Literature Circles and Struggling Readers in Middle School

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So here goes….I learned about literature circles in college and through staff development provided by the county in which I work. I thought to myself, well I think it is time to try out what I have been hearing. Perhaps it was time to see what they could do in my classroom. In my opinion its a known fact that students who struggle in reading do not like to read. Students will find ways to get out of reading if they can. I started thinking, in what ways can I make literacy more fun in my classroom? How can I engage the students more in the literature that we are reading? How can I get them to be more involve and get them to actually enjoy reading?

Hopefully when I set up my literature circles soon I will find the answers to those questions. I was researching literature circles and came across a article that I found interesting. The article stated that “studies have shown that when students are involved in authentic conversation about literature, they are more engaged in their reading (Alpert, 1987; Enciso, 1996), and they take more risks (Eeds & Wells, 1989).” This had me excited because being that I have never incorporated literature circles in my classroom I am naturally a bit nervous about it. I spoke with other teachers in my school that have had success with literature circles and they told me to plan carefully and explain explicitly what is expected at each station. So what I decided to do is to ask my students. In one of my classes my professor suggested to me that maybe I should ask my students what they want to learn she told me that almost always that students who struggle with reading almost never get to choose what they read. That had me thinking. She was totally right. In my few years of teaching I have not once asked my students what they wanted to read so I decided to ask them if they would enjoy participating in literature circles they seemed excited about getting up and rotating to the different stations. I do not know why it never occurred to me to ask the students.That will be something that I will change in the future to involve my students more in the learning process more.

I also read that literature circles also promote students’ motivation to read and have been shown to improve students’ reading levels and performance on tests. Now after reading this, this was music to my ears!!  One of my personal goals that I set for myself as a new teacher is to increase student motivation in reading. Also, to move my students closer to grade level. So if literature circles can help motivate students to read as well as help them to score better on their test and quizzes, then I can not wait to try this out! Even though its very important for my students to perform well on their test and quizzes for me it is as equally important to have them to enjoy it as well. So I hope that I will be able to engage my students more and help them to really enjoy and develop a love for reading.

Sources

Enciso, P. (1996). Why engagement in reading matters to Molly.
Reading and Writing Quarterly, 12,
171–194.
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3 thoughts on “Literature Circles and Struggling Readers in Middle School

  1. Actually, I have to disagree with you. I don’t think it’s a fact that students who struggle with reading don’t like to read. There’s a decent amount of research out there that says they do like to read and that they want to get better at it. By middle school, most “struggling readers” have had repeated negative experiences with reading in school. This colors their vision of who they are and what they are capable of doing – and who can blame them? If you’d spent 7+ years being told/shown that you were bad at something you’d likely assume it was true. Anyways, most want to learn but feel like they don’t know what to do to get better at anything reading related. They are stuck in a cycle of failure. Our job is to break that cycle and help them become full participants in the classroom/

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  2. erineddy

    I have used literature circles in my classroom the past couple of years, and the students LOVE working through the texts together. We try to make it a “book club” setting so that all of the students (especially the reluctant readers) have a really positive experience. I set up a corner of the room with pillows and camping chairs that a different group gets to sit in each day. Some days I’ll make hot chocolate or let the students bring snacks to share with the class. They were looking forward to literature circle discussions so much that we decided to do them twice during the year. My students read for homework, then they have 30 minutes to complete a “task” or a “job” and then they have 30 minutes to share and discuss. At the end of the units they share a project with the class. They set up a “dystopian world simulation” when they read science fiction and they create a “history museum” when they read historical fiction. I would be happy to share with you some of the things we have created for literature circles at my school!

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