Why Do Literature Circle Work?

I recently read an a piece of work by Harvey Daniels–What’s the Next Big Thing with Literature Circles?

Harvey recaps recent history of language arts based teaching methods and explains why literature circle is one of the popular methods of instruction now.


For starters, many methods including worksheets often become tedious and overuse becomes common. Harvey Daniel’s explains that the difference with literature circles is due to students actually enjoying their learning. Harvey Daniel’s states there are 4 words to capture why literature circles work: engagement, choice, responsibility, and research.



Students are responsible for sharing their ideas, coming prepared to discuss the book and in small groups of 4-5, each student has the opportunity for airtime. Students are also happy to have the change to work collectively as leaders rather than have everything run by a teacher.


Students have the opportunity to pick what books they are going to read. Compare this to old school novel study where a teacher has to work to ensure students by into a book. If I am being honest, I loved all the books my elementary teachers chose–I imagine they had worked had to make choices based on previous student preferences. But–with allowing choice, students are more likely to take ownership their learning  and have fun.



Literature circles treat students as leaders of their own learning–they give them responsibility that resembles adult book groups. This autonomy and ability to work together to come up with ground rules, self-assess, and create meeting schedules where all members are required to participate.



This area refers to data created to reflect the efficiency of literature circles. I will save you the reading. Literature circles benefit students. Research shows that students who practice and that have opportunity to share, make connections with text, and listen to others are more likely to engage with their reading and develop greater comprehension skills.



Literature circles are big picture exercises–the goal is to help create students become citizens that can find enjoyment in texts, learn reading strategies and to discern information. Literature circles offer students the opportunity to share their findings in safe settings that have a variety of ways to share their learning–this makes assessment more accurate for students who show their learning based on different preferences.


6 thoughts on “Why Do Literature Circle Work?

  1. Firstly, I LOVE FAYE BROWNLIE I saw her at the super conference and I am happy to see that you are interested in her work! I agree with you Mr. McMullen that literature circles are effective and practical in the classroom. Literature circles create a place of cooperative learning and ultimately creates independent students. I love that the students get to take ownership of their own learning, and they get to build critical thinking skills, as well as, reflective skills.

    I am interested to know more on how to help the students that lack social skills and don’t collaborate, thus defeating the whole purpose of these circles. Students who don’t take the responsibility to research answers to questions they have trouble with because they are so accustomed to getting guidance from their teachers. I have seen students who didn’t feel forced to do the work because every time the teacher came to check on our group, their group mates carried on the discussion, basically covering for them.

    Very well done Mr. McMullen.


    1. I totally agree that it is difficult to get 100% participation especially if students are uncomfortable with sharing, have varied needs, or are used to being able to be a passive participant. I don’t think there is one clear way to address non-participation but by having good-fit books that capture student interests, praising and recognizing students for their sharing throughout the day during all activities, and clearly building and stating class wide criteria for roles within a cooperative learning environment, one can start to isolate the specific needs of the learners and adapt the framework accordingly. In some lit. circle practices the teacher remains with the group the entire time and lets the group run itself based on the co-created criteria–the nice thing about teaching is getting see what works–I guess that is kind of a challenge, too :).

      I like it because it works so well with the BC core competencies. The challenges can be a great way to asses where class/individual growth can build next! Thanks for your comment!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have always been interested in trying literature circles, but have yet to try it. I really like how you incorporated the four different reasons for why they are so effective. I think they seem like great ways for students to engage in their interests, as well as being able to collaborate with others. Have you tried literature circles in your practicum?


  3. I also have been studying up on lit circles for our blogs. I think choice is one of the major keys into why it is successful. Students get to choose books and assignments so the flipped responsibility works great because it is all based on student choice. Did you ever experience lit circles as a student?


    1. Yes! Harvey Daniels broke down the reasons literature circles are successful into 4 categories including choice, responsibility, engagement, and research. Choice is huge for instilling intrinsic motivation, self-regulation, and meetings ones goals. I have not been a part of literature circles – I wish I had, it would have made this research even more interesting and relatable!


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