Literature Circles and Questioning Circles--many types, very versatile

Literature Circles from

Literature Circles
Four handouts designed for elementary students participating in literature circles.
Literature Circles
This page lists several characteristics of literature circles. Be sure to scroll down to "The Twelve Ingredients of Literature Circles."
Literature Circles
Tips on organization and process. Scroll down to find other helpful links.
Literature Circles Build Excitement for Books!
Discussion roles and suggestions for using literature circles with a class.
Literature Circles Resource Center
Resources for elementary and middle school teachers, including downloadable handouts.
Reading Circles — Kentucky Style
This 14-page document includes rationale, discussion of roles, ideas for rubrics, and an excerpt from Gary Paulsen's Dogsong that can be used to introduce reading circles. Access requires Adobe Reader or compatible application.
Reading in Literature Circles
This lesson is designed as an introduction to literature circles. It is designed for high school and adult learners and requires Adobe Reader to access the handouts.
//The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde//: Getting Started with Literature Circles
This unit plan is designed for 7th grade and requires Adobe Reader or compatible application for access. The 33-page document includes discussion questions and assessments.
What are Literature Circles?
This 27-page handout includes definition, procedures, journal ideas and prompts, assessment models, and several ideas for teaching detective stories. Access requires Adobe Reader or compatible application.
What are Literature Circles?
If you're new to literature circles, these page is a good place to start.
Writing in the round: Writing Strategies for Literature Circles
Everything you need to know: practical explanations and tips from a teacher who uses lit circles. Scroll down for "Integrating Writing Strategies with Literature Circles" -- terrific suggestions are available here.

from an EC Ning Discussion about how to teach fiction and the short story:
Reply by Jeanette Lans on

January 15, 2010 at 3:59am

I am a fan of 'Questioning Circles' (see image) which ensure that I don't head down the path that is "sterile with worksheets and dull plot based questions". Essentially we move through this process in the following order:


This leads us to the 'dense questions' that are ultimately the aim of addressing theme in any text.

In terms of skills, I incorporate them in the TEXT, TEXT/READER, and WORLD/TEXT stages.

A best way of demonstrating this strategy is through the an example activity on a poem titled 'Domestic Quarrel' found at the Tasmanian English Learning Area website, where you can see the type of questions that each stage requires. It can be employed no matter the text you are studying, and as students become familiar with it they tend to flesh out each section more.

I like the flexibility this approach offers. You can devote equal time to a stage, or depending on the ability level of students and your study focus, you can adjust the time given to a particular stage. It is a great discussion generator and brings students into closer engagement with the text. Hope it helps.

Top of Form

Questioning Circles

Questioning Circles is a teaching strategy (Christenbury 1994) that provides a structured framework for developing questions about a text. The strategy helps teachers to devise questions that are interesting and engaging to students; it helps students to think more critically about a text and to see how the text connects personally to their own lives.
The questioning circle consists of three overlapping areas of knowledge that expert readers bring to bear when reading:

Knowledge of the text being read
Personal response to the text
Knowledge of the world and other texts

As the following diagram shows, the three areas overlap and create a central dense area. The dense centre represents the highest-order thinking about a text. Students need to inquire into and reflect upon these complex questions.

Although teachers may frame the questions, a more powerful strategy is to encourage students to work collaboratively to devise questions using the framework. Introduce students to the idea that the question is the answer i.e. in thinking carefully about framing a question, the answer to the question is explored.
The following questions are based on the poem 'Domestic Quarrel'

Domestic Quarrel

The walls of the house are paper thin.
Lying awake in the pit of the night
He hears his parents arguing,
And lights a candle stealthily.
The world's two halves are closing in
A sounding shell; the voices flicker,
Knives that violate the night.
He lies imprisoned inside a whale,
His blind eyes trace its arching ribs.
The dark beats down.
Somewhere, offstage, ripples of distant thunder.
The window frames momentary bleached photographs
Cold as a moon landscape.
He blows the candle out and waits
For sleep or the consummation of rainOn the tin roof, the tides of drowning sound.

S McInerney

Why can the boy hear everything that his parents say?
Why are the window frames 'momentary bleached photographs'?

Have you ever felt imprisoned like the boy in the poem?
Do you sympathize with the boy in the poem?

How do you feel when members of your family quarrel?

How are your views about parents influenced by the experiences of your friends?

What are some of the causes of family disputes?
Do you think that quarrels occur in all families from time to time?

Do you think that the boy's experience of lying awake at night listening to his parents quarrel is a common one in Australian society?
What is the poet's attitude to domestic quarrels?

Dense Questions:

How do people generally react to the type of situation that this boy is in? With sympathy or disinterest?
What might the poet say about the power of poetry to comment on important issues in society?

For more information about Questioning Circles see:
Wilhelm, J. D. (2001) Strategic Reading, Boyton-Cook/Heinemann, Portsmouth.
Christenbury, L. (1994) Making the Journey: Being and Becoming a Teacher of English Language Arts, Boynton-Cook/Heinemann, Portsmouth.

Bottom of Form