In the sixth grade classroom I team teach in, we recently made the shift from guided reading to literature study. We have been insanely impressed with the language our students are using with one another to encourage everyone to share their opinions and the way they use text talk to keep the conversation focused on the book. The conversations are completely student-led, and students are thriving because they love talking about what they want to talk about, not questions that the teacher is asking or filling out worksheets. From the teacher perspective, you're able to take an outsider perspective to really observe what types of thinking students are doing surrounding the text and how they're able to express themselves and communicate with their classmates. You learn about them from a completely different perspective than guided reading provides. Literature study in the middle school classroom is made successful through strong guided reading, interactive read alouds that encourage student talk, minilessons that encourage students to turn and talk and share their application from the minilesson at the end of the workshop. An effective literature study doesn't just "happen". It must be a classroom community that is created throughout the year.
If you're interested in implementing literature study, I have broken down steps to implementation that I hope you find helpful! They are listed below:
Day One/Day Two: Interactive Read Aloud, “Raymond’s Run” (read out loud for part of Reader’s Workshop and then give students independent reading time to practice putting post-its in their book to read. Take the last five minutes of the workshop to share by buzzing with each other about what they’ve written in small groups.)
· *Read the story out loud to students.
· - *Select places to pause and model by thinking out loud where you would stop and what you would write down on your post-it note as a discussion point to discuss with your literature study group.
· *Other times, pause and have students turn and talk to discuss what they’re thinking at that point in the story. Share out orally so students hear a variety of ideas.
Day Two: Have students independently read the story, “Charles”. As they’re reading, have them practice writing down discussion points on post-its notes as you modeled the previous two days.
Day Three: Establish Literature Study Expectations. As a class, ask students what they want their expectations for Literature Study to be. Here is a sample chart that was created by Kelly and my class:
Day Four: Fishbowl. Select five to six students to sit on the inner circle and participate in the literature study. Model it exactly how it would be conducted if it were a real one.
· Review the literature study expectations with students.
· *Have students use the hand motions to participate (two fingers to add onto a point, thumb up to begin a new point). Explain to students that you will always have the students who want to add onto a point contribute before moving onto a new point. This is why it’s so important to listen to others and build off of others conversation.
· * Let students discuss the book for approximately ten minutes in the fishbowl format. Allow the students to have the conversation, jumping in only when necessary to prompt them to say more, bring the group to a specific page number, stay focused on the book, etc.
· *Ask each student participating in the literature study to give one final comment.
· * Ask students within the literature study group what went well and what they would like to improve on for next time as a quick self-evaluation.
Students who are on the outside of the circle should be writing down observations about what they notice the students on the inside of the circle doing. Allow the students on the outside to share out what they noticed. Next, ask students if there is anything they would like to add of change on their literature study expectations as you move forward as a class.
Day Five: Book Talks. Give a book talk on each of the literature study books. Have students fill out the sheet with their top choices and why. Before class the next day, you will have to group students into heterogeneous groupings.
Day Six: Group Organization. Put students into their groups and have them agree which pages they will read to and when. Allow students to have time to begin reading their books.
Day Seven: Minilesson Statement: “Readers understand how to add onto the discussion of others so that they are able to have an engaging conversation about text.” Give students additional time to continue reading literature study book after this lesson.
Sample Anchor Chart to go with this minilesson and be hung up by the literature study area: