Guided Reading Literature Circle

Discussion Group Unit


Instructional Grouping Through Literature Circles (ARF Yearbook)




Key concepts covered in this reading system include: a) assessing students' reading fluency and matching reading texts to students' instructional level; b) creating reading lessons for small groups of students that focus on comprehension, vocabulary development, discussion, and writing; and c) managing a multi-leveled class with a literature circle, discussion-based reading instruction model.




Literature Circles: Book discussion groups where several students read the same text--a novel, story, poem, or content piece--selected by teacher or student choice, and take active roles in the discussion by preparing to lead specific sections of it. Students choose or are assigned given roles or jobs such as passage picker, discussion director, word wizard, character sketcher, connector. All students in the group have a role they are responsible for preparing before coming to the discussion group.



Roles (Examples):

1.      Discussion Director--develops questions group members will discuss about this portion of the book; decide important ideas and issues raised in this section of the book and design questions that address them

2.      Passage Picker--selects significant passages from the sections being read; determines why important; calls other readers' attention to passage and leads discussion about it

3.      Word Wizard--searches section of text for words that are key to understanding what is happening in the story; notes the page and sentence where found; checks the dictionary meaning of the word; leads a discussion about the meaning and intent of the word from context and what the word contributes to the import of the passage

4.      Character Sketcher--develops a character map of major characters in the text

5.      Internet Investigator—explores questions through Internet Workshop; investigates sites that are relevant to topics covered in the reading; teacher prepares sites and some questions ahead of time for students to explore


6.     Summarizer--summarizes what has happened and major issues discussed to this point in the book

7.      Connector--thinks of ways personal experiences connect to events and themes appearing in the book; leads discussion of these issues

8.      Investigator--examines other sources (newspaper, web, encyclopedia, content texts, etc.) that have connections to the book being read; shares information with the group

9.      Artful Artist--develops a creative way to respond to the events and themes in the story

10. Travel Tracer--creates and maintains a map of movement if the story involves travel (either physical or metaphorical)

11.  Activity Activator--involves group members in an activity that represents information learned and ideas experienced from reading the book

12.  Meaning Mapper--develop word map for selected words from the day's reading: include a picture of the word; the sentence from the story containing the word; a definition; and the word used in a sentence





1.      To start, begin with one group and a limited number of roles

2.      Model the individual roles using a think-aloud process

3.      Students share roles, discussing how they are preparing for them with peers

4.      Ask students to show you what they plan to do and give them feedback before they carry out their roles in the discussion group

5.      You might set up a fishbowl or circle-within-a-circle to show other groups how the process works as you act as facilitator

6.      Routine may be a three-day cycle; meet to decide roles and how much will be read, read and prepare for role; give to you for feedback; discussion

7.      Make sure that you take time to discuss the process--how it's working, what needs improvement, lots of positive feedback



Directions for completion of the unit:


You will design a 3rd, 4th-, 5th-, or 6th- grade interdisciplinary unit using children's novels. Your unit will be designed primarily for language arts block (60-90 minutes), but the texts you select may be  2nd- 6th grade level. Each of you will choose a lengthy novel or chapter book, or several short novels/picture books and nonfiction texts around which you will build your lessons. The children's book(s) must be divided into a minimum of 5 sections, with each section containing between 25-70 pages (rough estimate). If you like you may work in groups to build lessons around similar themes, genres or authors. If you work this way, your unit will have a minimum of three different reading levels (on-grade, one grade below, two grades below, and above grade, if 4 people are in a group).  For the two grades below you will need additional books because the easier-to-read children's books are shorter; this group will need more texts to work through. The structure of the activities in the unit will follow the literature circle format (see below)

Selecting a Unit Topic

·         Choose a topic that can encompass a variety of NCSCS objectives in conjunction with your supervising teacher.

·         Choose a topic that will integrate English Language Arts (ELA) and at least one other content area

·         Your topic should be developmentally appropriate

Rationale for Unit

·         Your rationale should include a brief description of what you hope to accomplish, a basic overview of your goals (as related to the NCSCOS), and a section discussing why this unit is important for students to learn.

·         Your rationale should answer the following questions:

o        Why is this topic/theme/concept important? Relate the unit topic to bigger purposes. Your rationale should include the big ideas and concepts you want the students to learn from the unit.

o        Why is this unit appropriate for this age group? 

o        How does it fit the curriculum?

Unit Assessment

·         Include a plan for assessing student learning for your unit. Your assessments should be aligned with your unit goals/objectives and include a variety of formats as appropriate (observation of process, K-W-L's, Webs, Completed "roles," presentations, student products, formal assessments, etc.). Please include the following components:

o       Initial assessments of student learning. It may be appropriate to use answers to prediction/purpose questions, webs, K-W-L's, worksheets, a few essay questions, a survey, a pretest, an observation with anecdotal notes, etc. An initial assessment should be developed that encompasses the main concepts that will be taught in your unit. Use the NCSCS to guide you.

o        A summative assessment of student learning (aligned carefully with the initial assessment and may be the same assessment in the case of a pre/post assessment).

o        Formative assessments that will be conducted throughout the unit aligned with specific lessons. This can be as simple as worksheets, roles, observations, presentations, journals, discussions with anecdotal notes, student created products, etc.

·         Use the following questions to guide you in planning for your unit assessment:

o        How will you know if your students have achieved your goals/objectives?

o        What evidence will best provide you with information about what the students have learned?

o        Did you assess your students at the Bloom’s Taxonomy level for which the goals/objectives were written?

o        How will informal and formal assessment activities during the unit lessons provide information that supports your goals? (Daily assessment activities should relate to your overall assessment). 

o        Do your assessment activities cover all of your major goals and objectives?


Reflecting on Teaching


·         Any teaching/learning/assessment cycle includes an analysis and reflection of your teaching. The information that you gather can be used to gain an understanding of your students and inform further instruction.

·         As a conclusion to your unit, you will analyze and reflect on 3 lessons you have taught. Your reflections should  analyze your lesson and describe how you would do things differently in the future.

·         It is essential that you include an analysis on the impact your teaching has had on student learning. In other words, what have your students learned? And, how do you know this? To answer these questions you will analyze the information provided by your students on the initial assessment and compare this to the information provided by the students on the summative assessment. You will also want to discuss how the formative assessments give evidence of their learning.


Components of the Interdisciplinary Unit


1.      Title page--identify theme, genre or author study, short description and rationale of unit, names of group member(s), books being used with reading level identified

2.      List of competencies & goals from the NCSCS curriculum that the unit addresses (from each of these areas: English Language Arts, Social Studies and/or Science or Math, Information Skills, Computer/Technology Skills)

3.      Bibliography indicating the books and sources you will use in the unit with complete reference information.

4.      Reference materials--books, magazines, videos, web sites, etc. Included should be books of varying instructional reading levels that are not necessarily part of this unit but  could be. For example, your unit may incorporate books that are written on a 3rd grade reading level. However, you need to include books that are written on lower and higher levels in order to accommodate the needs of diverse learners in your classrooms. The materials should include brief descriptions of what they are about and how they would be used. Materials should include both fiction and nonfiction texts.

5.      Launch activity--how do you plan to begin the unit? I encourage creativity here. This should include initial assessment of student learning. This may be an excellent place to activate prior knowledge of another content area by using nonfiction text.

                                    The launch activity should include pre-, during-, and post-reading activities along with the text used during these activities.

6.      Closure activity--how will you bring the unit to an end?  Include formative or summative assessment plans.

7.      Modifications for special needs students--discuss how you will modify lessons to meet the needs of these students

8.     Graphics and pictures, working web links, your own personal touch


9.  Literature Circle Lessons--one set for each leveled reading group: children's book(s) must be divided into a minimum of 5 sections with each section containing between 25-70 pages (rough estimate).

(Excellent models for this portion of the unit)


a)      Identify the central text, indicate reading level, and give brief synopsis of text

b)      Provide an index page (plan) for your unit that identifies section read (page numbers)

c)      Plan the roles for the lesson with enough detail in lesson 1 that you can model that lesson for students-- (In other words you will include an example of each job in lesson/section 1)-For each lesson you will need a minimum of 5 roles.

·        *Discussion Director

·        *Passage Picker

·        *Character Sketcher

·        *Word Wizard (include vocabulary activities)

·        *Internet Investigator/I AM Investigator: Include web sites and the guiding questions that students could use to investigate the relevant information in the books; include nonfiction text through which student investigates material


      * Indicates the most important roles that should be included in almost every lesson  (In other words Discussion Director, Passage Picker, Character Sketcher, Word Wizard, or Internet Investigator or I AM Investigator should be in every lesson; other roles can be used when appropriate.)


When you put these together, make sure each section has at least 5 roles planned. For each plan, include a minimum of 5 questions for the DD; vary the DD to include both the "skills" for which students write the questions as well as specific events the students must reference in each section; 3 passages for the PP; 3 words for WW and plan 2 vocabulary activities to use with the words for each section; 1 Character for Character Sketcher; vary CS by providing the character as well as specific traits for students to reference; remember to provide the website for Internet Investigator and at least 3 questions for Internet Investigator. 

Also, for I AM Investigator, include title of nonfiction text and 3 questions for investigation as well as a suggestion of which poetry form may work best: I AM, Who Am I? What Am I?


For each section/lesson your directions will be the same. You will provide a plan for each job. This is what the students in your class will be doing once you have taught them each job and how to participate in literature circles.  If you have more than 5 sections, you will complete the plan for the remaining sections.


    d)     Last, you will address formative assessments for each lesson/section (See above explanation of assessments; How will you assess vocabulary, reading, written roles, discussion?)



10.  Include writing, music, art, information skills, science, math, or social studies lesson plan(s) that you have developed for this unit.


(Components 1-10 Due November 5th)




11.  Reading Lesson Plans you will be teaching: Include pre-, during-, and post-reading activities for 3 reading lessons (read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, partner reading, independent reading). Please address the following components in your lessons:



·         Include specific objectives from the English Language Arts and other areas of the NCSCS as suitable for your lessons. 



·         How did you help students understand key words that support students’ reading/comprehension during your lessons as appropriate and incorporate a variety of vocabulary activities?



·         How did you help students understand text/literature that they read? What strategies and activities did you use/teach them?


Quality Children's Literature/Text

·         Did you incorporate a variety of texts/literature to support your content (consider books for read aloud, independent reading, modeling think-alouds, etc)?

·         Do your selections represent a variety of literature including fiction, nonfiction, etc.?

·         Do your selections represent our diverse society as appropriate for your unit?




Assessment of reading and writing


12.  Reflection on Your Teaching of Reading Lessons: (Refer to above explanation)



(Components 11 and 12 Due December 10th)





Planning for your internship classroom:



When you are introducing Literature Circles in your classroom, you want everyone to be in the same book, preferably a book that is one grade level below the grade you are teaching. This way, all of your children will be able to "hang" with the reading. For your internship, however, you may be working with a small group of students, so everyone will naturally be reading instructional-level text.


You will model one job for each section of the reading. This way, your children are not too overwhelmed. Therefore, this is how you will set up your unit. When you first began this process, you will introduce one "job" at a time. So for example in section 1 of the book you are reading, you may want to start by teaching your students how to ask questions, the Discussion Director job. You would model different kinds of questions from the reading in Section 1, and then help the students figure out what kinds of questions you asked (setting, cause/effect, compare/contrast etc.).


You may want to make students aware of how to begin questions with words like Who, What , Where, When, Why, and How. You would have students write down some of their questions and answers; next you will begin the process of teaching them how to ask their questions to each other (you are now entering the discussion phase). During this process, you may be able help students see how their questions match up to specific types of questions or skills. For example if a student ask How ___________ character is different/alike  _______________ character, you should point out this student is asking a compare/contrast question. You also have the option of guiding them toward asking questions about important events that occurred during the reading of the text.


After introducing Discussion Director in Section 1, students then generate their own questions and then ask each other their questions. You will want to teach mini-lessons for each "skill" from the NCSCS that you introduce. This is included in your teaching plan.When you feel your students got the hang of it, then you are ready to introduce a second job. You would model the second job (let's say passage picker) with examples of  passages you chose from Sections 1 or 2. Then the students would choose a passage(s). The process continues.


Teaching Your Unit:

You will begin by choosing a job and modeling that job for your group. When modeling and teaching the specific "job" to your students, you want to have the questions and answers prepared ahead of time for each job. Here are some guidelines when modeling and teaching each job:


Discussion Director: You will complete 5 questions and answers and include the skills, types of questions, and important events you will be focusing on.


Passage Picker: You will complete 3 passage picker examples; make sure each passage you choose includes a different reason for choosing the passage. For example: simile, descriptive, amusing.


Word Wizard: You will complete 3 word wizard examples; complete all steps for the word wizard which includes making your cards; you will also include a set of 3 vocabulary activities and complete those activities.


Character Sketcher: You will complete the job of  character sketcher for 1 character.


Internet Investigator: You will choose 1 or more websites and complete the job of internet investigator. You will choose at least 3 questions to guide the job and then complete the questions with your answers.


In essence, you will have complete jobs to use as models for your students when introducing them to the jobs.



It is my intention to have you create lessons that will be useful for you as future teachers but at the same time will allow other teachers the opportunity to engage with the literature circle book and design their own lessons. I hope that you will create literature circle lessons that provide good modeling in the beginning but that also scaffold the modeling to gradually release responsibility for the lesson design to the teacher who might be using your model lesson.


These units will be placed on the web and will become a useful resource to many.  Remember, your unit will also satisfy many of the advanced technology competencies that you are required to have mastered.  This unit may be linked to your electronic portfolio and will be part of your Elementary Education Portfolio as well. This unit should be free of all spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. It is crucial that your links work and that your unit is linked properly.



The Bad Beginning Plan and Example Jobs

(Teaching PowerPoint with students using The Bad Beginning)

(Excellent Model Unit; For a book that utilizes all jobs click on Ragweed)


To see the examples of literature circle web units go to


Please remember your units will be a little different, so don't get caught up in the format, but look at examples and how the unit fits together.