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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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***Remember these downloads are for personal use only. Your membership is good for one license of each product, meaning sharing or emailing with a friend is strictly prohibited. However, telling a friend how to become a member and download on their own is warmly encouraged and very much appreciated!

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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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💡🚨PSA:🚨💡
ATTENTION ALL TEACHER FRIENDS
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Tag your #teachertribe and every #firstyearteacher below for this important reminder:
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As you set up your classroom for the new school year, and start divvying out materials… Do no forget to set aside 2-4 new student kits.
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If you are in a developing community with new housing I recommend a minimum of 4 bags 🙀
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🍋Name-tag/Desk-plate
🍋If you adhere the plates to the desk, have a segment of what you use in the pack.
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🍋Whatever else you’ve set aside for students that begin on the first day of school.
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📣📣📣There will likely come a day when without warning you will be notified you have a new student, and the student will start THAT DAY. Save yourself and your poor new student the stress of frantically trying to get everything set up, by preparing NOW.
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Veteran teachers what else do you include in your new student kits?? Share in the comments below⬇️⬇️⬇️
📸: @adifferentiatedclass
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How satisfying/ beautiful 😻 is this #classroomorganization tip by @the_organized_classroom
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Use paint swatches as a visual to help students sort supplies! Keep this is mind as you set up your classroom for the school year!
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PLEASE comment below with what we have in common, or something we will never see eye to eye with 😜
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🍋 My name is Tara, I’m the creator behind @teachingonlemonlane
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Selection Sunday and PI Day falling on the same day... Somebody pinch me. Two of my very favorites because of the projects you can start in your classroom 😍 Take for instance my March Math Madness PBL
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Think March Madness + Fantasy Basketball + Lots of Math + A sprinkle of ELA = Engagement & Excitement & Learning 💛🏀💛
Students are separated into the 4 divisions then work together to put together a new starting 5 from players in their division. #dreamteam Each round their individual players are awards point values for how they played. At the end of each round students will calculate their team’s total points and decide which dream team comes out victorious! There are some really great opportunities to see Math in action. There’s opportunity for measurement conversion, converting fractions to decimals, ordering decimals, ratios, mean-median-mode, adding and subtracting decimals, multiplying decimals...etc. This is quickly becoming another tried and true favorite in the classroom!
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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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Excerpt from a personal post 💛 Thank you all for your patience as we welcome the newest member of our little family🍓
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2020 the Year of the Poppies
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“... You may not know this about me, but I love gardening, especially flower gardens. I'm no good at it, and again my good intentions out do any action on my part, leaving an often neglected and overgrown sight, however, I still love it and love learning, reading, and experimenting with different blooms. One of my favorite flowers is a poppy. I think there is so much to be said about and learned from these flowers. From the alien-like tubers you plant, to the fury foliage it produces, one would NEVER think that something so weed-like could ever produce such a gorgeous sight... And then... It does. Is that not life? Is that not 2020? This year has been hard for everyone, especially for some that I love the most, and yet despite everything, there has been beauty.

I truly believe that some of life’s most beautiful moments are produced after the hard or ugly. Is that not the Gospel and Hope found in Christ? Through His Grace the hard and ugly things we go through can actually be the source of something really beautiful, something better than we could have imagined, even a better version of ourself? 2020 has been hard, it’s still hard. But because of that hardness I’ve seen growth and light and beauty that I never would have expected. From repaired and renewed relationships, to a new focus on family and what’s really important, to things working out when they shouldn’t, to a beautiful new addition to our family... The increase is through Him. I think for me 2020 will always be the year of the poppies.
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Guys. I don’t even know where to begin.... Except be on the lookout for this fun little DIGITAL project to be added today!
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🍋Students come up with a One Word Goal for the school year/ first term...
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This product will forever hold my heart. Maybe it was the countless hours, sweat and forethought that went into it..... or maybe it was the simple fact that it saved me my second year of teaching! Regardless if you are new to 5th grade or a seasoned veteran, this one is sure to be loved 💛💛💛
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Tag a 5th grade teacher in the comments! I’m thinking we should give one away 💛💛💛
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