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Digital Literature Circles

Presented by: Andrew Halter, Instructional Coach and Shannon Roos, English Teacher
Hampton Township School District
PETE&C 2014 and TRETC 2013

What is a Literature Circle?

Literature circles are small groups of students who gather together to discuss a piece of text in depth. The discussion is guided by students' responses to what they have read. You may hear talk about events and characters in the book, the author's craft, or personal experiences related to the story. Literature circles provide a way for students to engage in critical thinking and reflection as they read, discuss, and respond to texts. Collaboration is at the heart of this approach. Students reshape and add onto their understanding as they construct meaning with other readers. Finally, literature circles guide students to deeper understanding of what they read through structured discussion and extended written and artistic response (Noe and Johnson 1999). It may help you to think of a literature circle as a “mini” Socratic Seminar.

Why "Digital?"

Digital in this case does not mean just an online discussion. We recognize the importance of face to face discussion in these lit circles, so we really did not want to eliminate that component. Instead, we used a Wikispaces as a primary means of preparation and as a place to provide resources. We also incorporated Google Docs so students could submit work prior to the discussion, which gave us the opportunity to see their notes and offer suggestions prior to the actual discussion. This also allowed students preparing for the same role to give each other feedback and ask each other questions both in and out of the classroom. In addition, we offered optional digital tools that would enhance their presentations. These tools differed depending on the role. On another level, we found it beneficial to add a discussion "room" for all students in any given role so they could swap ideas, ask questions and get feedback from other students who were assigned the same role.

Digital Tools:

  • Wikis- as a platform for housing all instructions, providing resources, and creating a network of digital teams that can be accessed anywhere, anytime.
  • Google Docs - as a tool for preparing and delivering collaborative thought both in and out of the classroom
  • iPads - as a handheld device for accessing and sharing Google Docs and enhancing discussion as a real time research tool. These also worked well for teachers to see discussion points for each group as they walked around to facilitate.
  • Digital Images and, Maps Other Web 2.o Tools-- to enhance discussion visually

The Process:

Related Reading & Research: