Literature Circles – Why, Mr. McMullen?

Hi, and welcome to my first ever blog post. I cannot guarantee action, or drama but if it helps, try reading this in Jim Carey’s voice.

New things are exciting– particularly when it has to do with trying new foods, convincing your significant other to see a movie you want to see, or the day you start investigating literature circles. For people like us, today is the day for at least one of those. I picked this topic based on my belief that reading skills can be applied in all aspects of learning and fosters enjoyment. I want to help students gain confidence with their writing and have fun while doing so. As many educators realize, people do their best and demonstrate growth most often when they have a sense of enjoyment and engagement in their learning. I am hoping to realize what it is about literature circles that makes it a widely practiced methods. I asked the greatest resource on the planet–google. Then, I asked the greatest person. I have censored her name, so we will call her Hermione.


Hermione  referred me to a book called literature Circles by Faye Brownlie. The book is not currently in at the library or at chapters but it is on Amazon and I will have it shortly. However I found these 6 principles that represent the 6 T’s of Exemplary Elementary Reading Instruction on SD.5s Literature Circle guide on line–it refers directly to Faye Brownlie’s research.

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Literature circles aim to create meaningful connections between student and text. Often, writing and journalling can seem tedious and laborious as a student–given a topic they have no control over. One aspect of literature circles that I think is worth noting is the use of conversation in small groups with other students. As I understand it, students are encouraged to share what they believe about content they read, often with students who are reading the same book. Additionally, literature circles utilize discussion groups as a method to practice many skills including the following.    Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 6.13.07 PM.png

Discussion groups are key to literature circles. This is the part where 4-7 students at a time meet with a teacher to discuss a reading. The teacher has a simple role and is not intended to dominate conversation, but instead, to foster and facilitate student ideas and sharing. How is this done? I will get back to you. Lets continue this overview.

The student role is to come prepared with a contribution to share with their classmates and to follow the rules listed along the left side. Students practice discussion, taking turns, listening and making connections to theirselves, to the text, and to the world around them. You probably just read this twice, but on the off chance you didn’t read it the first time– cool-awesome-great.


Accountability and learning how to best critique oneself and others is another great skill developed by literature circles. What I like most about this method so far is the use of journalling. Most journals that I see (my pink unicorn diary) are only edited by maybe one source (thanks mum). Editing and learning how to create a finished product for various levels of publication and showcasing is one of the strengths of this method. For examples, students have 3 key edits on a given piece of learning. Students learn to edit and give themselves feedback to enhance their work in addition to receiving suggestions from peers, and their teachers. Feedback is meant to be constructive and very descriptive–this helps learners identify how to check their own work and their peers. The online passage outlines a few more helpful and meaningful intentions including that not all work should be marked. I like this idea and I think it reflects a more natural way of writing and flow.

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I hope this acts as a successful teaser into round world of literature circles. If you are just tuning in and looking for a summary, be honest, then this last paragraph is what you are looking for.

What we know about literature circles so far:

Discussion groups: 4-7students, students led, teacher facilitated, important rules for active listening and contributing respectively. Use stories and sharing to help develop connections to self, the text, and the world.

Journaling: Allows students to share their knowledge and create work that has received 3 different edits/feedback including from ones peers, a teacher, and an edit by the original author. This also acts as a great opportunity for teachers to assess student learning as students will develop a piece of writing 3 times.


What I am going to focus on next:

I hope this is easy enough to follow–as a learner I tend to start by taking a subject, finding major parts of a subject, loosely studying those parts and then diving in to particular intricacies and specifics. My next post will be based on Faye Brownlie’s Grand Conversations – A Unique Approach to Literature Circles and will focus on group discussion.








One thought on “Literature Circles – Why, Mr. McMullen?

  1. Jim Carrey’s voice was a great help, try adding a little bit of Morgan Freeman here and there for the more serious parts.

    I think you did a great job of hitting the main concepts, and gathering some resources. I did a literature circle last year on my practicum and I see a lot of the same principles here that the kids put forward in their work.


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