Activities and Lessons
for Language Arts

Literature Circle Plan
~ Angela Hatley Almond

I have used literature circles in my classroom for 2 years. They are almost completely student driven. I have used them in fourth and fifth grade. We departmentalize and I found that they work best in the higher and middle groups. The lower readers can do them but the outcome is not as significant. For this group I modify my original plan to more resemble that of a guided reading program but still have them doing something where they feel they are "in charge."

The first year, I began by assigning jobs like many plans I found in resource books and the Internet suggested. However, my kids found the jobs limiting and tedious. Instead, I put together the following plan where I was able to get more done than just the literature circle, itself.

1.          Choose 3-4 books (beginning with picture books and moving to chapter books) ranging in reading levels. Do a book walk and tell students which books might be more challenging and which would be easier to read.

2.         Students have a chance to look at each book and preview them. They then write their first, second, and third choices on index cards. I put them in groups according to what book they chose. I take into account grouping (behavior) and reading level.

3.         Groups then get together and decide how long it will take them to read their book. If it is a chapter book, they break it into sections and read one section at a time (3-4 chapters). I walk around and help with the planning at first but eventually they do it on their own and just report their plans to me, which I write down in an anecdotal notebook.

4.         After this, the groups break into groups and do sort of a "center" rotation. I have a chart that tells them which "center" they will be in based on the timeline they gave me. The centers are as follows:

a. Reading (When they will read their books.)

b.Discussion (When they will discuss what they have read.)

c. Mini-Lesson (When I or another teacher will do a mini-lesson on a certain reading strategy with the small group.)

d.Writing (When the kids write in their response journals to a given prompt, usually dealing with the reading strategy taught in the mini-lesson.)

e.Practice (A game or computer practice that focuses on the strategy taught in the mini-lesson.)

5.         When a group has finished a book, they do a culminating project to "advertise" the book (i.e. skit, poster, bookmark) and present it to the class.

6.         For assessment, I have a rubric that I grade them on each aspect of the literature circle with heavy emphasis on the discussion part. I also let them complete a self-assessment rubric.

7.         For picture books, a full rotation of a literature circle takes about 1 week but for chapter books, it could take about 2 1/2 weeks. For notes on how and what the kids discuss and how I introduce the literature circles, see the notes below.


While students are reading, they use sticky notes to write questions on and place in their books. I have a system I created called ABC

questions. "A" questions are "Ask a question about something you don't understand." This type of discussion should only take about 5

minutes. "B" questions are "Bring a good discussion question." These are questions

that they can talk about and debate for some time. This part of the discussion takes about 30 minutes. "C" questions are "Connect what you read to another book, yourself, or the world." This part takes about 20 minutes. 

I teach them how to do this by using very simple books and model, model, model, model as a whole class. Then I scaffold it by having

them only write the questions and the class discussing it as a whole. Then I turn it around and give them the questions and let them discuss in small groups on their own. Finally, they are free to do this on their own. We also practice "piggyback." It is very interesting to listen to their discussions. I will often hear someone say, "I am going to

piggyback on what Leondre just said" or "Kylie, do you have something you want to add." It is really amazing what can happen when you let the kids have free reign over what they are learning. It usually takes me at

least 1 month of modeling and scaffolding before they are finally able to discuss on their own.

When the kids are ready to do a complete literature circle on their own, I always make sure that the schedule for the rotations allows me to sit in on at least part of each discussion. However, I sit outside the circle and listen. Very rarely do I step in and say anything. I listen and take notes in my notebook and use these notes to complete my rubric for each child.

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