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How to Keep Students Focused and Accountable During Literature Circle Discussions

Every teacher has something they do really well, for me it’s my Literature Circle and Guided Reading Rotation set-up. This isn’t something that just happens. In order for both my Literature Circles and Guided Reading Rotations to work coincide with each other like a well-oiled machine, a lot of thought, practice, clearly stated expectations, and resources were required… The result, a differentiated system that basically runs itself for 6 weeks.

For the next few blog posts, I am going to focus on breaking down my Literature Circles|Book Clubs, so that you too can have a clear plan for how to implement an effective system in your own classroom. If you are wondering what literature Circles or Book Clubs look like in a Hybrid, or Distance Learning Classroom, don’t go anywhere, the ideas and resources I’m going to share with you implement perfectly.

This blog post will be dedicated to exploring how to better hold students accountable during peer or teacher-led literature circle discussions, book talks, novel studies, or book-club meet-ups. 

Strategy Focused Roll & Respond Discussion Sheets

To learn more about how I set up and organize my Literature Circles|Book Clubs|Novel Studies make sure to read this post first!

Allowing students the opportunity to discuss a book they are reading with their peers is motivating and for lack of a better word… powerful. When done correctly with the right supports, the discussion, participation, and passion found in a peer-led book talk will always outweigh a class-discussion led by the teacher. There is trust necessary between teacher and students in order to allow for this type of flexibility and freedom to happen in the classroom.

I quickly learned that simply telling my students that they had 10 minutes to talk about the book they were reading with their group despite my clearly stated expectations was ineffective, and often led to chaos and disappointment on my end. Depending on your class or the group of students asked, this won’t always be the case. However, I found that by adding supports and restraints to their discussion greatly increased the overall effectiveness of the group’s discussion.

My students would meet weekly with their group to discuss the previous week’s reading. I allow anywhere from 8-20 minutes of discussion time, depending on the conversations being had. Clear expectations are important, however, they weren’t enough in this scenario.

Expectations Stated:

  1. Only one person in the group is speaking at a time. ***This is one of the reasons I will never do a Literature Circle Group with more than 6 students. 4-5 is the sweet spot, any more and expecting only 1 student to share during a book talk is like setting them up for failure from the beginning.
  2. Discussion must be focused or related to the book.*** No side stories, tangents, or clear off-topic talk.
  3. Everyone needs to share or participate in some way.***Listening to a speaker is just as must a participation role as sharing to the group is.
  4. Do not do anything that will distract from the discussion, or a group member’s ability to learn or listen. *** Tapping pencils, doodling, side stories…etc

Once students knew the expectations depending on the maturity and ability of the class I would allow anywhere from 3-8 minutes for the students to have what I would call Free Talk. Free Talk is exactly how it sounds, students lead the discussion. They talk about, share, and discuss whatever they would like to, so long as it has to do with what they are reading. I would set an actual timer, and allow the students to discuss.

After Free Talk is over, students would then grab a Roll and Respond Sheet. I developed these “Roll and Respond,” sheets as a fun way for students to stay focused and to make sure their Literature Circle Discussions were supported and focused. This way if I wanted students to talk about their predictions or the conflict of the story, I had more control in that instead of just hoping their discussion would get to the place I would like it to. By using Strategy Focused Roll and Respond sheets to guide the second part of their discussion repetitiveness is also prevented.

To use the Roll and Respond Sheets, I would send one person from each group to grab the Strategy Focused Sheet we were using for the week, as well as a set of dice 0r a 12 sided die. The student would take this back to the group and everyone would take turns rolling the dice to determine which question they would be answering. Once everyone had a strategy focused question, I would then state the expectations for the second part of their Book Discussion.

Expectations Stated:

  1. Student Answer needs to be around 30 seconds ***Not too much more, not too much less. It helps to actually set a timer for 30 seconds to give a realistic idea of what 30 seconds looks like.
  2. Student Answer needs to be supported by evidence from the text ***Encourage students to go back to the text, to use examples from the text, to explain their thinking as often as possible.
  3. Students will be given 3 minutes to thoughtfully prepare their response. ***There is no talking with peers during this time.
  4. At the end of the 3-minute timer, decide who will begin the Roll & Respond Responses, students will sit in a circle and proceed in responses clockwise.
  5. Once everyone has shared their response, start silently reading the next chapter in your novel until all groups have concluded. We will know that all groups have concluded once the classroom is silent and everyone is reading.
  6. Collectively as a group, rate your group discussion 1-5. Show by holding the number of fingers in the air.
    • 1: Off-Topic, Ineffective Group Discussion
    • 2: Briefly Talked about the book, Discussion was Off-Topic, multiple people talking…etc.
    • 3: Good Discussion, Good Participation, Got off-topic and struggled to refocus
    • 4: Great Discussion, Great Participation, Met expectations, Got off-topic 1-2 times BRIEFLY
    • 5: Great Discussion, Great Participation, Met Expectations, Stayed on Topic the entire Time

As mentioned in my expectations above for the second part of their book discussions, students would be asked to give a 3o second response, and a timed 3 minutes to prepare their response. At the sound of the timer students knew to begin sharing, and who would follow. Once everyone had shared they would begin reading the next chapter of their book until every group in the class had finished. From that point, I would have students decide as a group how THEY would rate their discussion.

I am a big proponent of not grading everything, but not letting your students know it. As far as they were concerned I would take down their group score and it would go in the grade book. In reality, this wasn’t always the case. I would, however, reward any group that honestly felt they met a 5. Rewards could be they leave an extra 5 minutes early for recess, a small treat…etc. This tiny motivation was a huge proponent and motivator in group discussions.

If you are looking for a way to easily take a group score and hold groups more accountable, click here to see my Group Work Evaluation Rate & Reflection Sheets. These are great and can be used again and again with any Group Project.

Setting Up Book Talks, Literature Circle Discussions, or Roll and Respond Questions for Distance Learning: 

If you are reading this and thinking this all sounds great for a general classroom set-up but things are different now… Don’t stress, these can be implemented easily and effectively in a Digital or even Hybrid Classroom.

I’ve created Roll and Respond Sheets that go over every Active Reading Strategy, as well as every Element of Fiction, allowing you to better Focus your student’s peer-led discussions. Each page is editable through google slides, and perfect for Distance Learning. They work with any text (Novel),  Fiction or Reading Passage. The Roll and Respond pages are great for Literature Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Literacy Centers…etc. Students Roll a die, (literal or DIGITAL) and then respond to the text! Below I will share a couple of different Distance Learning Friendly Response Options.

When using the Roll & Respond sheets in Google Classroom, you would begin by creating a student version of the slides you want to assign to your students. Open the Google slide file, then hold down the [control] or [command] key while you click on the slides your students will use.*** Only click on the slides you want students to see/use. Next, click on [File] then, [Make a Copy]. From there click on the [Selected Slides] option. Rename the file to include [Student Version] or something to that effect in the title. Then click OK. This will create a new copy of only the slides you selected and add it to your Google Drive. Making it EASY to assign these pages digitally.

Each Roll and Respond Product includes the Strategy Focused Question sheet, as well as a Student Response page. On the digital version of the student response page, I’ve included a link to a digital dice that students can use to roll and select the question they are going to answer. From there you can decide how you would like students to respond to their question.

Distance Learning Friendly Options for Student Responses

  • Use Zoom or Google Meet to host each group’s book talk. If for any reason students in the group can’t participate. These videos can be recorded and saved to Google Classroom for other members of the group to participate and respond. Students would have a discussion very similar to what was described above. The only difference is that a digital Roll and Respond page would be assigned, and students would use a digital dice to select their response.
  • Use FlipGrid for students to complete the Roll and Respond Page. FlipGrid, is a wonderful resource that allows students to record brief videos in response to a question or assignment you choose. This is a great, FREE option for students to complete at their own time and pace. You can also add that students are required to watch and respond to one or more of their peer’s videos. Again students would use the digital dice, and digital timer included on the response page to prepare their response.
  • Use the Digital Copy of the Student Response Page Included in the Roll and Respond. Each Roll and Respond Product includes a Digital Response Page, ideal for the Google Classroom or digital classroom setting. Simply have students use the digital dice and timer to set and prepare their response, then answer the page’s prompts accordingly. All text is editable so you can edit this page to your classroom’s or student’s needs.

Don’t be afraid to mix up how the students respond. Again if using for distance learning, these work really well, you can use FlipGrid, Google Meet, or Zoom Calls to facilitate these discussions or responses. All have the option to save the recorded video and post it to Google Classroom. This is a wonderful way for students to feel connected to their peers and classroom community despite the limitations or distance. This also allows you to create a simple standard that can be repeated for weeks to come, making your planning a breeze and keeping student confusion at an all-time low. If I have one tip for distance learning it would be to keep it simple, this will prevent students from getting overwhelmed and a lot of anxiety.  That being said a mix of the 3 responses is still simple in my mind (So long as students have had experience with these options and responding in that way)  The variation will keep things light and avoid being too repetitive in this type of set-up. These pages and response options work great with an actual book where students do a Literature Circle Run for around 6 weeks, or you can assign different digital reading passages or novels through sites like Read Works, CommonLit, Epic, or Freckle! I personally like students to have a hard copy of a book Literature Circles, Novel Studies, or Book Clubs… However, if you plan to use these for Guided Reading, or a literacy center, the digital reading passages make the perfect companion!

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Benefits to Using the Roll and Respond Questions for Reading Comprehension:

  1. Editable through Google Drive.
  2. Digital Version is included, ideal for Distance Learning.
  3. Text is editable
  4. Additional Strategy Focused Questions are included allowing you to easily customize and switch out responses
  5. Use again and again and again with different text or questions
  6. By Adding a Dice or Element of Chance Student Engagement Increases.
  7. Questions can be used with any book or novel.
  8. Literature Circle Discussions, Book Clubs, Guided Reading Groups, Literacy Rotations… are more structured & stay focused on the topic at hand.
  9. Each Page is focused on an Active Reading Strategy or Element of Fiction such as:

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This product can be used and implemented in grades as young as elementary looking to study chapter books or novels, to your middle school upper grades and High School Students.

***Something to keep in mind, if you like the idea of using the Roll and Respond pages in your classroom, hard copies or Digital Versions, MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT THIS BLOG POST. These Roll & Respond pages are great on their own but are taken to a whole other level when used in partnership with my Strategy Focused Bookmarks or Activities. Each Roll and Respond Page has an Activity Page that was meant to be used in conjunction with each other! Click Here to Learn more, as well as how to SAVE BIG by bundling the two activities. 

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Watch the video above to see what’s included in the BIG BUNDLE

If you liked this, make sure to check out these related posts! (Freebies Included)

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The first activity requires you to upload a picture of yourself, it will then calculate who you look like the most in your family tree! Sarah Mae Eden was a consistent front runner in my results, which sharing the same middle name Mae, felt extra serendipitous.
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Head to this week’s blog post for the second @familysearch activity idea and more details! Comment below who you look the most like, or tag a friend💛
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I was so excited when I saw @angiemaek had released a new song. (Composer of My Own Sacred Grove) I was even MORE excited when I realized it was about Family History, then I was the MOST excited when I realized this week’s Come Follow Me focused on Elijah’s promise to turn their hearts to their fathers 💛
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This isn’t the first time this has happened. In fact, as I look back I can think of a handful of times where something similar has happened, in relation to preparing these posts or hoping they will come together.

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Did you catch this week’s free printables and activities for Come Follow Me?! This coloring page of Joseph Smith and Emma, melts my heart.
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Side Note: Who has used @familysearch Famous Relative app? It’s the PERFECT family activity for this week with the focus being on #familyhistory
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Did anyone else see @latterdayfamily suggestion for recreating the first vision using rocks! Such a fun and creative idea💛 She used Canvas, making it a durable piece of art that can be displayed for the year. Absolutely LOVED this idea.
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Head to the blog for more ideas for this week’s Come Follow Me Lesson
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If Joseph Smith’s transcendent experience in the Sacred Grove teaches us anything, it is that the heavens are open and that God speaks to His children. The Prophet Joseph Smith set a pattern for us to follow in resolving our questions. Drawn to the promise of James that if we lack wisdom we may ask of God, the boy Joseph took his question directly to Heavenly Father. He sought personal revelation, and his seeking opened this last dispensation.”

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Did anyone else wonder if reading the Doctrine and Covenants would be as relatable and comparable to reading the Book of Mormon last year in relations to the state of the world....
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And then you read about Joseph Smith’s experience....
✅Chaos
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If there has ever been a time in my life where I’ve so desperately yearned to know what is truth and what is not, it would be now. Grateful for the restored gospel.
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“The Prophet Joseph Smith set a pattern for us to follow in resolving our questions. Drawn to the promise of James that if we lack wisdom we may ask of God, the boy Joseph took his question directly to Heavenly Father. He sought personal revelation, and his seeking opened this last dispensation... In like manner, what will your seeking open for you? What wisdom do you lack? What do you feel an urgent need to know or understand? Follow the example of the Prophet Joseph. Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort” (Ensign, May 2018).

-President Russel M. Nelson
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It was just me & the kiddos last Saturday. I had put off a lot of projects over Christmas break & was hoping to dedicate the majority of that day to getting caught up. After my kids had finished a movie I decided the next “keep em happy” activity would be a bath w/ one of their new bath bombs. As I worked I asked the kids to pick out a bath bomb & toys they would like to play with as they tubbed. The kids grew impatient as I struggled to pull myself away from the computer. Time passed & baby Grace woke up fixed on a feeding. Benson & Lovie got antsy realizing it would be even longer before I could start their tubs. I assured them I’d help as soon as sis was done & reminded them to find their bath time tools they had previously picked out. At some point between the picking out & waiting for mom, Benson had lost his bath bomb. The anxiety filled him as the reality of the disappearance of his bath bomb set in. Desperately he began to search as I helplessly sat in the chair nursing Grace. After a valiant effort he returned to no avail. I told him to say a prayer, & try again which he quickly, humbly & obediently did. Again, another valiant effort of searching commenced. This time I offered my own silent pleading that Heavenly Father would answer his prayers & that Benson would be able to find it on his own, without my interference. Benson returned to the living room deflated and defeated. Still no sign. He sat on the ground, & began to complain & look for something else to fill his attention. At this point I told him something to the effect that Heavenly Father cares about what you care about, so if finding this bath bomb is important to you, it’s important to him... “however,” & I quote, “you have to do the work, it (the bath bomb) won’t just fall from the sky.” Inspired once again, Benson stood up & got to work. Lovie offering a sweet vocal prayer of encouragement behind him, they were off. Not moments later Benson was again at the Christmas Tree, a place he had looked again, & again, & again. This time his small wooden rocker he intended to use as a stool bumped the tree, and would you believe it... thud. The missing bath bomb literally fell from the sky. ...

WE’RE BACK!
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I’m SO EXCITED to share some of the AMAZING and FREE resources I’ve found to aid your study of the Doctrine and Covenants this year! Head to this week’s post!
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Thank you all for your patience as I take the time to refocus and reground myself. This Christmas season more than ever I've felt more distant and distracted from what truly matters. I had the best of intentions of this year being more Christ centered, and my intentions remained only that. I plan to take these next few days to sure up my foundation and refocus my attention on Him. *If you want to read/see the story that struck a chord in my soul, head to my story/teaching account @teachingonlemonlane
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I'll be taking a break from here but look forward to the new year and our study of Doctrine and Covenants!
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This absolutely stunning portrayal of baby Jesus is by Mallory Fiso of @foxandpebble Head to her account to see her other beautiful depictions of the #nativity.
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Thank you all for your patience as I take the time to refocus and reground myself. This Christmas season more than ever I've felt more distant and distracted from what truly matters. I had the best of intentions of this year being more Christ centered, and my intentions remained only that. I plan to take these next few days to sure up my foundation and refocus my attention on Him. *If you want to read/see the story that struck a chord in my soul, head to my story/teaching account @teachingonlemonlane
.
.
I'll be taking a break from here but look forward to the new year and our study of Doctrine and Covenants!
.

This absolutely stunning portrayal of baby Jesus is by Mallory Fiso of @foxandpebble Head to her account to see her other beautiful depictions of the #nativity.
.

#comefollowme #comefollowme2020 #comefollowmebookofmormon #bookofmormon #lds #ldsprintable #goanddo #strivetobe #imamormon #generalconference #ldsliving #ldsart #temples #ldsquote #churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints #mormon #comefollowmeprimary #comefollowmetoddlers #comefollowmeforfamilies
...

Thank you all for your patience as I take the time to refocus and reground myself. This Christmas season more than ever I've felt more distant and distracted from what truly matters. I had the best of intentions of this year being more Christ centered, and my intentions remained only that. I plan to take these next few days to sure up my foundation and refocus my attention on Him. *If you want to read/see the story that struck a chord in my soul, head to my story/teaching account @teachingonlemonlane
.
.
I'll be taking a break from here but look forward to the new year and our study of Doctrine and Covenants!
.

This absolutely stunning portrayal of baby Jesus is by Mallory Fiso of @foxandpebble Head to her account to see her other beautiful depictions of the #nativity.
.

#comefollowme #comefollowme2020 #comefollowmebookofmormon #bookofmormon #lds #ldsprintable #goanddo #strivetobe #imamormon #generalconference #ldsliving #ldsart #temples #ldsquote #churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints #mormon #comefollowmeprimary #comefollowmetoddlers #comefollowmeforfamilies
...

Thank you all for your patience as I take the time to refocus and reground myself. This Christmas season more than ever I've felt more distant and distracted from what truly matters. I had the best of intentions of this year being more Christ centered, and my intentions remained only that. I plan to take these next few days to sure up my foundation and refocus my attention on Him. *If you want to read/see the story that struck a chord in my soul, head to my story/teaching account @teachingonlemonlane
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I'll be taking a break from here but look forward to the new year and our study of Doctrine and Covenants!
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This absolutely stunning portrayal of baby Jesus is by Mallory Fiso of @foxandpebble Head to her account to see her other beautiful depictions of the #nativity.
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#comefollowme #comefollowme2020 #comefollowmebookofmormon #bookofmormon #lds #ldsprintable #goanddo #strivetobe #imamormon #generalconference #ldsliving #ldsart #temples #ldsquote #churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints #mormon #comefollowmeprimary #comefollowmetoddlers #comefollowmeforfamilies
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Thank you all for your patience as I take the time to refocus and reground myself. This Christmas season more than ever I've felt more distant and distracted from what truly matters. I had the best of intentions of this year being more Christ centered, and my intentions remained only that. I plan to take these next few days to sure up my foundation and refocus my attention on Him. *If you want to read/see the story that struck a chord in my soul, head to my story/teaching account @teachingonlemonlane
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I'll be taking a break from here but look forward to the new year and our study of Doctrine and Covenants!
.

This absolutely stunning portrayal of baby Jesus is by Mallory Fiso of @foxandpebble Head to her account to see her other beautiful depictions of the #nativity.
.

#comefollowme #comefollowme2020 #comefollowmebookofmormon #bookofmormon #lds #ldsprintable #goanddo #strivetobe #imamormon #generalconference #ldsliving #ldsart #temples #ldsquote #churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints #mormon #comefollowmeprimary #comefollowmetoddlers #comefollowmeforfamilies
...

Thank you all for your patience as I take the time to refocus and reground myself. This Christmas season more than ever I've felt more distant and distracted from what truly matters. I had the best of intentions of this year being more Christ centered, and my intentions remained only that. I plan to take these next few days to sure up my foundation and refocus my attention on Him. *If you want to read/see the story that struck a chord in my soul, head to my story/teaching account @teachingonlemonlane
.
.
I'll be taking a break from here but look forward to the new year and our study of Doctrine and Covenants!
.

This absolutely stunning portrayal of baby Jesus is by Mallory Fiso of @foxandpebble Head to her account to see her other beautiful depictions of the #nativity.
.

#comefollowme #comefollowme2020 #comefollowmebookofmormon #bookofmormon #lds #ldsprintable #goanddo #strivetobe #imamormon #generalconference #ldsliving #ldsart #temples #ldsquote #churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints #mormon #comefollowmeprimary #comefollowmetoddlers #comefollowmeforfamilies
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Each year our family gives a favorite Christmas book to some of our loved ones. (I wish I was able to get my hands on more of them!😭) With the passing of author Tomie dePaola, it seemed appropriate to give one of his. Reading this book, THIS year, made me cry. I struggled to make it through as it highlighted my weaknesses and put into words what I've been trying to set aside and not deal with. Last year I had great intentions of celebrating a more Christ centered Christmas, December arrived and again my intentions remained only that. Reading this story struck a cord in my soul. I'm old Befana. There may only be a few days left until Christmas, but I'm going to be intentional with them. On that note, I'll be taking a break from social and working to reground myself with the foundation that matters, and refocus my attention on Him. Love you all, MERRY CHRISTMAS!
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Head to my story for a swipe up of a reading of, ”The Legend of Old Befana, ” by the late Tomie dePaola
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