Literature circles are commonly incorporated in English language arts classes but also can be meaningful in the world language setting, especially with the newfound prevalence of language-learner-friendly readers. Reading in the target language and participating in a series of engaging tasks within a literature circle helps bring the text to life. It also allows every student to contribute and become actively involved in the experience.
To start, literature circles allow for teamwork with clearly outlined responsibilities. Hence, all group members must contribute in their own way. Ideally, in a literature circle, four or five students work together to summarize and analyze a text, whether it’s a short story or a single chapter from a class novel. Each person receives a specific role they must fulfill that helps guide the group.
Literature Circle Roles
Vocabulary expert: This student is in charge of identifying key vocabulary words in the chapter or text with the corresponding meanings in the target language. Students can also gesture or act out the vocabulary words they have chosen to include.
Summarizer: This student summarizes the main ideas behind the chapter or text. What happened, and how did these events affect the plot? Students in this role should be giving an overview of the main events of the text in the target language.
Character analyzer: This student focuses on the important characters or figures within the text and provides an analysis of each of them. This can include simple descriptions of the characters or a more complicated analysis of the intentions and personalities of each character in the text, depending on the level and language capabilities of the students.
Illustrator: This student illustrates the main events that take place in the text or chapter. To accompany the illustrations, students in this role can provide captions or explanations of what they drew.
Critic: This student provides a critique of the text or chapter. Was it well written and satisfying? Was it predictable, boring, or engaging? Why? Students who are critics can give the text or chapter a stars rating to reflect their critiques.
Predictor: If reading a chapter book or class novel, this student predicts the following chapter based on the events that have taken place with an explanation why.
Cultural connector: This student draws a connection between the text and a cultural point, whether it be related to the practices, products, or perspectives associated with the target culture(s).
Of course, these roles can vary depending on the text, as well as on the students’ needs. Once students have the opportunity to work and share within their literature circles, they can present their findings to the class as a whole, leading to a larger discussion.
After you determine the roles to guide your class’s literature circles, I suggest creating cards that list the title of each literature circle job, as well as the expectations. Once you organize your students into groups of four or five, each member of the group will receive their card with their designated duties. In addition, I would have each group sit in a circle to allow for active communication and collaboration.
Even though each member of the group technically is completing a different task, they are all working with the same text and should be brainstorming and sharing with one another. Students can complete their literature circle tasks digitally on Google Slides, on paper, or on joint poster boards. It’s entirely up to you, as the educator, based on what you feel works best in your classroom.
If students are working together on a common poster board, I recommend giving each group member a different-colored marker and section of the poster to keep the process as organized and streamlined as possible. On Google Slides, each person would have their own slide within a collaborative group presentation.
Moreover, as the teacher, consider your students’ strengths before assigning their roles. If you know that one student enjoys art, perhaps the “illustrator” role would spark excitement. Similarly, if one of your students is extroverted, talkative, or opinionated, the “critic” role might be the best fit.
Overall, literature circles can make the reading process even more exciting and engaging for your students. Most important, it’s a student-centered task in which the students themselves are taking the reins to produce something rich and meaningful.