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Instructional Techniques

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Reading Strategies is a label commonly used to refer to both the strategies used by students to get meaning from text and the strategies used by teachers to structure and deliver instruction. Merry Bee uses the label ‘instructional techniques’ for those instructional strategies the teacher uses and ‘reading strategies’ for those strategies the student uses in reading.
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Literature Circle


A Literature Circle is a student-led book discussion group. Similar technique may be called: book club, literature group, literature study, literature discussion group, cooperative book discussion group.
Developed by many practitioners, but popularized by Harvey Daniels, 1995.
Use for small group, but possible to adapt to partner or whole class settings.
Use in grades 3-12.

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Students develop skills for talking about books in a thoughtful and personal way. Contrast to the pattern that can become the routine of the reading class: all read -> teacher probe (question) -> student responds with expected answer.
Procedures vary, but descriptive elements of the Literature Circle instructional technique include:

  • students read and discuss a book in small group formed temporarily for the given book
  • usually a student selected book from options provided
  • the group meets on a regular scheduled basis
  • student-led
  • students share personal reactions. Option—Students may be assigned roles or jobs to help them develop a variety of types of discussion responses to the reading. See links below.
  • teacher serves only as a facilitator, and not as a group member or leader of instruction
  • assessment by teacher observation and student self-evaluation
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Online staff development course:
Starting and Refining Literature Circles is a self-paced course developed by Harvey Daniels and Nancy Steineke. Register with Heinemann and start at any time for CEU or graduate credit. Required text is their book Mini-Lessons for Literature Circles (Heinemann, 2004).
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Links to resources
  • Literature Circles Build Excitement for Books! is an Education World article bringing together various viewpoints in an overview of literature circles. Includes use with at-risk students.
  • Literature Circles Resource Center. Overview, structure of literature circles, procedures, and extensions. Site created by Katherine L. Schlick Noe, coauthor of four books about literature circles including Getting Started with Literature Circles, 1999 (grades 1-6), and Literature Circles in Middle School, 2003. Specific sections of this site target primary grades and middle school. For teachers of grades 1-8.
  • Literature Response Circles is the term used by eighth grade teacher Jeanette Manwell. She describes how she starts literature circles and offers tips for ongoing procedures and assessment. For teachers of grades 6-9.
  • Eighth grade teacher Helen Popravak writes directly to the middle school student to answer, “What Are Literature Circles?“ Behavior when interacting in the Literature Circle is a strong part of this. For teachers of grades 6-8.
  • Intermediate grade teacher Laura Candler describes several models for implementing literature circles on the Literary Lessons section of her site. She provides printable forms and organizers to use with students and recommends books teachers of grades 3-6 can read to learn more.
  • Literature Circles. Defines Literature Circles and procedures based on the book by Harvey Daniels. This site is archived inservice materials prepared by Jeanne Morris, second grade teacher and staff development trainer. For teachers of grades 2-5.
Links showing the optional use of student assigned roles: to top
  • In Literature Circles for Young Students, teacher Linda Geist describes participant roles when students are getting started with Literature Circles in her 1st/2nd grade multiage classroom. (2nd source)
  • Literature Circles by middle school teacher Janet Lopez describes the organization of middle school students based on role assignments.
  • Secondary teacher Jim Burke has an extensive description of roles for students in his (pdf) Lit Circle Notes.
Links showing the optional use of writing within the Literature Circle groups:
  • Cindy Adams shares suggestions from her experience using Literature Circles in middle school and high school English classes. She covers: getting started, integrating writing strategies, booklists of recommended books for Literature Circles groups and of teacher resources. For teachers of grades 6-12.
  • Literature Circles: Writing in the Round shows how one teacher pulls from the work of Cindy Adams and uses Writing in the Round as a project assignment for the Literature Circle group.
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page last updated: 2/14/08
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