What is an efficient and effective way to teach elementary reading through the use of literacy circles or centers?I am expected to change the way I teach fourth grade language arts by using centers...

What is an efficient and effective way to teach elementary reading through the use of literacy circles or centers?

I am expected to change the way I teach fourth grade language arts by using centers and small group instruction rather than whole group activities.  I have plenty of ideas but am overwhelmed at the process and logistics of managing it.

Expert Answers
sostrowski eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of my most successful stations in terms of teaching literacy in elementary education is my fluency workstation.  This insures that students are not only reading well, but understanding what they're reading and taking the punctuation and other visual reading clues into account while reading and comprehending.

With things like fluency, it's beneficial to provide students with materials they enjoy reading, this is going to get them much more involved in their reading and reading activities.  For example, I have a workstation with read-aloud editions of chapter books.  They are just larger versions of chapter books that I found in the children's section of Borders.  The current book we're working with is Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary.  My kids meet with their partners, and trade the book, taking turns reading a page of it over a few times.  Their partner gives them feedback about how they are reading, and then they read it again after that feedback.  I have other activities that complement the fluency activities that they can do with the read-aloud editions of books so that they have a variety of activities and don't get sick of one.

slchanmo1885 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, yes, read Lucy Calkins! The Columbia University's Reading and Writing Project is great, and Lucy Calkins clearly outlines how you can use book clubs and literature circles in your classroom. I also use specific jobs in the lit circles, such as Discussion Leader, Word Wizard, etc (as outlined in a previous post). I would also suggest having students keep post it notes to write questions, predictions, and summaries as they read. Then these notes can be referred to as students reach the discussion part of their reading group time. I find that having book clubs is a good way to group students by appropriate instructional level and a good way to get in-depth discussion going. Some groups may need your help (guiding their discussion questions) in order to delve into the book. This could also be a good opportunity to get parent volunteers involved in the classroom. Parents can come and be an adult discussion leader or guided reading instructor in one of the groups. 

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Read Lucy Calkins' The Art of Teaching Reading. I have seen this book referenced repeatedly, and our school Literacy Coach  formed a staff book club this fall to discuss it. I highly recommend both the book, and the method of gathering teachers to discuss it. The book discusses all the topics you bring up, and also deals with classroom "book clubs", which is the model we are using in the intermediate grades this year.  I'm a resource teacher, and the book club method works here, too--we just have our own book club with the kids I pull who have learning disabilities in reading.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Literature circle role sheets work well. Sometimes I allow students to choose their own books, regardless of level. Sometimes I level the books and assign kids to groups. I also differentiate the role sheets sometimes, giving more complicated roles to higher groups. Basic roles are Discussion Director, Summarizer, Word Wizard, Connector and illustrator.
cateach3 | Student

I have a similar problem for 3rd grade- trying to incorporate reading workshop.  I understand how it can feel overwhelming to find a way to put ideas into use.  My advice is to start with your overall units.  Let's say you have 10 units to teach [however you are to incorporate this- by genre or reading strategy...] then you can figure out how much time you'll have for each unit or standard.  If you do reading workshop then the mini-lessons or whole group instruction is short- but you can still address the group as a whole- which is nice.  Then during their "independent or partner read" time, you can do small groups and have centers going on.  I've found books that address "what other students do while you teach small groups" have good skeleton plans and ways to help you make a plan.  Good luck! It's a learning process-do little by little- you'll get there!

jazz1027771 | Student

The fourth grade in my school does centers everyday. They break students into groups of 3 or 4 using colors as group headings. Students then rotate through 3 centers a day such as, Words Their Way sorts, independent reading, guided reading, computers-where they do Study Island or Ticket to Read activities. There is also a great book by Debbie Diller called Practice with Purpose that has ideas about literacy work stations. Hopefully this will help.

stmcgee | Student

I use a posted schedule to help the students and myself stay on track for which group I am meeting with at what times.  I have a para-educator who works in my classroom with groups, and have two groups that leave for extra support in other locations at the school. I use a grid schedule that allows the para and myself to know where and when each groups is supposed to be.  When I do centers, I give them a folder with a checklist of the centers on the front, their job is to go to one center a day (all centers have been pre taught).  They go to centers at an independent time (I am meeting with a small group at this time).  If they complete the center before their time is done, they are to read a book.  I usually allow one catch up day at the end of a center rotation to finish work and then have students turn in all work to me.  I have also heard of teachers that collect the work daily to ensure that students were completing a center a day.   Good luck, it can be a long process to get the procedures taught, but can be a well oiled machine once all the kinks are worked out.

pward55 | Student

Both of the previous suggestions are awesome! In our schools, we have what is called a Literacy Coach. The Reading teachers work together with her to create an enviornment for the students who enjoy reading AND those who struggle.  I have a collection of library books in my room for all ages.  First, we tested the students to determine their exact reading level. Then, the books were selected and placed according to the reading levels.  In my reading circle there are approximately 6 students. While I am working with these, the other students are given a reading assignment and have an activity afterwards.  For my lower level readers, I don't always allow them to read aloud.  They must learn to read silently and be able to 'retell' certain features after their reading.  I usually have them perform an activity after their reading.  If we are dealing with a story element (character/characterization), I will have them complete  a cartoon doll figure of the character. What the character sees, hears, says, thinks, feels, touches, etc.)  It becomes a routine (but a nice one) for the students and something they look forward to.  It makes them feel that they are special in that the "teacher" takes time with them individually.  Helping them stay on task can be difficult because our students love to talk and socialize, but the reading circles and groups are showing a positive reflection in their test scores and their personal lives.

jennygoode | Student

Literature Circles are a great way to involve your students in actively participating in cooperative learning groups. Students are grouped according to skill level, interest and/or developmental level. Choose several books that you have read and that you have several copies of. Ask a representative from each group to read the back of each book. The children vote on a book to read first. A great way to differentiate instruction is to choose a selection of books that are level applicable to the students’ reading ability.

After the groups have chosen their book, students need to be assigned specific jobs. Some sample jobs are, Discussion Director (pose open-ended questions), Summarizer (write a brief summary of the passage), Illustrator/Mapper (choose a part to draw and share), Connector (connect the passage with the real-world), Word Wizard (list, define and discuss difficult words). Decide how jobs are rotated, either by the week or by book.
Tip: Choose which jobs to add or omit to match the number of children in each group.

Children are assigned passages to read independently or with a partner. After children read their assigned passage they must complete their assigned job. The result of Literature Circle discussion groups promote, collaborative learning, cross-curricular integration, listening and speaking, writing and of course, reading fluency.