, participants were encouraged to answer

questions to reflect their own opinions, and to the best of their knowledge and ability.

     The interviews were semi-structured with five open-ended questions (see Appendix F).

Interviews were tape-recorded and notes were also taken during the interview to supplement the

interview transcriptions (see Appendix K).

      Interviews were conducted as planned with only minor changes. Several interviewees asked

for clarification of question two, ―How have literature circles affected your motivation to read (if

at all)?‖ The researcher‘s clarification can be in the interview transcriptions (Appendix G).



7
    For teacher use only. Data for these questionnaires was not reported or analyzed for this study
                                                                                        41
Interviews were transcribed using Microsoft Word, a word-processing program. Transcriptions

were read and coded for descriptions to be used in the research report.



                                           Data Analysis

   The questionnaire was analyzed in two parts. First, student responses to the likert-type rating

scale were analyzed. On the likert scale, participants circled one of five choices for each item on

the questionnaire: (1) Strongly Disagree, (2) Disagree, (3) Undecided, (4) Agree, (5) Strongly

Agree. Each of the five answer choices was pre-assigned a number score. This number score was

entered on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The percentages, mean, and standard deviation were

calculated for each questionnaire item using Microsoft Excel. These figures indicated central

tendencies in the data. The data was then visually inspected to ensure that all scores fell within

the appropriate range (1-5). Incomplete questionnaires, missing a score for one or more items,

were noted, but not eliminated from the overall data analysis because the questions were not

analyzed for correlation. Means and percentages were adjusted to reflect the number of actual

respondents to each question. Results were summarized in Table D1 for the results report (see

Appendix D).

   Written responses on questionnaires and interview transcriptions were read and coded for

meaning. Codes were recorded in the right margin of interview transcriptions. Codes were then

examined for overlap and redundancy; descriptions that best described codes were written in the

left margin of interview transcriptions. Potential themes were then narrowed into specific

themes. Evidence for each theme was underlined to present in the research results.
                                                                                               42


                                                Results

   Three questions guided this research study: (1) Do eighth grade students read more than usual

when they are assigned pages to read for literature circles? (2) Do discussions in literature circles

help eighth grade students effectively comprehend challenging literature? (3) What can teachers

do to make literature circles motivating and meaningful to students?



    Do eighth grade students read more than usual when they are assigned pages to read for

                                          literature circles?

   Students expressed mixed opinions. In response to the questionnaire statement, ―At home I

read more than usual when I have a reading assignment for literature circles,‖ 24% of

participants strongly agreed, 24% agreed, 16% selected undecided, 32% disagreed, and 4%

strongly disagreed. Five students who agreed wrote explanations which included words such as

―homework,‖ ―have to,‖ and ―good grades.‖ These comments suggested students‘ agreement

because of their obligation to do school work or their desire to do well in school. Four students

who agreed also wrote explanations relating to a preference to work at home rather than at

school. These students may have misunderstood the question. Students who disagreed either

disliked reading, or had an opposite attitude about reading; they were already frequent readers,

so literature circles did not increase their reading.

   Students who read more for literature circles attributed their increased reading to a desire to

achieve in school, a personal enjoyment of reading, or an obligation to complete teacher assigned

tasks. Students who did not read more for literature circles expressed a dislike of reading,

therefore literature circles had no effect on these students‘ reading habits. Accountability was a
                                                                                               43
main element of literature circles that effectively motivated nearly half of the study participants

to read more; students explained improved reading habits due to teacher expectations (such as

homework and grades) or a responsibility to participate in the literature discussion group.



      Do discussions in literature circles help eighth grade students effectively comprehend

                                      challenging literature?

   Results also varied for student responses to questionnaire items about the effects of literature

circles on students‘ reading comprehension. In response to the statement ―Discussions in

literature circles help me understand the books I read in class,‖ 12% of the respondents strongly

agreed, 56% agreed, 24% were undecided, 8% disagreed, and 0% strongly disagreed. Students

who agreed gave reasons including the ability to get help from others and the opportunity to hear

other people‘s perspectives. Students who disagreed explained that they ―understand it well

enough‖ and ―work better‖ by themselves.

   Nearly three-fourths of the participants felt that literature circles improved their understanding

of the books they read. The students who disagreed did not say that literature circles hampered

their understanding of their books, but they explained that they worked better alone. Literature

circles were generally beneficial to students‘ reading comprehension because students could get

help from each other.

   When asked to identify whether discussions in literature circles helped students get higher

scores on reading tests, half (50%) of the respondents were undecided; 0% strongly agreed, 42%

agreed, 8% disagreed, and 0% strongly disagreed. Students who agreed that literature circles

helped to improve their reading test scores listed a range of reasons including: (1) the

opportunity to discuss the book, (2) an ability to remember details of a book better after
                                                                                          44
discussions, and (3) working better in groups than individually. Students who were undecided

wrote responses that insinuate a poor or confusing questionnaire statement. For example, one

student wrote, ―I don‘t get the question,‖ and another student wrote, ―What kind of reading

tests?‖ Three students wrote the words ―not sure.‖ Item nine‘s results are inconclusive due to the

high proportion of student comments that imply a poorly written or confusing questionnaire item.

   Three of the six students interviewed explained that discussions in literature circles helped

them remember more details of a book than they would if they had not discussed the book with

others. The other three students interviewed contributed their improved understanding of books

discussed in literature circles to the help that they received from other students in their group.

One student explained, ―If I miss something we go over it in class and then I can understand it

more because usually some people bring it up.‖ All students interviewed agreed that they

understood the topics of their novels which were discussed in literature circles.

   Interview responses indicated that discussions in literature circles were beneficial to most

students‘ understanding of books they read. The literature discussions helped most interviewees

better remember details from their reading, and presented students with topics or ideas that they

may not have realized independently.



     What can teachers do to make literature circles motivating and meaningful to students?

   Of the students who responded to the statement ―I enjoy participating in literature circles,‖

12% strongly agreed, 44% agreed, 12 % selected undecided, 32% disagreed, and 0% strongly

disagreed. Five students who agreed or strongly agreed to enjoying literature circles used the

word ―fun‖ to support their reasoning. For example, one student wrote, ―I strongly agree because

it is fun and you learn more and you find out what other people think.‖ Four students also
                                                                                             45
reported enjoying literature circles because they liked to work with others. This was said in

numerous ways. One student explained that it was ―fun to read with your friends,‖ and another

student agreed, ―I enjoy [sic] because you can see what others think of reading.‖

   Students who did not enjoy literature circles preferred to work alone rather than in groups.

For example, one student remarked, ―I like to work alone. I can concentrate easier,‖ while

another student wrote, ―It‘s alright but when everyone gets together, everyone just messes

around instead of work.‖ Students‘ specific reasons for wanting to work alone varied.

    When responding to the statement ―I would like to continue participating in literature circles

for this school-year,‖ 12% of participants strongly agreed, 36% agreed, 36%, were undecided

16% disagreed, and 0% strongly disagreed. Students who agreed or strongly agreed wrote

comments including ―fun‖ as their reason. Other students explained that literature circles helped

them to achieve higher grades in class, allowed them the opportunity to receive help from others,

and helped them to improve as readers. Students who disagreed and did not want to continue

participating in literature circles did not like reading, or they did not like to work with other

students.

    In interviews, students were asked how literature circles have improved their motivation to

read if at all. Three students said they ―read more‖ for literature circles. They cited reasons

including more interest in reading due to the exposure of new or different books, an obligation to

complete homework assignments, and a desire to better understand and participate in group

discussions about a book. One student explained, ―I do read it more because then I understand

when other people do their little summaries, and I get to understand it. Then I actually want to

read it.‖ All students named positive aspects of literature circles in response to this question.

Other reasons given for increased reading in literature circles included ―fun‖ and ―help in
                                                                                        46
reading.‖ These responses were analyzed for major themes. Students were motivated to read in

literature circles due to the accountability of teacher-assigned tasks and by the social aspects of

literature circles such as receiving help from other students and having fun discussing books with

other students.

   Students‘ suggestions to improve literature circles varied. Two students said that they would

like to spend more time meeting with their groups to discuss their books, while two other

students had more specific suggestions. One student suggested the use of games to sustain or

increase students‘ motivation to read a book. She explained, ―We can do games with it, like see

who could figure out what happens next, or like a prediction, who‘s the closest?‖ Another

student recommended that students buy dictionaries to assist them in preparing for literature

circles at home (so students‘ could find definition for words they don‘t understand while they

read at home). Two students had no suggestions for improvement of literature circles. Overall

students‘ suggestions to improve literature circles were minor.

   Literature circles motivated some students to read and helped some students to better

understand books they read in class. Questionnaire data revealed that the effects of literature

circles on students‘ motivation to read and reading comprehension varied by student and

depended on several factors. These factors included a student‘s preference to work alone or with

others, a student‘s ability or effort to complete teacher assigned tasks, and a student‘s general

like or dislike of reading itself. Interview data further supported these findings.



                                 Relationship to Previous Research

   Most previous researchers agreed that teachers needed to incorporate students‘ interests and

choices to improve students‘ reading motivation and engagement in literature circles (e.g. Lin,
                                                                                          47
2004; Wood, Roser, & Martinez, 2001). The results for this study supported this conclusion.

Most students agreed that they would complete more reading assignments for literature circles if

they could choose their role i.e. the type of assignment they would complete to demonstrate

understanding of a text.

   Previous research also found that literature circles were an effective strategy to improve many

students‘ reading comprehension (e.g. Burns, 1998; Egle, 2002; Katz & Kuby, 2001; Lin, 2004;

Manning, 2005). This study could not support the claim that literature circles improve students‘

understanding of text due to inconclusive results. Students‘ responses varied to questionnaire and

interview items about reading comprehension. This is likely due to portions of the research

questionnaire which were unclear or misunderstood by some participants.



                                        Recommendations

   This study helped teachers to grow professionally by helping them learn more about the needs

and interests of the student population they served. The data collected in this study helped

teachers to prepare more effective reading lessons by incorporating student feedback. This is

aligned with the state of California‘s Teacher Preparation Expectations (TPEs) 8 and 13.

―Learning about Students‖ is TPE 8. The implementation plan for these research results

included a Power Point presentation which was shared with teachers in May of 2006 (see

Chapter Six). This is an important aspect of TPE 13, ―Professional Growth,‖ because teachers

were able to use data from the study to better understand their students‘ perceptions of literature

circles (California State University San Marcos, 2005). Teachers were encouraged to vary the

sizes of groups used in classroom instruction, to allow student choice in activities whenever

appropriate, and to require that students read daily in class and for homework.
                                                                                                48


                                             Reflections

   The mission of California Lutheran University‘s teacher education program is to help future

teachers learn to: (a) serve as mentors for moral and ethical leadership, (b) think critically to

connect theory with practice, (c) respect all individuals, (d) include and respond to the needs of

all learners, (e) value diversity, and (f) empower individuals to participate in educational growth

and change. These goals are collectively represented by the acronym STRIVE. This research

study reflected the high goals of STRIVE in several ways.

   This study reflected moral and ethical leadership because ethical research strategies were

implemented. This was achieved through the use of consent forms and honored anonymity for all

participants. The researcher connected theory with practice by applying research results to future

classroom practice. All individuals were respected throughout the research process as

participants were thoroughly informed of their rights, and these rights were honored throughout

the data collection, analysis, and reporting process. The researcher also respected participants by

refraining from making judgments about participants‘ statements prior to the analysis of the data.

The needs of all learners were included and responded to, and diversity was valued by nature of

the study; the goal of the study was to assess a research strategy to see if it addressed the needs

and interests of all learners. Finally, this study empowered individuals to participate in

educational growth and change through the implementation. The data results were shared with

students and staff in the form of a PowerPoint presentation to empower them to incorporate this

feedback into future classroom practice. This research clearly reflected the values set forth in

STRIVE.
                                                                                               49
                                            Suggestions

   Future researchers could make several changes to the methodology used in this study. First,

more research is needed to determine whether students‘ feelings about literature circles correlate

with the students‘ present reading comprehension levels and other relevant variables. Future

researchers might collect more data such as student grades or performance results on reading

comprehension tests and compare them with students‘ feelings about literature circles.

   Second, in this study some shy students were reluctant to participate in interviews. Feedback

from these students is important because literature circles are a social reading strategy, and shy

students may struggle or become more social in these reading groups. More research is needed in

this area. Offering an incentive to participants such as a snack or extra credit might encourage

more shy students to participate.

   Third, future researchers should have another individual, other than the students‘ teacher,

conduct interviews. This could be beneficial because some students may be afraid to make

negative comments about literature circles in an interview with their teacher.

   Fourth, some students said that their parents did not want to sign consent forms because their

parents did not completely understand the requirements of the study. Future researchers could

send out a copy of the instruments (along with the initial consent form) to help parents and

students better understand the study and participants‘ roles. Future researchers may also want to

send parents a second, less formal reminder to encourage participants and their parents to return

the consent form.

   Fifth, interviews in this study took less than the allotted time of 15 minutes. Future

researchers may want to change the time allotted to ten minutes per interview, or they may wish

to ask more questions to collect more data within the 15 minute time-frame.
                                                                                         50
   Finally, some items on the questionnaire and interview protocol may need to be changed.

Questions pertaining to students‘ feelings about reading in general were not analyzed in this

study because a correlation analysis was not performed. Future researchers might omit these

questions and add questions that focus on more specific aspects of literature circles. Also, the

wording of some items on the questionnaire and interview protocol could also be changed to be

clearer to students. For example, many students selected ―undecided‖ for questionnaire item

nine, which asked whether literature circles helped students perform better on reading tests.

Some students were unsure about which type of reading tests were being addressed (i.e.

standardized, teach-made tests about their book, etc.). Wording should be revised for clarity.

Wording to questionnaire and interview items should also be changed to reflect the needs of the

specific classroom to be studied. For example, different classrooms adapt literature circles in

different ways, so item six on the questionnaire (about student roles in literature circles) might

not be relevant to all classrooms.



                                             Conclusion

   Literature circles motivated more than half of the study participants to read more while

helping them to better understand the books they read. Most students viewed literature circles as

a positive experience. Of the students who did not prefer literature circles, most cited reasons

related to a dislike of reading. These students did not specifically critique the process of literature

circles.

   Overall, students were motivated to read in literature circles due to the elements of choice,

working with others, and the motivation to complete teacher assigned work. Literature circles did

not motivate the most reluctant readers in this classroom, but the strategy‘s incorporation of
                                                                                           51
student choice, individual and group responsibility, and fun improved the reading habits and

comprehension of most students. Chapter six includes the PowerPoint Presentation used to

present these results to the Brighton School site and the closure to this action research project.
                                                                                             52
                                           CHAPTER 6

   The results of this study were shared with all language arts teachers, several students, and the

principal of Brighton School. The research results were presented in the form of a PowerPoint

presentation during a team meeting in May of 2006. The team discussed how language arts

teachers could successfully implement student feedback about literature circles into the

classroom curriculum for the 2006-2007 school-year. Teachers used this data to create and

modify lessons to meet the individual needs and interests of the Brighton School population, thus

improving students‘ academic experiences.



                                         Implementation

                               Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
                                                                                       61
                                          Closure
                                Best Action Research Project

Ingredients
     1 Caring and Dedicated Teacher
     1 Classroom of Students with Varied Reading Interests and Needs
     6 sets of 5 Different Novels of Various Genres and Levels of Difficulty
     5 Groups of Students Who Discuss the Same Novel
     25 Students Who Are Willing To Describe Their Experiences in Literature Circles
     1 Tape Recorder
     1 Computer
     1 Group of People who Support the Teacher in this Personal and Professional Growth
       Experience

Directions

   1. Find something in your classroom that you want to improve.
   2. Observe this classroom feature and collect data using various instruments.
   3. Spend hours at the library and at coffee shops analyzing your data and composing your
      thoughts.
   4. Put it on paper. Spend months writing and revising to share your wealth of knowledge
      with others.
   5. Take breaks often.
   6. Reflect on everything you‘re learning about yourself and your students through this
      challenging and important project.
   7. Incorporate your findings to improve students‘ learning experience!
   8. Order your cap and gown. Embrace graduation day because you deserve it!
                                                                                            62

                                     Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
     1 cup butter, softened
      1 cup white sugar
      1 cup packed brown sugar
      2 eggs
      2 teaspoons vanilla extract
      3 cups all-purpose flour
      1 teaspoon baking soda
      2 teaspoons hot water
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
      1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

   1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
   2. Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs
      one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter
      along with salt. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop by large spoonfuls onto un-
      greased pans.
   3. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned.
                                                                                            63


                                             References



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       The Explicit Teaching of Reading (pp. 49-61). Newark, DE: International Reading

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Anderson, R.C., Wilson, P.T., & Fielding, L.G. (1984). Growth in reading and how children

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Black, S. (2005). Reaching the older reader: The best way to increase literacy among adolescents

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Blum, T.H., Lipsett, L.R., & Yocom, D.J. (2002). Literature circles: A tool for self-determination

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Brown, B. (2002). Literature circles in action in the middle school classroom. Georgia College

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       and Adult Literacy, 42(2), 124-129.
                                                                                       64
California Department of Education. (2005). Testing and Accountability. Retrieved November

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       http://lynx.csusm.edu/coe/eportfolio/TPEs.FullText.doc

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       http://home.att.net/%7Eteaching/litcircl/easyprep.pdf

Daniels, H. (2002). Resource for middle school book clubs. Voices from the Middle, 10(1), 48-

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Daniels, H. (1994). Literature circles: voice and choice in book clubs and reading groups.

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Davis, B.H., Resta, V., Davis, L.L., & Camacho, A. (2001). Novice teachers learn about

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       26(3), 1-6.


Eeds, M., & Wells, D. (1989). Grand conversations: An exploration of meaning construction in

       literature groups. Research in the Teaching of English 23, 4-29.


Egle, C.H. (2002). Literature circles. Unpublished master‘s thesis, Winona State University,

       Winona, MN.
                                                                                        65
Evans, K.S. (2001). Literature discussion groups in the intermediate grades: Dilemmas and

       possibilities. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Gilbert, L. (2000). Getting started: Using literature circles in the classroom. Primary Voices K-6,

       9(1), 9-16.

greatschools.net. (2005). California schools- free resources. Retrieved November 22, 2005 from:

       http://www.greatschools.net/modperl/go/CA

Katz, C.A., & Kuby, S.A. (2001). Literature circles. Book Links, 11(3), 41.

Kirby, S.N., McCombs, J.S., & Naftel, S. (2003). A snapshot of Title I schools serving migrant

       students. Policy and Program Studies Service. Retrieved December 1, 2005 from the U.S.

       Department of Education Web site:

       http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/disadv/nlss2000/nlssmigrant-snapshot.doc

King, C. (2001). ―I like group reading because we can share ideas:‖ the role of talk within the

       literature circle. Reading, 35(1), 32-36.

Lin, C. (2004). Literature circles. Teacher Librarian, 31(3), 25.

Long, T.W., & Gove, M.K. (2004). How engagement strategies and literature circles promote

       critical response in a fourth-grade, urban classroom. The Reading Teacher, 57(4), 350-

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Manning, M. (2005). Reading refresher. Teaching PreK-8, 35(7), 78-79.

Moen, C.B. (2005). Literature circles revisited: Learning from experience. Book Links, 14(5), 52-

       53.

Mora, P. & Welsh, J. (n.d.). Session one: reader response theory overview. The Expanding

       Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature. Retrieved October 18, 2001, from The

       Annenberg Channel Web site: http://www.learner.org/channel/workshops/hslit/session1/
                                                                                        66
Parker, S.M., Quigley, M.C., & Reilly, J.B. (1999). Improving student reading comprehension

       through the use of literature circles. Unpublished master‘s thesis, Saint Xavier University

       & Skylight Professional Development, Chicago.

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             67
Appendices
                                                                                               68
                                            Appendix A

November 14, 2005

Dear Dr. Travick-Jackson,

I am aware that Shannon Curry plans to conduct an action research project at Briggs School in
partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Master‘s Degree of Education from California
Lutheran University. The purpose of Ms. Curry‘s research is to understand student perspectives
of reading strategies that are used in the 8th grade language arts classroom. More specifically,
Ms. Curry will study how 8th grade students at Briggs School feel about literature circles or
―book clubs‖ as a tool to improve reading comprehension.

This research study will take place during the third and fourth quarters of Briggs‘ school
calendar. Each 8th grade student who obtains parental consent will complete one questionnaire
about reading and reading strategies. This questionnaire will take approx. 20 minutes to
complete, and students will complete this questionnaire during their language arts class period.
Several eighth grade students will also be invited to participate in one 15-20 minute interview
with Ms. Curry during the students‘ lunch-recess or elective period. Student interviews will be
tape-recorded. Data collected from the study will be used to determine how 8th grade students
feel about reading and specific reading comprehension strategies.

Participation in this study is strictly voluntary. Participation in this study is not associated with
the students‘ grades in any way. Students who choose to participate in the study may withdraw
from the study at any time. Students may choose not to respond to any or all of the items on the
questionnaire or interview. At this time there are no known risks for participating in this research
study. All data will be kept in a secure location. All student names and the name of the school
will remain anonymous.

Shannon Curry has my permission to conduct the research project as described in this letter. I
have seen and approve the instruments for this study. I understand that the school name and the
names of all students involved will remain anonymous. I understand that I may contact you, Dr.
Cecelia Travick-Jackson, at California Lutheran University (805)493- 3087, if I have any further
questions regarding this study.


Sincerely,



Debbie Cuevas
Principal
                                                                                                       69
                                                Appendix B

Dear Parents/Guardians of Eighth Grade Students,

   My name is Shannon Curry and I am your child‘s Language Arts teacher at Briggs School. I am also a
student at California Lutheran University where I am studying to complete my Master‘s Degree in
Education. I am currently involved in a research project as part of this Master‘s program. The purpose of
my research is to understand student perspectives on reading strategies that are used in the 8th grade
language arts classroom.

    I am inviting and encouraging all 8th grade students to participate in this study. Participation in this
study may encourage your child to think about his/her own learning style, and which strategies help
him/her to understand challenging literature. This is a valuable skill as your child prepares for the rigor of
high school courses. This study will take place between February and May of 2006. Students who
participate will complete one questionnaire about reading comprehension strategies which will take
approx. 20 minutes to complete. I will also interview several students to gain further insight on their
feelings about reading. Student interviews will be tape-recorded. All data collected from the study will be
used to determine how 8th grade students feel about reading and specific comprehension strategies.

   Participation in this study is strictly voluntary. Participation in this study is not associated with your
child‘s grade in any way. Students who choose to participate in the study may withdraw from the study at
any time. Students may choose not to respond to any or all of the items on the questionnaire or interview.
At this time there are no known risks for participating in this research study. Students‘ names will not be
used, and all data will be kept in a secure location.

   If you would like your child to participate, please sign and return this consent form to Miss Curry by
(Date). If you have any further questions about the research please contact me or Ms. Cuevas at (805)525-
7151.

   Sincerely,


   Shannon Curry                                   Deborah Cuevas
   Teacher, Briggs School                          Principal, Briggs School

Consent Statement:
I have read the information in this letter and I permit my child to participate in this study. I understand
that I may change my mind at anytime. I understand that my child’s participation in this study will not
affect his/her grade in Miss Curry’s class.

Signature of Parent/Guardian ________________________________________Date __________

I have read the information in this letter and I would like to participate in this study. I understand that
I may change my mind at any time. I understand that participation will not affect my grade in Miss
Curry’s class.

Signature of Student _______________________________________________Date __________

** If you have further questions about the project please contact my professor at California Lutheran
University, Dr. Cecelia Travick- Jackson, (805) 493-3087.
                                                                                          70
                                         Appendix C

Directions: Please circle the word to show the extent of your agreement or disagreement with
each statement. Then, use the lines provided to explain your response in more detail. Thanks! 
1. I enjoy reading.
  (1)Strongly Disagree     (2)Disagree       (3)Undecided      (4)Agree     (5)Strongly Agree
   Please explain your response in more detail.
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
2. I can read as well as most students in this class.
  (1)Strongly Disagree     (2)Disagree       (3)Undecided      (4)Agree     (5)Strongly Agree
   Please explain your response in more detail.
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
3. I often read independently outside of school.
  (1)Strongly Disagree     (2)Disagree       (3)Undecided      (4)Agree     (5)Strongly Agree
   Please explain your response in more detail.
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
4. I enjoy participating in literature circles.
  (1)Strongly Disagree     (2)Disagree       (3)Undecided      (4)Agree     (5)Strongly Agree
   Please explain your response in more detail.
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
5. At home I read more than usual when I have a reading assignment for literature circles.
  (1)Strongly Disagree     (2)Disagree       (3)Undecided      (4)Agree     (5)Strongly Agree
   Please explain your response in more detail.
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
                                                                                      71
6. I would complete more reading assignments for literature circles if I could choose my
   role in literature circles.
  (1)Strongly Disagree      (2)Disagree       (3)Undecided      (4)Agree     (5)Strongly Agree
   Please explain your response in more detail.
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
7. Discussions in literature circles help me understand the books I read in class.
  (1)Strongly Disagree      (2)Disagree       (3)Undecided      (4)Agree     (5)Strongly Agree
   Please explain your response in more detail.
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
8. After my most recent literature circle meeting, some topics about my book were still
   unclear to me.
  (1)Strongly Disagree      (2)Disagree       (3)Undecided      (4)Agree     (5)Strongly Agree
   Please explain your response in more detail.
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
9. Discussions in literature circles help me get higher scores on reading tests.
  (1)Strongly Disagree      (2)Disagree       (3)Undecided      (4)Agree     (5)Strongly Agree
   Please explain your response in more detail.
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
10. I would like to continue participating in literature circles for this school year.
  (1)Strongly Disagree      (2)Disagree       (3)Undecided      (4)Agree     (5)Strongly Agree
   Please explain your response in more detail.
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
   ___________________________________________________________________________
                                                                                                          72
                                                       Appendix D

Table D1. Students Responses to Questionnaires


Student Responses on Likert-Type Rating Scale
(5=Strongly Agree, 4=Agree, 3=Undecided, 2=Disagree, 1=Strongly Disagree)
      Questionnaire         Strongly Agree      Agree    Undecided Disagree           Strongly Disagree
          Items              n        P       n     P     n      P     n  P            n          P            M    SD

1. I enjoy reading.                    4   0.16   10   0.40   4     0.16   6   0.24     1        0.04      3.40     1.15

2. I can read as well as most
students in my class.                  7   0.28   8    0.32   6     0.24   4   0.16     0        0.00      3.72     1.06

3. I often read independently
outside of school.                     4   0.16   8    0.32   7     0.28   3   0.12     3        0.12      3.28     1.24


4. I enjoy participating in
literature circles.                    3   0.12   11   0.44   3     0.12   8   0.32     0        0.00      3.36     1.08

5. At home I read more than            6   0.24   6    0.24   4     0.16   8   0.32     1        0.04      3.32     1.28
 usual when I have a reading
assignment for literature circles.
6. I would complete more               5   0.21   12   0.50   7     0.29   0   0.00     0        0.00      3.92*    0.72
reading assignments for literature
circles if I could choose my role.
7. Discussion in literature            3   0.12   14   0.56   6     0.24   2   0.08     0        0.00      3.72     0.79
circles help me understand the
books I read in class.
8. After my most recent                0   0.00   6    0.24   4     0.16   9   0.36     6        0.24      2.40     1.12
literature circle meeting, some
topics about my book were still
unclear to me.

9. Discussions in literature
Circles help me get higher
Scores on reading tests.               0   0.00   10   0.42   12    0.50   2   0.08     0        0.00      3.33*    0.64

10. I would like to continue
participating in literature circles.   3   0.12   9    0.36   9     0.36   4   0.16     0        0.00      3.44     0.92


Note. n=number of students, P=percentage representative of 25 total respondents. *Indicates missing value for one
student. P represents 24 total respondents for questions 6 and 9.
                                                                                            73
                                           Appendix E

                        Written Responses to Student Questionnaires

Item One- I enjoy reading.

   A. Agree- I like to read but no alod [sic].
   B. Agree- I like reading if it is a really good book and it catches my interest. If it is like a
      science or history book, I don‘t really like reading them.
   C. Disagree- The book was boring.
   D. Strongly Agree- Because I really like to read at home.
   E. Undecided- Reading is ok. cause [sic] it gives your something to do, but it‘s also kind of
      boring.
   F. Agree- I enjoy reading books that I buy at bookstores and pickout [sic] but sometimes the
      books we have to read at school don‘t interest me.
   G. Strongly Agree- Because it takes me away far from where I am and its exciting to see
      how cleverly things unfold.
   H. Agree- I enjoy reading=Agree [sic] because you can learn about a place or something
      and your vocabulary increases.
   I. Agree- I agree because I like reading poetry and scarry storys [sic] but I don‘t like
      reading Misstory [sic] ones.
   J. Agree- I like reading but not as much.
   K. Disagree- My voice usually twists in a word and sometimes I say it wrong.
   L. Strongly Agree- I like reading dramatic teen stories that are similar to my own life.
   M. Strongly Disagree- I don‘t enjoy reading because it takes full consentration [sic] and
      sometimes watching the movie or hearing a tape player reading the book for you is better.
      It sticks in your mind more.
   N. Agree- I like to read but it is very hard for me to just get stuck on one book.
   O. Strongly Agree- I read as much as possible. I would live in Barnes and Nobles if I could.
   P. Disagree- I will probly [sic] read if the book is interesting and If I am in the mood to
      read.
   Q. Agree- I only enjoy reading R.L. Stine books.
   R. Undecided- I like to read but not by choice.
   S. Disagree- To me, reading is kind of boring.
   T. Undecided
   U. Disagree- I never really liked to read. I never liked to spend my time on that unless it was
      homework.
   V. Agree- I like reading when I‘m reading a good book. When I‘m bored or waiting, I like
      to read because it passes time really fast.
   W. Undecided- It depends on what kind of book it is- Like Any’s Baby, Go Ask Alice [sic].
   X. Disagree- Well I don‘t really like to read.
   Y. Agree- I like reading that gets my attention and if it is really interesting.
                                                                                            74
Item Two- I can read as well as most students in this class.

   A. Undecided
   B. Strongly Agree- I read very good [sic] compared to most students in this class.
   C. Undecided- Some of the students in this class have diffrent [sic] language.
   D. Agree- I agree because I do read well.
   E. Disagree- I read fast and I don‘t understand when I read too fast.
   F. Agree
   G. Strongly Agree
   H. Agree- I can read as well as most students because I believe in myself and I‘m as smart as
       them.
   I. Undecided- I‘m undcided [sic] because I could read well but some times I get stuck in big
       long words.
   J. Undecided- I don‘t read as well as most students but I can read.
   K. Agree- I‘m louder and clear. I don‘t mumble.
   L. Strongly Agree- I enjoy reading thus I have enough practice to read well.
   M. Agree- I can read very good, I always get good compliments when I read.
   N. Strongly Agree- I can read as well as most students in my classroom.
   O. Undecided- I honestly don‘t know.
   P. Disagree- Most students are fast but I take my time so I am not really like most student
       [sic].
   Q. Undecided- I‘m not sure.
   R. Disagree- I don‘t know some words.
   S. Strongly Agree- Reading is really easy.
   T. Disagree
   U. Agree- I think even though I don‘t read a lot I am still an [sic]pretty good reader.
   V. Strongly Agree- I was always in one of the top 2 corrective reading classes. I read fluently
       and better than most of the students.
   W. Agree- I can read good as well as my classmates.
   X. Agree- I‘m a really good reader.
   Y. Strongly Agree- Yes, I‘m a good reader.
                                                                                       75
Item Three- I often read independently outside of school.

A. Undecided
B. Undecided- Sometimes I read outside of school if I am really bored.
C. Undecided- I sometimes read books.
D. Agree- I always read at home when I get a good book.
E. Disagree- I hardy [sic] read because I don‘t have any good books to read.
F. Undecided.
G. Agree- I like to read books that teachers don‘t assign because they are usually more
   interesting. I can also read as fast or as slow as I want.
H. Undecided- I don‘t really have time to read outside of school.
I. Agree- I sometimes read in my house poetry [sic] because I think It [sic] poetry is very
   exciting and sometimes really good.
J. Agree- I like to read when I‘m bored.
K. Undecided- sometimes.
L. Strongly Agree- I read many chapter books outside school.
M. Agree- That‘s when I have my own time and I only read whenever I‘m bored.
N. Strongly Agree- I love to read out of school whever [sic] I can.
O. Strongly Agree- Read, read, read. That‘s all I do at home, other than homework and
   video games.
P. Agree- Sometimes I do because I am usely [sic] bored.
Q. Strongly Disagree- I never due [sic].
R. Undecided- something in bed
S. Strongly Disagree- I don‘t read unless I have to.
T. Agree
U. Strongly Disagree- I never read outside of school unless it‘s a homework assignment.
V. Agree- I read the whole sports section everyday.
W. Disagree- I only read magazines at home
X. Disagree- I don‘t read at all if its not in school (classroom)
Y. Strongly Agree- Yes, I love to read books.
                                                                                            76
Item Four- I enjoy participating in literature circles.

   A. Undecided
   B. Agree- I think that they change up the day and it is fun to hear different people‘s
      opinions.
   C. Agree- I like to do work.
   D. Disagree- I don‘t like it because I get embarressed [sic] to read my story that I wrote in
      front of people.
   E. Agree- I enjoy[sic] because you can see what others think of reading.
   F. Agree- Yes because sometimes we have fun activities.
   G. Agree- I think it is fun to share opinions and debate about your differences of them.
   H. Strongly Agree- I strongly agree because it is fun and you learn more and you find out
      what other people think.
   I. Strongly Agree- I like going because people in your group help you catch up if you are
      left behind and I think it‘s very cool.
   J. Agree- I like when we do literature circles.
   K. Disagree- Then everyone depends on you.
   L. Agree- I like having a wider variety of books rather than just three or four.
   M. Disagree- I don‘t because I can finish my work better by myself.
   N. Undecided- I can‘t decide because I often get stuck with people that don‘t actually read
      the books.
   O. Disagree- I like to work alone. I can concentrate easier.
   P. Agree- I do if the people in my literature circle get along.
   Q. Strongly Agree- I like to read to other people.
   R. Disagree- NO
   S. Agree- It‘s pretty cool.
   T. Undecided
   U. Disagree
   V. Disagree- It‘s alright. But when everyone gets together, everyone just messes around
      instead of work.
   W. Agree- I enjoy literature circle [sic], like w/ Mrs. Brown- Black Pearl, The Cay, The
      Giver, The Samurais Tale.
   X. Agree- It‘s fun to read with your friends.
   Y. Disagree- It doesn‘t help me, I understand the book better myself.
                                                                                    77
Item Five- At home I read more than usual when I have a reading assignment for literature
            circles.

   A. Strongly Agree- Because I want to get good grades.
   B. Strongly Agree- I will read if it is an assignment and I have to.
   C. Disagree- I really don‘t like reading.
   D. Agree- I read more because I know that my grade depends on it.
   E. Strongly Disagree- I don‘t read for the same reason as question 3 (I don‘t have any good
      books to read).
   F. Disagree- I usually read what I am assigned however if the book interestes [sic] me I read
      more.
   G. Strongly Agree- I usually like my books better and I can read them without a deadline.
   H. Agree- I agree because it is an assignment.
   I. Strongly Agree- I agree because I don‘t really like reading anything but good books.
   J. Agree- Yes, I read more at home then [sic] school.
   K. Agree- I am alone no [sic] one watching.
   L. Disagree- I may not enjoy reading the book chosen.
   M. Disagree- I read the same and that‘s never.
   N. Undecided- It usually depends on what kind of book I have.
   O. Strongly Disagree- I read just as much. The new book just takes the place of another
      book for a while.
   P. Undecided- I am not sure if I do I don‘t pay attions [sic].
   Q. Strongly Agree- I like to do my homework.
   R. Undecided- sometimes
   S. Disagree- It doesn‘t affect me.
   T. Disagree
   U. Agree- I can‘t concentrate for a literature circle. At home I do more.
   V. Disagree- I am usually always reading a book.
   W. Undecided- It depends on how good it is.
   X. Disagree- I don‘t read but if I will I have to.
   Y. Agree- I go right ahead and read the whole book instead of chapter by chapter with my
      group.
                                                                                       78
Item Six- I would complete more reading assignments for literature circles if I could choose
           my role in literature circles.

   A. Strongly Agree- Because is asy. [sic] (facil)
   B. Undecided- I might put more effort into a project if I got to choose who I would play.
   C. Strongly Agree- I would turn in more homework and read more.
   D. Undecided- I don‘t really know
   E. Agree- I would do reading homework if I could choose what it would be like.
   F. Agree- Yes because fun assignments always make me wanna [sic] complete the
      assignments.
   G. Agree- Because I would be able to choose the role that I am most interested in.
   H. Undecided- It doesn‘t matter to me because either way I am still going to do more
      homework.
   I. Agree- I would choose to draw things because it much better then wrighting [sic] things.
   J. Agree- Yes, I would finish my assignment in literature circles.
   K. Agree- My group helps me, do it [sic] because I have a choice.
   L. Strongly Agree- I like picking what book I like.
   M. Agree- Yes I would be more likely to do it because I would be doing what I wanted to do.
   N. Undecided- ?
   O. Agree- Yes, I would. I would try a little more if I had a choice.
   P. Agree- If I had a choice I would probly [sic] do it.
   Q. Undecided- I‘m not sure.
   R. Strongly Agree- Yes because I like to draw.
   S. Agree- I would probably pick the easiest.
   T. Undecided
   U. Undecided
   V. –
   W. Agree- If there was writing activitys [sic].
   X. Strongly Agree- I would do alot [sic] more homework if I could pick my own homework.
   Y. Agree- Yes, I could do things better the way I want the assignment instead of following a
      lot of steps.
                                                                                   79
Item Seven- Discussions in literature circles help me understand the books I read in
            class.

A. Undecided
B. Agree- Yes, sometimes in hard books there are things that I don‘t get and I can ask
   questions and get answers in lit. circles.
C. Agree- They help with questions I need help in.
D. Agree- I get it more when people explain it with me.
E. Strongly Agree- A lot of times I don‘t understand a book.
F. Agree
G. Agree- When I am by myself I think that my opinion is the only one but other people
   have different points of view and it helps broaden my mind.
H. Agree- I agree, because you learn other‘s perspective of the book.
I. Agree- I under stand [sic] books.
J. Agree- Yes, they help me understand.
K. Agree- Its voices explain it more better [sic] than a book.
L. Undecided
M. Disagree- No, I work better by myself.
N. Agree- They often help me, but not much.
O. Disagree- I understand it well enough by my self [sic].
P. Agree- If the people actually read the book.
Q. Strongly Agree- So everybody can understand what the story‘s are about and they feel
   what other people think about the story
R. Undecided- sometimes
S. Undecided- It seems the same.
T. Agree
U. Agree- It helps me alot [sic] because If I don‘t understand students can help me.
V. Undecided- I always understand what I read regardless of of [sic] whether I‘m in a group
   or not.
W. Agree-The people in groups help me understand things.
X. Agree- They help me because I get to understand the book more.
Y. Undecided
                                                                                         80

Item Eight- After my most recent literature circle meeting, some topics about my book
            were still unclear to me.

   A.   Undecided
   B.   Disagree- Everything was pretty clear after words.
   C.   Undecided- Some where [sic] confusing to me.
   D.   Agree- Some times [sic] I don‘t get what people are saying and I would get confused.
   E.   Strongly Disagree- After the last literature circle meeting I had I understood every
        thing [sic].
   F.   Disagree
   G.   Disagree- Outsiders was very clear to me in the end.
   H.   Strongly Disagree- At the last literate [sic] circle I knew everything I needed to know
        about the book.
   I.   Disagree- I think most books are really clear of what it sayes [sic].
   J.   Strongly Disagree- Everything we do is understandable.
   K.   Disagree- I get it when it when [sic] we all looked over and I got it.
   L.   Disagree- Most of us evaluate our thoughts and ask questions relevant to the story.
   M.   Agree- Because sometimes we don‘t talk about the book and we get off the subject.
   N.   Strongly Disagree- It still all helped me and I was clear about everything.
   O.   Strongly Disagree- I understand it fine.
   P.   Undecided- I don‘t remember.
   Q.   Disagree-I think I understand most of it.
   R.   Agree- I forget about the rest of the book.
   S.   Strongly Disagree- If I don‘t know something I find it out.
   T.   Agree
   U.   Disagree
   V.   Disagree- When I read The Outsiders, I was really into the book and I read every
        word carefully.
   W.   Undecided- Yes, that is true. If I don‘t ask questions I won‘t get it.
   X.   Agree- I still didn‘t get the book that much because for some reasons it just dosent
        [sic] get n [sic] my head.
   Y.   Agree- Yes, I didn‘t understand some of what was being talked about.
                                                                                    81
Item Nine- Discussions in literature circles help me get higher scores on reading tests.

A. Undecided-
B. Undecided- Sometimes I do, and sometimes I bomb.
C. Agree- I work better.
D. Undecided- I don‘t know because my grades go up and down.
E. Agree- After circles I know more about the book.
F. Undecided- Sometimes I get higher scores if I really pay attention and understand the
   book. But there are times I still get bad grades on my test.
G. Agree- I remember what people say about the book and sometimes what they say are
   answers.
H. I don‘t get the question.
I. Agree- It sometimes gets me like C‘s or B‘s.
J. Agree- Yes, they do.
K. Undecided- uhh [sic]…sometimes
L. Agree- I‘ve never really done a lit. circle
M. Disagree- It doesn‘t.
N. Undecided- Once in a while.
O. Undecided- What kind of reading tests? If it‘s about a book, then yes. If it‘s about reading
   in genera[sic] no.
P. Agree- If the people actually read the book and payed [sic] attinsion [sic].
Q. Undecided- not sure
R. Agree- I can discuse [sic] the book.
S. Undecided- I‘m not sure.
T. Disagree
U. Agree- Every discussion is clear after we go over then [sic].
V. Undecided- I‘m not really sure.
W. Agree- I will remember more things in my groups.
X. Undecided- I really don‘t know.
Y. Undecided
                                                                                      82
Item Ten- I would like to continue participating in literature circles for this school year.

A. Undecided
B. Agree
C. Agree- I can work better with students if try to do my work.
D. Undecided- I don‘t know because I like them but I don‘t.
E. Undecided- I don‘t realy [sic] know.
F. Agree- Yes I would because I enjoy literature circles.
G. Undecided- I‘m not undecided, I just don‘t mind.
H. Agree- Agree because it makes me read!
I. Strongly Agree- I like literature circles and It makes me get better at reading if I read
   with somebody because they corect [sic] me in my mistakes.
J. Strongly Agree- Yes, I would on keep [sic] literature circles.
K. Undecided- I don‘t know it all depends if I‘m interested in the book.
L. Disagree- I don‘t like reading the same book as everyone else.
M. Disagree- I would like to work independently.
N. Agree- Yes, I guess I wold [sic] I mean its much more fun than just silent reading.
O. Disagree- I like to work alone. I think better [sic].
P. Strongly Agree- It would be awesome if we did that. I would probly [sic] get a better
   grade in this class.
Q. Agree- I think that we should.
R. Undecided- Maybe
S. Agree- Just because.
T. Undecided
U. Disagree- I don‘t enjoy reading.
V. Agree- I think it is fun.
W. Agree- I enjoy reading groups, and especially if the book is good.
X. Undecided- I have know [sic] idea. Maybe it would be fun.
Y. Undecided
                                                                                              83
                                             Appendix F

Interview Protocol
Time_____:_____                Date: ____/____/____             Interviewee Code: __________

The purpose of this study is to help teachers learn about 8th graders‘ feelings about literature
circles. This interview will be tape-recorded, however your name will remain anonymous and all
data will be kept in a secure location. This interview will take approximately 15 minutes to
complete.
[Test tape recorder.]

Questions:
1. Please describe your role in literature circles this week.




2. How have literature circles affected your motivation to read (if at all)?




3. How do discussions in literature circles affect your understanding of things you read (if at all)?




4. What topics remained unclear to you (if any) after you finished your last meeting in literature
circles?




5. How could literature circles be more helpful?




Thank you for your cooperation and participation in this interview. Your responses will be kept
anonymous.
                                                                                               84
                                             Appendix G

Student Interview Transcription
Time: 8:35 a.m. Date: 3/7/2006 Interviewee Code: A1
Key: I= interviewer R=student response

I: The purpose of this study is to help teachers learn about 8th graders and your feelings about
literature circles. The interview will be tape-recorded but your name will remain anonymous and
all data will be kept in a secure location. This interview will take about 15 minutes to complete
or less.

I: Please describe your role in literature circles this week.

R: Um, my responsibility, it was to um, to just read the book and we would meet in our group
after we read the book, and then we would answer these questions. After everybody answered
the questions and everybody filled it out, we would join together and review over it and see what
different answers we got and see if anybody didn‘t do it or not.

I: How have literature circles (reading groups) affected your motivation to read if at all.

R: It actually made me read more often because I got more interested in books, and it helped me
get motivated to read.

I: Why?

R: Because I wasn‘t very interested in books and I thought they were just boring and pointless,
and then when I started reading a few books it actually got me interested.

I: What books did you like, and what interested you about it?

R: I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and I liked it because it‘s talking about what‘s still going
on today, racism, and how it would affect a kid, black or white.

I: So what‘s interesting about that?

R: It still goes on today, and people need to know to treat other people how they want to be
treated.

I: How do discussions in literature circles affect your understanding of the things you read if at
all?

R: It would help me better because I get more opinions. Like if I didn‘t know something, then
they would help me out.

I: Do you have an example from Roll of Thunder of something you didn‘t understand that
someone helped you with in literature circles?
                                                                                           85

R: I actually knew most of the stuff, but some people asked me about it and so it would actually
benefit me and the person.

I: How did it benefit you and the other person?

R: It benefited me because it made me remember. It‘s kind of hard for me to remember things,
but I had to look back still. And it benefited them by helping them out and telling them how to
do this and explaining it.

I: What topics remained unclear to you, if any, after you finished your last meeting?

R: The only thing I had a problem with was with the dictionary words and how it worked, but
the rest were fine. It was kind of easy.

I: So with the definitions, what was hard about that for you?

R: Well, sometimes I would be at home reading the book and I didn‘t have a dictionary, so I
would go to the public library.

I: You went to the library to look those (words) up?

R: (nods yes)

I: So if I were to ask you to find words you didn‘t know in your new book, and you had to look
them up in a dictionary, what would you suggest to make that easier for everybody?

R: Well, I would say (students should) buy a dictionary at Big Lots! or something, or go to the
public library like I did.

I: How could literature circles be more helpful to you?

R: Nothing really.

I: Thank you for your cooperation and participation in this interview. Your responses will be
kept anonymous.
                                                                                           86


Student Interview Transcription
Time: 8:45 a.m. Date: 3/7/2006 Interviewee Code: B1
Key: I= interviewer R=student response

I: The purpose of this study is to help teachers learn about 8th graders and your feelings about
literature circles. The interview will be tape-recorded but your name will remain anonymous and
all data will be kept in a secure location. This interview will take about 15 minutes to complete
or less.

I: Please describe your role in literature circles this week.

R: When you have to figure out the questions. We just read and answered the questions that were
on paper. We would see what was the problem in the book and answer it. We helped each other
out in the group.

I: What kind of stuff would you help each other do?

R: Words that we didn‘t understand.

I: How have literature circles affected your motivation to read, if at all?

R: I do want to read it more because then I understand when other people do their little
summaries, and I get to understand it. Then I like actually want to read it.

I: What about it makes you want to read it?

R: The excitement, like seeing what‘s gonna happen next. Some of it‘s drama.

I: How is that different from just reading a book on your own?

R: It makes me want to read more. I guess, yeah.

I: You mentioned hearing other peoples‘ summaries. Is it hearing their summaries that motivates
you to read more, or do you want to read more before literature circles so that you understand
other students‘ summaries when they read them?

R: Before so I get to understand like what it means.

I: Without literature circles do you understand what books mean?

R: Probably yeah. Then, like, I need a little bit more help.

I: Do literature circles give you that help to understand better?
                                                                                                 87
R: Yeah.

I: What about the types of books you read in literature circles? Is that different than reading on
your own?

R: It‘s about the same.

I: How do discussions in literature circles help you understand the books you read?

R: I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and when we‘re in the literature circles, like when you
hear other people read it and them trying to act out the voices and picturing it in your head, and
then it helps me remember it.

I: What topics remained unclear to you after you finished your last literature circle, if any?

R: Nothing really.

I: How could literature circles be more helpful to you?

R: Um, well like we can do games with it, like see who could figure out what happens next, or
like a prediction, whose the closest?

I: How would that help you with the book?

R: More motivated I guess. It‘s easy the way it is right now.

I: Thank you for your cooperation and participation in this interview. Your responses will be
kept anonymous.
                                                                                              88

Student Interview Transcription
Time: 10:25 a.m. Date: 3/10/2006 Interviewee Code: C1
Key: I= interviewer R=student response

I: The purpose of this study is to help teachers learn about 8th graders and your feelings about
literature circles. The interview will be tape-recorded but your name will remain anonymous and
all data will be kept in a secure location. This interview will take about 15 minutes to complete
or less.

I: Please describe your role in literature circles this week.

R: What do you mean?

I: I mean what did you do?

R: I showed everyone my picture. We all had our question and everyone answered it. We
found words that we didn‘t know and we looked them up in the dictionary. There is a teacher
question and we answered that one. We had to write a paragraph summary.

I: How have literature circles affected your motivation to read (if at all)?

R: It‘s a lot funner than just reading and writing stuff down. Everyone can express what they
think about the book.

I: So what makes it more fun?

R: Just being with everyone else and reading like in a group.

I: So the social aspect of it?

R: Yes.

I: So are you reading more when we have reading groups than you normally read by yourself?

R: Yes and no. I read everyday but not books. I usually read newspapers and magazines.

I: How do discussions in literature circles affect the understanding of things you read (if at all)?

R: Sometimes when other people read their summaries and stuff, I understand the book a little
bit more. I learn more detail.

I: What about some of the themes or characters in the book? Do literature circles help you
understand them more?

R: The Jerry Spinelli, I already understood it.
                                                                                            89

I: What about the last book that you read?

R: The Outsiders? I understood that one too.

I: What topics remained unclear to you (if any) after you finished your last meeting in literature
circles?

R: Uh, I didn‘t have any questions after that.

I: How could literature circles be more helpful to you?

R: I like the way they are now.

I: Thank you for your cooperation and participation in this interview. Your responses will be
kept anonymous.
                                                                                             90

Student Interview Transcription
Time: 10:35 a.m. Date: 3/10/2006 Interviewee Code: D1
Key: I= interviewer R=student response

I: I: The purpose of this study is to help teachers learn about 8th graders and your feelings about
literature circles. The interview will be tape-recorded but your name will remain anonymous and
all data will be kept in a secure location. This interview will take about 15 minutes to complete
or less.

I: Please describe your role in literature circles this week.

R: I read my summary and answered my questions.

I: How have literature circles affected your motivation to read (if at all)?

R: Because I know that you are going to be talking about the book, so I have to read it a lot, and
read it good and everything.

I: Do you read more than you normally would on a day to day basis if you know we are going to
do literature circles?

R: Yeah.

I: How do literature circles affect your understanding of the things you read (if at all)?

R: Because like, if I miss something we go over it in class and then I can understand it more
because usually some people bring it up.

I: Were there any topics that remained unclear to you after you finished your last meeting in
literature circles?

R: Um no, all of them got pretty clear.

I: How could literature circles be more helpful?

R: Um, because um, we go over them and everything.

I: So are there any changes I could make to literature circles to help you understand the book
better?

R: Um, no. Literature circles are kind of fun.

I: Thank you for your cooperation and participation in this interview. Your responses will be
kept anonymous.
                                                                                              91
Student Interview Transcription
Time: 11:13 a.m. Date: 3/10/2006 Interviewee Code: E1
Key: I= interviewer R=student response

I: I: The purpose of this study is to help teachers learn about 8th graders and your feelings about
literature circles. The interview will be tape-recorded but your name will remain anonymous and
all data will be kept in a secure location. This interview will take about 15 minutes to complete
or less.

I: Please describe your role in literature circles this week.

R: We have gone over the book. The book we are reading, we have gone over it and helped
each other to explain what is going on.

I: How have literature circles affected your motivation to read (if at all)?

R: They are like, the literature circle is helping me read more. When I am in my spare time, I
don‘t read. But like, it helps me read because it‘s like an assignment.

I: So if I assign reading as homework, then you do it?

R: Yeah.

I: How do discussions in literature circles affect your understanding of things you read, if at all?

R: Like, if I don‘t really get the book, everybody saying what they know about the book helps
me like get it.

I: So for the last book that you read, is there anything that you didn‘t understand?

R: No, I understand it but if I didn‘t understand something in the past and we went over it, then I
did after that.

I: Like in the Outsiders?

R: No, I understood that one too.

I: So you mean in younger grades?

R: Yeah.

I: But for now are they helping you understand better?

R: Yeah. Like helping me know more about the book than what I knew.
                                                                                             92
I: What topics remained unclear to you if any, after you finished your last meeting in literature
circles?

R: No.

I: How could literature circles be more helpful to you?

R: Maybe more time like, spend more time meeting with each other. Maybe each person could
tell what they read by reading their summary.

I: How would that help you?

R: Like, if I didn‘t write something down on my summary, like I forgot about it, it would make
me remember it.

I: Thank you for your cooperation and participation in this interview. Your responses will be
kept anonymous.
                                                                                              93

Student Interview Transcription
Time: 1:13 p.m. Date: 3/10/2006 Interviewee Code: F1
Key: I= interviewer R=student response

I: I: The purpose of this study is to help teachers learn about 8th graders and your feelings about
literature circles. The interview will be tape-recorded but your name will remain anonymous and
all data will be kept in a secure location. This interview will take about 15 minutes to complete
or less.

I: Please describe your role in literature circles this week.

R: I did the worksheet and finished my reading. I talked to my friend about the book.

I: How have literature circles affected your motivation to read if at all?

R: Um, because I get help in reading.

I: So are you reading more when we meet in literature circles?

R: Yes.

I: Why?

R: Because it‘s better and I get help, I don‘t get stuck on words that much.

I: Do you usually get stuck on words when you read at home?

R: No, not really.

I: What about reading in literature circles is making you read more than you usually do?

R: Because, I get to read with somebody.

I: How much more do you think you are reading this week in literature circles than a normal
week without literature circles?

R: A lot. I never read on my own.

I: So are you just reading because it‘s homework?

R: No, because at school I can read with my friends.

I: How do discussions in literature circles affect your understanding of things you read if at all?

R: We get to go over the book again, the main topics of it.
                                                                                           94

I: What about that is helpful to you?

R: Because it refreshes your memory.

I: Were there any topics that remain unclear to you after you finished your last meeting with
literature circles?

R: No, not really.

I: How could literature circles be more helpful to you?

R: Get to go over the book again. Go over it with your friends more. Like meet in groups more
to talk about the book.

I: Thank you for your cooperation and participation in this interview. Your responses will be
kept anonymous.
                                                                                              95
                                            Appendix H

                       EDGN 559C- Action Research Study Reflections



2/23/06

   It has been very difficult getting my students to turn in the consent forms to participate in my

study. I finally showed them the tools for the study, restated the time requirements, and offered

to give them candy for turning in the forms by a certain date.

   Now more students are beginning to turn in the forms. I think the candy was motivational, but

more importantly, I think showing students the research tools demystified the study and made

them more interested in participating.

   Some students shared that their parent wouldn‘t let them participate in the study. A co-worker

suggested that the formality and academic language of the consent form may have been

intimidating or difficult to understand. She suggested sending home a less formal reminder about

the study, what it entails, and a copy of the instrument (questionnaire) to put parents minds at

ease.

   If I were to repeat this study I would definitely attach the questionnaire to the consent form.

The additional letter is also a good idea, but it may be extra work for nothing considering some

students would never even show it to their parents. I would also offer candy from the beginning

next time. It works!

2/24/06

        The students pointed out that question number six has an error. I can‘t believe I missed it!

The questionnaire I gave them said, ―I would complete more reading assignments for literature

circles if I could [sic] my role I literature circles.‖ The word ―choose‖ is missing.
                                                                                                 96
3/2/06

         Last night I finished entering all the data from the student questionnaires. This was a long

process, but well worth the time and effort. I am glad that I asked students to describe their

responses to the likert-type scale in detail because it gave me insight into the students‘ reasons

for their answer choices. In some cases, student explanations demonstrated that they did not

understand the questionnaire statement. It is important to note because it directly affects the

validity of the data.

   Looking through the data last night also made me reflect on my original purpose. What am I

trying to find out and does the data answer those questions? If I were to repeat this study I would

probably focus the questions more. I would eliminate questions about students‘ feelings about

reading and reading habits, and focus more on literature circles.

3/7/06

         This morning I conducted two interviews with two female 8th graders. They took less

time than I thought they would (about 8-10 minutes each). My students gave general feedback

about literature circles. In general, they were positive about literature circles, but I wondered if

this had anything to do with the fact that they were being interviewed by me, their teacher, who

implemented this practice in the classroom. I‘m not sure how comfortable they are giving me

negative feedback or ―constructive criticism.‖

         I asked one of the students to give specific examples to support her feelings and this was

the most helpful aspect of the interview because I better understood her reasoning and feelings

about the literature circle process.

         If I were to repeat this research project again I would probably have someone else

interview my students. I would also offer some kind of incentive, like extra credit, to lure some
                                                                                               97
of my shy students to participate (their opinion is important because literature circles are very

social, but many of them were too shy to interview with me).

         These interviews were also conducted in March, three months after our last literature

circle rotations. This made it difficult for students to remember a lot of details from their

literature circle experiences. I had planned to interview them just after we finished our most

recent literature circles, but due to fieldtrips and other events we are behind my long-term plans

in language arts. We are just beginning literature circles again this week, so I will try to

interview more students on Friday, just after their first literature circle meeting for their new

books. This will hopefully provide more immediate and detailed feedback.

3/8/06

         Today we had our first literature discussion groups since we began this round of literature

circles. About half of the students appeared to have read and completed their preparation

assignments. I only met in groups with the students who had completed the reading and it was

fun! The students seem to enjoy their books and they also seemed to enjoy the additional

responsibility of running their reading group discussions. I think some of them feel a mutual

respect between student and teacher by being given this responsibility along with choices.

         The most rewarding part of discussions for me today was when I got to sit and discuss

books in English with my two English learners. The rest of the class was engaged in discussion

about their own books with freed me up to talk to these students. I think it is important for them

to practice speaking English and the books they read gave us something to talk about. Literature

circles have also been nice because these students and other students could read a book that was

appropriate for their own reading level, rather than the whole class reading the same book.
                                                                                           98
        At the end of class groups got together and decided what they could feasibly read by

Friday. This is the first time I‘ve asked groups to set their own reading/homework goals and I

hope that it is successful (and everyone does the reading). From the discussions I heard the

groups seemed to decide on roughly the same number of pages I would have chosen for them

anyway, but now they are responsible for meeting their own goals rather than goals I set for

them.

3/11/06

        I just finished transcribing the last of my interviews for my study. I also made tables for

my quantitative data. If I were to repeat this study I would change the wording of some items on

the questionnaire to make it more in student language and to make it even more specific. For

example, many students selected undecided for the question about whether literature circles help

them do better on reading tests. This may have been because they were not sure what type of

reading tests I meant (standardized, teach-made tests about their book, etc.)

Also, I ended up running literature circles different than the prototype to meet the needs of my

class. For example, instead of having each student select a different role each week I had every

student do part of each role. This is because so few of my students complete their homework, so

I wanted students to get all of the important info even if someone I their group didn‘t do their

assigned reading and homework for their role. With these changes, some of the questions on my

questionnaire needed to change as well, but I couldn‘t change the questionnaire in time to get my

study re-approved by IRB
                               99
        Appendix I

Sample of Teacher Fieldnotes
                                            100
               Appendix J

Sample of Completed Student Questionnaire
                            101
      Appendix K

Sample of Interview Notes

				
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