Mary Kreul's Fourth Grade Class
Richards Elementary School
Whitefish Bay


Literature Circles are a wonderful way for students to enjoy reading while practicing a variety of important literacy skills. I have used Lit Circles in a variety of ways with second and fourth graders over the past several years - with teacher chosen titles and student selected titles, whole class stories and books and small group stories and books, specific role sheets and sticky note comments - depending on the needs of my students, available texts and time, and the skills of the teacher. :-)

This year my fourth graders have had three previous rounds of Lit Circles. The first was an introductory session using book sets from the hilarious Junie B. Jones series, the second from sets of realistic fiction titles where 9-10 year old children faced challenges in their lives, and several historical fiction titles about life in the 1800s for the third round.

For the Literature Circle Extension Project, I chose four mysteries - Bunnicula and The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe, The Boxcar Children Book #1 by Gertrude Chandler Warner, and Day of the Dragon King by Mary Pope Osborne - because the genre fit the strategies of inferring and questioning that my students are working on at this time.

To begin this Lit Circles session, I introduced the books that were available for the round and students had a day to browse through the choices. Next they filled out a sheet with the book titles, indicating their preferences by numbering the titles #1 through #4. Generally students get their first or second choice for Lit Circles but the number of students choosing certain titles and the number of books I have available also need to be considered.

Students used Literature Circle Role Sheets from Laura Candler's site to help focus their thinking and extend their comprehension as well as the subsequent discussion. However, they were also encouraged to extend the discussion by using follow-up questions, asking partners to explain their comments, sharing connections, and so on.

Each group met on Day 1 and decided which pages they would read over the five days scheduled for Lit Circles then made a written response schedule so that members could rotate easily through the roles of Predictor, Connector, Comprehension Monitor, Visualizer, and Summarizer. Next, students read their assigned pages or chapters for Day 1 and completed individual role sheets.

On Day 2, students began by discussing what makes a good literature circle discussion with their groups - the four groups' ideas are posted on their Extension Projects pages. Next they met in their discussion groups and shared their role sheet comments, then went on to read the day's assignment and complete that day's role sheet.

On Day 3, we talked about how to extend a Lit Circle discussion beyond the role sheets, using Laura Candler's questioning sheet to develop similar questions that fit their books - then students were off reading and responding to their texts.

On Days 4 and 5, students had their Lit Circle discussion at the beginning of class when I observed and assessed individuals on their preparation and participation for that day. Students also completed self evaluations reflecting on their own reading, written comments, sharing with their group, and response to group members during discussion time.

On the following Monday, I presented groups with a list of Extension Projects for their group to consider. A book review was required because one of the writing focuses for the year is persuasive writing. Additional project ideas included: poem, song, commercial, letter to character, diary of character, portrait of character, map, scene, interview, biography, and newspaper article. Groups of 5 students were required to do a book review then had a choice of at least one additional project. Groups of 6 students were required to do a book review along with a choice of at least 2 other projects. This provided students a choice of activities and work partners but also ensured that everyone would be involved in the project over the next two days. Students met in their Lit Circle groups to decide who was going to do what - then met with me for the final OK!

Students spent the next two classes working on their projects which included book reviews, a commercial about a book, scenes from two of the books, a map from the book, and a song about a book. They were very involved in their work with lots of talk about how to best present the book they read to their audience via the project web page. On Wednesday, students finished up their projects and presented their work to the rest of the class - a bit of practice in public speaking.

Feel free to email us with any questions about how Lit Circles work in our class. Click on the titles to enjoy the wonderful work done by 4K at Richards School in Whitefish Bay, WI!

  Susan Silverman - Literature Circles Extension Projects