As preparation for our literature circle work, I ask students to reflect on group work--what does good group work look like?
After attendance, I ask for student responses.
"Everyone share ideas."
Notice that everyone appears in your statements. Why is that?
"Everyone needs to work together or else the work isn't fairly divided."
Yup. I review my expectations for group work, building on their explanation to include how students should sit (everyone can see each other) and how to ensure everyone participles (ask each other questions, add on to what others say).
When we're all on the same page (there's that everyone again), I move them into their literature circle groups and distribute books.
I provide students with a list of discussion dates, including their final discussion and final project due date. From there, they will decide how much to read for each day.
Some groups want to finish reading early to have more time to work on their projects. Others decide to read up to the final discussion day.
Calculators come out to determine how many pages should go into each reading date. Numbers are rounded out to meet chapter ends.
Some students bring up conflicts--preplanned absences, other major assignments. Reading assignments are adjusted around those dates.
It's beautiful to watch groups work together to set up their schedules, each student chiming in about what will work and what won't.
After ten minutes, schedules are set--now it's time to get reading.
I ask students to begin reading today and offer them one, and only one, opportunity to change books. If they don't like what they read today, it's not too late to bump them to another book. Of course, I must add an admonition: there will be no changing to work with different people. Students who choose to switch books will go into a group at my choice. This deters students who just want to work with a different buddy.
Students read silently for eighteen minutes.
With two minutes to spare, I pull them back and ask them to discuss their early reactions with their groups. I listen from a corner.
"Wow, this narrator is really descriptive," floats from a My Antonia group. Yes, indeed.
"I can't understand Jim," wings away from a Huck Finn group, but a tip is provided.
"Try reading aloud. Hannah read this book in third hour, and she said it helped." Yahoo, they are sharing tips for success between classes!
"She wasn't kidding; this IS gritty," whispers the Fallen Angels group. It was a fair warning.
So far, no one complains about not liking a book. No changes are made. I can't wait to hear their first real discussions on our next reading day.